DoTheRide.ca: Business, community service, and health

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It’s been almost a decade now since Robert Merkley encouraged me to participate and support The Ride, a 117-km cycling experience to support cancer and other research at The Ottawa Hospital.

These sorts of community/action fundraising initiatives are not uncommon — they bridge good-will, engagement and community support in a single package. You can probably easily find and participate in similar initiatives in your own community. If you really want to lead, however, then you’ve got to take it a step further because the resources (both personal and financial) in actually starting one of these programs is truly immense.

However, there is an adage in community service: The more you give (without expecting anything in return), the more you receive. This may seem contradictory. Selfless community service — and it needs to be just that to be effective — has the surprising and seemingly opposite result of benefiting your business reputation and enhancing/preserving your brand. Simply put, great community service can be a truly powerful marketing and busness development investment.

There are two reasons for this pay-off. First, if you are seen as a community-minded and selfless leader (without needing to brag about your “great community service”), the wonderful marketing message/aura sticks with you. Secondly, as you engage in the community leadership project, you meet and engage with plenty of potential clients and influencers in a truly positive relationship-building setting, and that undoubtedly helps you to uncover new business.

I went into my relationship with The Ride with that positive intention. We would extend free editorial publicity and advertising support for the venture. While I couldn’t participate in the first ride in 2008, I started the next year on an ancient bike I had purchased (used) when I first moved to Ottawa in 1981.

That experience was painful, but I survived. Gradually, I grew to enjoy cycling. My more-recently purchased $700 Thomas exercise bike is not a high-end racing machine, but I commute to work every day the weather is half-decent. That’s about 15 km each way, or 30 kilometres a day. On weekends I’ll head out for longer rides — yesterday I pushed 45 km, and I’ve often gone further.

The payoffs: Much better physical health, and the commuter riding saves me plenty of gas.  I don’t know of too many activities that can both save money and improve health.

Oh, and business . . . Even though I haven’t sought out revenue from the riding experience, the relationships and connections have generated truly profitable results, at times crucial for the business viability.

Accordingly, I’m posting this link to encourage your contribution this year. But more importantly, I urge you to look at this example and see how you may apply the community service and fund-raising concepts in your own business, community, and with relevant community organizations.

You may well hit the jackpot: Revenue, branding, relationships, and health. Go for it.

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