What’s a Custom Challenge?

You usually think of Summit for Someone fundraisers as guided peak climbs. But what if you’re more into choosing your own adventure?

Megan Aranow is your Summit for Someone Program Manager here at Big City Mountaineers. “The sky is really the limit,” she says, when it comes to Custom Challenges. You can customize your adventure and your fundraising goals to give youth access to the outdoors. Listen to Megan talk about Custom Challenges below, or read the transcript.



So we’re here today with Megan. She is the Summit for Someone Program Manager here at Big City Mountaineers, and we are going to talk to her about what the heck a Custom Challenge is! 

We’d really love to hear more about the work you do and how custom challenges fits into that. 

Totally. So I think a little bit of background about the Summit for Someone program will provide all the info we need about what a custom challenge is.

So essentially, the Summit for Someone program is an adventure fundraising program designed to support the youth programs that Big City Mountaineers puts on.  So through these adventure fundraisers, essentially we’ve got folks that sign up to climb a mountain, to go on a trek in a mountain range, to run a Ragnar race with Big City Mountaineers.

Those are kind of the main options that are through the scheduled side of the Summit for Someone program. I put together the trip itineraries. Any of the mountain climbs are guided by professional guides. It’s a very structured and set adventure. You know exactly what you’re signing up for, and there’s a set fundraising commitment that goes with it. That’s one thing you can find on our website and always talk to us more about.

Conversely, the Custom Challenge program takes that same model of having an adventure that you can set out on and a fundraiser that you can pair with it. However, given that it’s custom, the sky is really the limit. And each individual person or company or group that’s getting involved with a custom challenge is defining the objective that they would like to take on for their adventure and they’re also setting a fundraising goal that feels like a meaningful and attainable challenge for them.

So that’s it in a nutshell.

So it sounds to me like the Custom Challenge program is kind of a choose your own adventure when it comes to what you do and how it’s done.

Quite literally a choose your own adventure. Yep. I think people think of Summit for Someone, it’s got the name “summit” in it, and they think “mountain”. Climbing a mountain, hiking a mountain, standing on the top of something tall. And that is great, if that’s the thing that you want to do, if that fits.

However, we’ve had people do all sorts of different types of Custom Challenges within the Summit for Someone program that do not involve climbing a mountain. For example, a bike-riding route that they’ve always wanted to explore. Or kayaking a river that they’ve been interested in. Or rock climbing with a bunch of their friends and doing a sort of pitch challenge where they get pledges and donations given for the number of pitches that they climb as a group.

Sky is the limit. If you can think of an outdoorsy adventure challenge that you’re interested in taking on, that’s something you can build a custom challenge around.

The idea is to connect with what you love about being in the outdoors and find meaning in that for yourself, and then also add in this opportunity to give back and to provide experiences like that for the youth that Big City Mountaineers works with.

So how do you determine what a reasonable fundraising goal for your particular Custom Challenge might be? 

That’s a great question. It’s one that we get all the time. And there’s not a hard and fast answer to that.

It’s this balance of finding a goal, setting a goal that feels like a legitimate challenge. You want it to be something that’s motivating and inspiring and gonna get you moving. And feel like, y’know, this is gonna take some work, and it’s gonna take some attention to- to make it happen.

Part of that is for your own personal motivation. And part of it is because you’re going to your community for support. They are gonna be inspired by something that’s- that’s obviously a challenge. If you set a fundraising goal of $100, people might say well then. That’s great, but that’s not typically gonna be a number that’s gonna, like, spark excitement and enthusiasm to really get behind the cause. For most people’s communities.

So it’s finding that balance of- of setting something that- that feels like a push, that you’re gonna have to work at, but that is also attainable.

We don’t want– Typically, we don’t want someone going out and saying, y’know, “I wanna raise four million dollars for Big City Mountaineers.” While we would love to receive $4 million, we also know that that’s not terribly realistic. And the chances of hitting that goal are kind of- have the same effect as not having a goal that’s high enough. It’s demotivating.

So. That’s a lot of words to say “I don’t know.” [Laughter] I don’t know what’s going to be that fine balance for any given group or individual.

But we– start, y’know, start thinking about numbers that make sense. Sometimes it’s really helpful for people to think about, if they’re doing a group challenge, each person in the group commits to fundraising a minimum of $500. Or something like that. Something that’s a reasonable challenge for each person. As a group, then the group goal is gonna be something, y’know, $4000-5000 kind of thing. That’s a good, nice, decent number to strive for.

Sometimes, people like to pair a meaningful number that is connected with their challenge and set that as a fundraising goal.

For example, we’ve had a couple that hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail as a Custom Challenge for Big City Mountaineers. The trail is 2,650 miles long, so they set their initial fundraising goal at $2650 – a dollar a mile. So that’s just another way to kind of think about it.

Feet climbed, that’s another way you could set a goal. You’re gonna climb a mountain that’s 4,000 feet of elevation gain maybe you set a $4000 fundraising goal. So that it’s tied to that challenge.

What would you say to those folks who are interested in doing a Custom Challenge but aren’t quite sure how to motivate their communities to sort of get behind them? 

I think that’s a really important question to consider for anyone that is interested in something like this.

Your starting point is to almost have a little conversation with yourself. Why are you interested in this? What to you is compelling about the work that Big City Mountaineers does with getting youth into the outdoors?

I find that a lot of people find value in initially sitting down, like I said, almost with yourself, and thinking through. How has the outdoors impacted me as a person? How has it helped me grow? How has it helped me become who I am? Reflect on that.

And then once you get clear on your personal motivation for- for wanting to take on an adventure challenge that provides similar experiences for youth that might not otherwise have those opportunities…

Then you get that story clear in your mind, and conveying your personal story to your community is the number one way that you will engage people to support your efforts.

It’s the personal connection that’s really gonna motivate most networks to give.

Awesome. And if someone wants to either sign up for a Custom Challenge or start to talk about a Custom Challenge, where can they go? How can they reach you? 

Very simple. I’m reachable at megan@bigcitymountaineers.org. That’ll get to my email. You can call me directly at 720-408-4569.

You can also reach us if you just go the website. Under the Fundraise tab on the BigCityMountaineers.org website, there’s a link for Custom Challenge. And that kind of outlines the basics that we’ve already talked about here, and will give you a way to get in touch as well.

Excellent! Thank you so much for your time, Megan!

Of course! Hope to see you all out there!

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