Lessons Learned – What our journey has taught us.

A year ago we had a random idea to climb a large mountain (and do it for good cause). We didn’t really understand what it would take to get to the summit of Kilimanjaro, let alone raise money for a charity. Now that our trek is complete and our charity efforts are poised for transition, we’d like to share a bit about what we’ve learned from our successes and failures.

1. Find a Story

We all now know how Phil has coped with cerebral palsy his entire life, and about the treatments and therapy he received as a child that made it possible for him to embark on our trek. All of these make compelling reasons to support Phil’s efforts and contribute to groups like United Cerebral Palsy of MetroBoston — an organization that shares our desire to show that everyone deserves to live life without limits.

Phil preparing for the final day at Kilimanjaro.

Phil preparing for the final day at Kilimanjaro.

When thinking about what to do to for charity, give careful consideration to what connections you have with the causes you would like to support. These connections help motivate your team (none of us gave helping with this charity a second thought) and project, but also develop interest from your supporters. It is important to be passionate (which is easy with a good story) about the cause you select — it’s noticeable and will help your cause.

You will encounter challenging times during your journey to raise money and plan a trip. It will be your passion that will keep you moving forward.

2. Create a Brand

You may not set out to start a corporation, or even establish a long-lasting charity, but starting with a consistent brand that your supporters can connect to, identify with, follow, and remember is critical to maintaining an audience. Pick a name that’s meaningful to you, but broad enough to move on with if you decide to continue in a different direction; stick with the same style across all of your distributed content; and present yourself as an organization (no need to be too stuffy about it, though).

Climb for Cerebral Palsy Poster 3

You may not consider yourself a brand, but it’s important to establish trust and consistency in a brand when working with donors and non-profit organizations.

3. Start Local

Go with who you know first. Local these days doesn’t necessarily mean who lives nearby, but rather reflects the connections you already have. (Except for food. Fresh fruits, veggies, and meat are delicious!) Reaching out to close friends, family, and coworkers is a good way to build a foundation (or more) for your charity. Over 75% of the donations we received for UCP of MetroBoston were from people we know first hand.

One of the biggest challenges we faced was connecting with strangers for support. It’s important to not start out expecting to receive a majority of your donations from people outside of your existing network of family and friends. That said, from this starter group you can branch out with more confidence to sponsors, donors, and the media.

4. Develop Strong Partnerships

Phil presenting the first donation to UCP of MetroBoston

Phil presenting the first donation to UCP of MetroBoston

We went with the more traditional meaning of “local” when choosing our primary partner, UCP of MetroBoston. Because they shared our main principles and gave us the opportunity to support people with disabilities in our area, UCP of MetroBoston made an ideal partner to enhance our charity efforts. Not only that, but the meaningful alignment of charity event and partner organization provides a mutually beneficial marketing opportunity.

You are able to provide your partner organization with a pre-packaged story for marketing material and events, allowing them to spread the word of your efforts and increase awareness and interest to their existing audience. Similarly, the newer audience developed by you is introduced to a non-profit organization and cause that they may not have been familiar with, increasing awareness and interest for the partner group. In addition, an established non-profit likely has connections to traditional media outlets that they are able to leverage on your behalf.

5. Network

Developing connections is always important. Small-business people willing to participate in event fundraising, invested individuals that enthusiastically spread the word, and volunteers can make or break your efforts. Joining events for other non-profit organizations, setting up meetings through mutual acquaintances, or just putting yourself and your cause out there with a call or email is all it takes to start to get to know others interested your efforts.

We were able to get published in the media and generate other opportunities through simply reaching out via social media, email, or telephone to other groups and individuals. For instance, we developed great connections with other Boston University-related organizations, the Boston University Outing Club and Project Mailbox, who helped us raise additional money with joint fundraising efforts and get into a couple of BU- and Boston-centric publications.

The more you reach out, the more likely you will find that one opportunity that helps bring awareness to your charity project.

6. Host Events

Fundraising event with Massachusetts Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Find a way to connect your charity with the interests of others in your area. Holding events for screenings, food festivals, or sports provide a great chance to spread the word to others about your charity and get to know your audience. We found events to be a very efficient way to spread awareness and get others involved with your story and cause.

Our experience with the REEL ROCK screenings was fantastic. Not only did we add to our group of followers and raise money through ticket sales, but we also connected with amazing local businesses interested in our cause. Another example is a jiu-jitsu seminar that was run by one of our sponsors, which provided an opportunity for us to meet some great new people from the area and raised over $1,000.

7. Build a Community

Each of the steps outlined in this article all have a common theme: building a community of like-minded people that support your cause by donating, sponsoring or participating in events, and/or volunteering to help raise money for your cause. Marketing in a world of websites and social networks is not about big-money interruptive ads. As a non-profit or charity event with fewer resources at your disposal, it’s all about taking advantage of the relatively cheap methods available with online media and grassroots event fundraising to start conversations and build connections that can really extend the reach of your project.

Jiu-Jitsu Benefit Seminar

“The room was filled with a lot of very tough people. We have the most generous people in the Boston BJJ Network and everyone took time out of their day to support a great cause. That just shows how selfless everyone is, and we are lucky to have each other. We all share a common bond with training together.” – Mike Pellegrino, Massachusetts Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Some of the team and I attended a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu benefit seminar for United Cerebral Palsy of MetroBoston and Climb for Cerebral Palsy this weekend. It was an awesome time, and a great way to spread our cause to amazing people. Hosted by Massachusetts Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, the event opened with a few words from Mike Pellegrino(co-owner), and a short introduction from me. The first half of the seminar was taught by Derek Stevens who trains out of Port City Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The second half of the seminar was taught by Jimmy Quinlan, who is featured in season 17 of the Ultimate Fighter on FX.

Brian was there to photograph the event (plenty of pictures of my performance are on Facebook), while Jared and I learned some new moves. Both of the instructors were excellent and everyone there came away with new skills.

Overall, our seminar was a success raising $1,005 for United Cerebral Palsy of MetroBoston. Mike Pellegrino, a big supporter of ours, runs the Mass BJJ gym, which is also one of our fantastic sponsors.

“We have the same warrior spirit in life to never settle for what we’ve been given and to always strive to improve. Each of us is lucky to be able train as we want. Jiu-jitsu teaches us to never give up no matter what the situation is. If we are in an arm lock, we try and work our way out. If we are on bottom in the mount, we work our way out. Phil was born with limitations, but hasn’t let that stop him in anything he does. He has continued to work his way out of those challenging spots and now he has his eyes set on a larger goal that not many in his place have attempted with climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro unassisted.” – Mike Pellegrino

Climb for CP Indiegogo Campaign

We have started an Indiegogo Campaign! Indiegogo is an international crowdfunding site where anyone can raise money for film, music, art, charity, and more. This site also allows us to offer perks to those who contribute to our fundraising efforts.

For example, if you contribute $150, you will receive a framed, autographed summit photo of the team and a piece of our summit banner. This is a great opportunity to contribute and receive some cool stuff in return.

Check out www.indiegogo.com/climbforcp for details. Don’t forget to share this web address with your friends!

Massachusetts Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Benefit Seminar – Feb 2nd

Our friends at Massachusetts Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are holding an awesome Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Benefit Seminar for the climb on February 2nd at 11:00am.

$20.00 to attend and all proceeds go to United Cerebral Palsy of MetroBoston. The seminar is for all skill levels and a great opportunity for anyone interested in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu — learn some techniques from experienced masters.

This is a great way to support our cause and learn some sweet martial arts! If you’re interested, join the Facebook event or stop by on the 2nd.

View Larger Map

REEL ROCK Tour Event – 11/09/2012

Join us on November 9th as we host the REEL ROCK Film Tour! REEL ROCK is an exciting cinematic event where climbers and outdoor lovers come together to celebrate ultimate adventure filmmaking. The films this year include acclaimed climbers Chris Sharma, Conrad Anker, and Alex Honnold pushing their limits as they attempt to define the future of climbing.

Order Tickets
The film starts at 7:30pm, but we will open the doors at 6:30pm so everyone can take some time to visit our sponsor tables. Sponsor tables include Flatbread Pizza, Taza Chocolate, Rockspot Climbing Gym, MassBJJ, and ActivePepper. Because this is a fundraising event, a huge majority of the ticket proceeds (everything beyond the cost of the venue and film licensing) goes directly to UCP of MetroBoston. Don’t miss out on this exciting and fun event.


Date: 11/09/2012
Location: Center for Arts at the Armory
Door opens: 6:30pm
Film starts: 7:30pm
Price of ticket: $20.00
Amenities: A food and drink service area (beer, wine, and snacks) and restrooms will be open during the event.
Handicap accessible: Yes

Directions &  Parking:

The Center for Arts at the Armory is conveniently located at 191 Highland Avenue between Davis and Union Squares in Somerville, Massachusetts. A free 44-space parking lot is located behind the Armory. Additional overflow parking lots are available.

Arts at the Armory is approximately a 15 minute walk from Davis Square which is on the MTBA Red Line. You can also find it by using either the MBTA RT 88 or RT 90 bus that can be caught either at Lechmere (Green Line) or Davis Square (Red Line). Get off at the Highland Avenue and Lowell Street stop. You can also get there from Sullivan Square (Orange Line) by using the MBTA RT 90 bus. Get off at the Highland Avenue and Benton Road stop.

There two overflow lots available for events once the main lot reaches capacity:

  • 112 Central St, Somerville, MA 02143
  • 75 Belmont St, Somerville, MA 02143

Climb for Cerebral Palsy Quilt

Carole Mietzsch, a generous colleague, is currently working on a queen-sized Climb for Cerebral Palsy quilt. Once it is completed, we plan to raffle this quilt off to raise funds for our charity climb. We are extremely excited about this endeavor. Carole is a very creative and skilled quilt maker.

We will keep everyone updated on the progress of the quilt and will eventually share details of the raffle.

Quilt Design

Quilt Materials

First Donation!

Last week, we received our first donation! We would like to thank Joseph LePain for his generosity to our cause. It is truly appreciated.  We met with Sheri Wasserman at the UCP of MetroBoston headquarters to hand off the first check. If you’d like to support our cause, please go to our donation page.

Phil Berenz handing off the first donation to UCP of MetroBoston