Hiking the Appalachian Trail for Charity

Step One: Choose a Charity

This is important! Choose a cause that you are extremely passionate about. Something you feel comfortable talking about. Something that will keep you trekking up and over mountains when you think you can't anymore. 

Step Two: Make a Fundraising Page

Danielle and I hiked the Appalachian trail for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. We organized a personal campaign on their website and contacted customer service to design the page for our needs (make 2 page owners instead of 1 etc). People at AFSP were extremely helpful and responsive to our questions and questions of our donors. We decided to create a fundraising page directly through AFSP for several reasons:

  1. People are more likely to donate if they pay through a credible website with ample information about the organization. They can read more about the organization and learn exactly where their money is being put to good use. 

  2. Donations are tax-deductible if made directly though the non-profit's website.

  3. Crowd funding websites like gofundme.com take a significant cut of the donations and also charge a processing fee, whereas 100% of donations made to AFSP go to AFSP.

If you are interested in starting a personal campaign to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, click here.

Step Three: Make a Fundraising Goal

Danielle and I planned to raise $3 for every mile we hiked on the Appalachian Trail, making our fundraising goal $6,540.  We created various levels of sponsorship to make donations more meaningful. This also encourages people to donate more than he or she originally plan to. For example, ask to be sponsored per mile (the AT is 2,189 miles):

  • 1 cent per mile: $21.89

  • 2 cents per mile: $43.78

  • 3 cents per mile: $65.67

  • 5 cents per mile: $109.45

  • 10 cents per mile: $218.90

  • 25 cents per mile: $547.25

Step Four: Tell the World!

The more people that know you are embarking on an epic, challenging journey to raise money for an important cause, the more support you will receive. 

  1. Social Media: Tell your friends and family on Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat. These people will provide the most support- mentally and financially. Once Danielle and I announced our campaign on social media, we kindly reminded our friends and family to help us reach our fundraising goal at appropriate times (4 months til we leave, 100 days til we leave, 50 days til we leave, 1 month til we leave, only 2 weeks left, 1 week to go, OMG 1 day til we are living in the wilderness plz donate to our cause). I was surprised how many friends shared these statuses- it was extremely helpful in spreading the word.

  2. Email: Shoot an email to your professors, your employers, your family, your friends and everyone in between. Explain what you are doing, why you are hiking, why you're involved with your cause, and what your fundraising goal is. Ask people to forward your email to their friends and family as well. 

  3. Local news: We reached out to our local newspapers and had articles published about hiking the Appalachian Trail for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I also wrote and posted an article on various community message boards. 

  4. Instagram: Danielle and I created the Instagram (@hikingmiles4smiles) and it has been hugely important to our fundraising success for many reasons.

    • It has allowed us to reach out to different communities that might be interested in our cause (hikers, campers, previous thru hikers, future thru hikers, mental health awareness groups, etc.).

    • Posting pictures and updates on Instagram throughout our trek allowed for donors to keep track of our progress. Our donors became part of our journey and it was fun for them to follow us as we work towards our goal.

    • The support from our Instagram followers was HUGE. People felt inspired by us and therefore, we were inspired to keep hiking towards Mount Katahdin. 

    • Instagram helped us create a platform to openly talk about mental health. If even 1,000 people checked out our page and learned something about mental health, that is a success in our eyes! We ended up with over 20K followers- it is so exciting that our message can reach so many people. Everyone who commented, read our quotes, watched our videos, talked about our IG page, shared our pictures, etc. helped reduced the stigma surrounding mental health conditions a little bit and that's awesome.

Step Five: Keep Talking on the Trail

Danielle and I talked about hiking for AFSP every day on the trail to everyone we met.

It is important to have contact information available for people who are interested in donating to your cause. You'll meet tons of people who are excited about what you are doing. Don't let them forget about you! Exchange contact information. Danielle and I received many donations from people we met along the trail. We could easily rattle off my blog address (www.atraceofhannahgrace.com), our IG handle (hikingmiles4smiles), our fundraising page link (www.afsp.donordrive.com/campaign/milesforsmiles), and our email address (hikingmilesforsmiles@gmail.com).

Step Six: Mini-Campaigns

When donations stopped coming in as quickly, we created mini-campaigns to remind people of our hike and our charity.

  1. With 1,000 miles left to hike on the AT, we decided to raise our fundraising goal by $1,000. With the announcement of our new goal, we created new donation options as such:

    • $20 = on average, we hike 20 miles per day

    • $115 = 115 miles left in Pennsylvania

    • $72 = 72 miles in New Jersey

    • $88 = 88 miles in New York

    • $51 = 51 miles in Connecticut $90 = 90 miles in Massachusetts

    • $150 = 150 miles in Vermont

    • $161 = 161 miles in New Hampshire

    • $276 = 276 miles in Maine

    • $5.20 = 5.2 miles up Mount Katahdin - the final peak on the Appalachian Trail!

  2. Occasionally we do a 24 Katahdin Challenge on Instagram. We encourage followers to: "1) donate $5 to AFSP in honor of someone you care about who suffers from depression or is affected by suicide 2) text or call that person to let them know you're thinking of them and are there for them".

Step Seven: THANK DONORS!

Before we left for the trail, we (Danielle) baked cookies for all of the local donors who gave more than $50 to AFSP. Danielle and I wrote thank you notes to all of our donors. 

 We ordered these double-sided cards from Staples

We ordered these double-sided cards from Staples

Note:

The article has been adapted from the blog: www.atraceofhannahgrace.com
Click here to see the original.