Expedition Sponsorship

Obtaining sponsorship is incredibly hard but can be done primarily through a unique project and contacts but the cause has to be the primary goal, not finding a funder for the activity. Grants are available from organizations like the American Alpine Club but again usually go to individuals with extremely unique projects, Rainier or Everest probably would not qualify.

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These are some headlines as you think about your effort:

- Make it fun. Focus on hope, not the difficult aspects of your cause
- Dedicate the summit to a person impacted by your cause
- Ask people to donate $1 or $10 a foot climbed to a flat rate like $100
- Auction off a “Tweet” from the summit as long as you can get a cell phone signal
- get corporate sponsors - banks, pharma companies, hospitals, insurance companies, care facilities
- create a simple website - a few pages
- use social media by being engaged and active

Here are some pointers on pursuing sponsorship. These are tough and controversial but this is what potential sponsors might be thinking:

- What makes you unique from other people trying to raise money for a very worthy cause?
- What is your ‘story’? In 30 seconds, why should someone consider you?
- What skills and experience do you have that a potential sponsor would agree qualifies you?
- Do you know enough to keep from killing yourself is a real concern for sponsors.
- What speaking or writing or public appearances have you done that they can review to evaluate your ability to help them reach their market?
- How can they be convinced that you are serious about helping them and not just getting someone to pay for your climbs?
- Do you have references to your seriousness, character and experience? Again, your connections will serve you well here, don’t be afraid to use them.

I can tell you from experience that the outdoor companies (North Face, Black Diamond, etc.) get about 100 request a day (a day!!) for sponsorship so they often will not even respond to a letter or email. You have to identify a short list of companies who will benefit from your dream and try to make live contact - a pre-scheduled appointment, a phone call or a meeting at a trade show, etc.

Leverage contacts within your family to businesses who might want to help.

Not to be discouraging but it will be difficult to find someone or a company to fund an Everest climb today. While it seems that there are many under 20’s who are doing it, most are financed by their families from what I am seeing. The sports sponsorships they are receiving are in the form of some gear, not cash to pay guides or for permits. Sadly, Everest does not attract the interest from sponsors it used to.

So here is what I suggest:

1. Answer the questions honestly. If your have a ‘bad’ answer, develop a plan to get to a ‘good’ answer
2. Find a coach/mentor in the fund raising industry that will guide you through the process. Be willing to pay for these services.
3. Develop a storyline - the 30 second pitch that will excite people and capture their imagination
4. Create a detailed timeline of climbs including the budget (travel, logistics, guides, supplies, food, porters, etc.)
5. Create a one page overview of the proposal that can be read in under 1 minute
6. Create a detailed proposal less than 15 pages
7. Identify potential sponsors who are 100% aligned with your vision. If it is to raise money, it might be them or a sister organization who supports their cause
8. Find out who makes the decision on sponsorships. Usually it the VP of Marketing or even the CEO for small organizations. Sometime it is an outside agency who screens all proposals.
9. Develop a presentation (slides) that is short (less than 15 minutes), compelling and exciting. Perhaps a 3 minute You Tube video you can link to from an email. But the video must be well done with excellent communication skills.
10. Call your short list personally and try to get an appointment ideally in person or at least get them to agree to read your proposal or watch your video
11. Follow up each steps with a short thank you email (double check all grammar and spelling)
12. Never give up!

These are some thoughts for fundraising:

- involve schools - kids raise more money than adults through concerts, bake sales, etc. I am amazed at how effective they can be and how rewarding it is to involve them in a project.

- find a local chapter for your cause and build a strong relationship. Avoid the large national organization with all the politics and structure

- letters to editor of your local newspaper is a great way to raise awareness. Also be interviewed by a local reporter since they are always looking for a feel good story

- don't over sell. We are asked to donate all the time so be respectful of your contacts and don’t over use them

- tell a story - people love stories not just to be asked for money

- emphasize how the money will be used

Good luck with your effort. It will be long and difficulty but worth it in the end.

This is an excerpt for my Everest 2011 Summit report which was part of an overall campaign called The 7 Summits Climb for Alzheimer's: Memories are Everything . I wanted to raise funds and awareness on behalf of Alzheimer's Disease which took my mom and two aunts. I was passionate about the cause and wanted to use my climbing as the vehicle. But I needed support to reach the millions of people with my message of hope, need and urgency.

I was successful in finding sponsorship but it took over two years of almost daily work. The Alzheimer's Immunotherapy Program of Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy and Pfizer Inc. funded my climbs for the 7 Summits campaign and ongoing efforts between November 2010 and November 2012. All money I raised then and now from donations goes directly to the organizations I have selected.

The 7 Summits Climb for Alzheimer's

On a conference call with Eric and Phil, principles of IMG, in 2009; I simply laid it out. “My mom has Alzheimer's and I want to make a difference through increasing the public's awareness, and raising $1M for research through climbing the 7 Summits in one year. I need a solid climbing partner for logistics, but not hand holding, so I can safely attempt the summits while doing fundraising in between climbs.”

We discussed the schedule, order of climbs and many more details. They called back in a few days and said they would welcome me on their climbs. With my climbing taking shape, I still needed a large corporate partner to help offset the expenses but more importantly to drive a large scale public relations campaign to tell the world what we were doing and why. Above all, I wanted to honor my mother and all those with Alzheimer's and their families through my climbing. IMG understood this and I needed to find another partner who would as well.

I contacted every company that might be interested in this project - outdoor, gear, travel, supplies and the obvious ones in health care - pharmaceuticals, hospitals, insurance but with the slowing US economy and near depression environment my timing could not have been worse. Most of my letters, calls and emails were ignored but a few companies called to turn me down in person. I understood. After all, who was this 50+ year-old man with this dream of climbing mountains? Was he just looking for someone to pay for his vacation, as one boot company VP told me? Or was he just another dreamer out there with ideas and no follow thru?

Alzheimer's was an old person disease. It had no cure and it was not as sexy as some of the other diseases; I was told bluntly. How mistaken they were. But some told me of their own personal experiences with the disease, how it took their parent or grandparent away from them, how they cared for them as a teenager - how it robbed them of those years. Others told me of how it destroyed their families when their loved one moved in; the toll it took on their finances; how devastating it was to see them slip away.

I told them I understood and we agreed on the tragic affect of the disease but then they said they could not support my project. We hung up agreeing to never give up on finding a cure. I posted on my own Blog that if I could sing or dance to raise the money, I would; but I climb mountains so that was the vehicle for my efforts. I just needed to find the right partners.

Another year passed and I sought out support from non-profits promising to dedicate my life to this effort beyond the climbs. This was easy because I had already made that commitment to myself and . They wanted my fund raising efforts but had no ability to promote or support the project. Another blow.

Every Dream has Hope
The computer buzzed with the arrival of a new email. A High School friend saw me on Facebook where I had posted my project and plans. Quietly I had suggested if anyone knew anyone who could help, please let me know. Over the next six months this network developed and the email brought a contact and hope.

Janssen Alzheimer's Immunotherapy was doing research on a new Alzheimer's drug. It was joint project with Pfizer. The network of contacts had found them and they were interested in talking to me about my project. They wanted to focus on education and awareness; not drugs, not products. They supported my desire to raise money and agreed with me that all donations go directly to the non-profits. I wanted to make it clear that this was about funding research from the donations, not climbing.

Another six months passed and my dream of The 7 Summits Climb for Alzheimer's: Memories are Everything became real. I summited the highest peak in Antarctica, Mt. Vinson in December 2010 and the highest in South America, Aconcagua in January

Now I walked into the IMG Base Camp at the base of the Khumbu icefall to attempt Mt. Everest for the fourth time but with a more important message than just another summit.

Download the entire report in PDF format here

Climb On!