Tag Archives: fundraising

Mountain Culture Continues to Support M2M

Mountain 2 Mountain was founded on mountain sport and culture.  Literally the organization was founded with the idea of creating a trail race in the mountains of Breckenridge as a fundraiser three years ago. Overnight that idea blossomed into a full blown non profit working in the mountains of Central Asia.   Yet the idea of mountain sport and culture remains as a way to tap into the energy mountain folk have and use that energy to fundraise.  Specifically harness the energy of climbers, bikers, runners, and skiers to help support our projects in Afghanistan.

This year alone, Mountain 2 Mountain started a mountain biking team, Team M2M, in which members raised money for projects and rode in the team jersey at races to spread awareness.  We hosted the 2nd annual Race for the Mountains trail race here in Breckenridge, raising enough money to sponsor a computer lab.  Mountain 2 Mountain was also recipient of both the Breck 100 bike race, and the 2nd annual Climb for Literacy.   Thane Wright, director of the Breck 100 generously donated $1000 by pledging a percentage of race entries to our cause.  Ellen Miller and Larry Moore of Vail, Colorado co-created the Climb for Literacy last year to support literacy and education non profits like ours through the energy of competitive climbers.  Climbers got sponsors to pledge a certain amount per vertical foot and then climbed their butts off on the Vail Athletic Club’s indoor climbing wall in a series of sponsored days of climbing with the Vail climbing coaches and supporters cheering them on, raising serious cash for great causes in education like ours.  We hope to take their model and apply it in other climbing communities!

Word spreads beyond the mountains, and its not just mountain lovers that now support our efforts.  Road bikers in New Jersey are sponsoring a ride to support education in Afghanistan.  After discovering that the Taliban had banned all sports, including kiteflying, when they were in power, two girls in North Dakota decide to rally their elementary school to build their own Afghan kites.  They are using the project to help fundraise for building a school with us.  Word spread to another school in New York City and a 4th grade class is set to do the same thing in an effort to sponsor a computer lab.

Photography has also been part of our cultural exchange and ethos from the beginning.  We started with using photography as a backdrop as an author event with Greg Mortenson with photographer, Beth Wald who had travelled with Greg in Afghanistan.  That evolved into our first collaborative photography exhibit, Views of the Himalaya, that stood on its own as a gallery exhibit.  This past year we created an entirely new exhibit with Dreams of Kabul, a photography exhibit based soley on the work of Tony Di Zinno who travelled with founder, Shannon Galpin, on her first visit to Afghanistan.  This exhibit combines the experience of an art show with the purpose of a fundraiser.  Combining culture and outreach in the form of storytelling to connect our communities across the world.

While much of our fundraising comes the old fashioned way with fundraisers, grants, and the generosity of the public at large….its fun and exciting to see individuals and communities do what they love in an effort to support our projects.  So to those of you using your creativity and your muscle power to find unique ways to raise money and awareness for our efforts – we thank you!!

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Team M2M









Mountain to Mountain was founded by a mountain-lovin’ girl, in a high altitude mountain town, to benefit mountain communities halfway around the world, by uniting mountain communities at home through our common mountain culture.  

It was my desire to start an organization that didn’t take itself too seriously despite the seriousness of the issues facing the communities we aim to help.  I love mountain living.  I seem to thrive in the thin air.  I love trail running, mountain biking, and the crisp mornings that greet me when I leave in search of morning caffeine even in the middle of summer.  Could I start an organization that would raise money for other mountain regions by tapping into what makes my own mountain town thrive?

It literally started with the idea for a trail race, Race for the Mountains.  It grew into the desire to include mountain sports of all types as a way to raise awareness and money for our projects.   This year sees that desire take another step forward as we continue Race for the Mountains, become a non profit beneficiary of two elite mountain bike races and one randonnee ski race, and the creation of Team Mountain to Mountain (Team M2M).  

Team M2M is a mostly women’s mountain sport team.  Team M2M aims to tap into the energy and drive of mountain athletes to raise awareness and raise funds through racing, networking, group rides, and online fundraising.  Firstgiving.com is a fantastic fundraising tool for athletes to set goals and share their story and our mission with friends, family, and colleagues.   

Launching at this year’s inaugural Breck Epic mountain bike extravaganza, this ‘mostly women’s team’ will compete alongside some of the best mountain bikers in the country during a 6 day stage race.  As race director, Mike McCormick states, “If this course was a person, it would be dressed in black leather and brandishing a whip”.  It is a not a race for the faint of heart.  But if Mountain to Mountain was founded by the faint of heart we wouldn’t be working in Afghanistan….we’d stick to the safety of Iceland.   

I say, mostly women, because there are a few good hearted, and strong legged, men on our Board of Directors, staff, and supporters that want to get involved.  So while we target women, we include our male counterparts.  In the case of the Breck Epic, estrogen and testosterone will ride together in coed teams united under the Team M2M blue and pink bike jersey.  The only difference?  The men’s say “domestique” across the back!  So we’ll have two, maybe three, teams of Board Members, staff (including yours truly), and racer friends to represent.   Each five person team will ride one or two stages of the race, while Advisory Council member, and hardcore racer Heidi Volpe, is competing the entire six day event with her teammate in the 2 man coed team division!  

Now, that’s not to say that Team M2M is full of elite athletes only.  We encourage women of all levels to get involved.  Beginner racers taking part in their first mountain bike or trail running race are as much a part of the team as elite racers striving to come in first.  Its about building a community of support through the sports that unite our mountain towns.  One of our very own Board Members set up a fundraising page at Firstgiving to raise money for her involvement in this year’s Race for the Mountains in the 5km race.  Having dealt with a debilitating case of lupus for two years, she is on the mend and wants to use the race as a training goal and as a way to garner support by her friends as volunteers, pacers, cheerleaders, and fundraisers.  She set a lofty goal of $5,000 and looks set to reach it!

Bikers, runners, skiers, rock climbers… come one come all.   The only requirement is a strong desire to get muddy, sweat, and support M2M while you do it!  

Follow our Team M2M blog at:  www.teamm2m.wordpress.com  to follow our inaugural launch at the Breck Epic and everything that follows!

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Fundraising Boredom

Former Black Panther, Assata Shakur, sums up our philosophy towards fundraising at Mountain to Mountain, “We do not have the right, in the name of social justice, to bore people to death.”

How are you going to attract people to your organization, and thus, your cause, if the most they can be expected to do is write a check?  That check may help in the short term, but the donor is not aware of where that check is going, whose life is being affected, and won’t be someone we can count on to give again and again.   We want our supporters, donors, and volunteers to be excited about the work we and our partners are doing.  Excited to be part of the events, excited enough to open their wallet, excited enough to come to future events, and excited enough to tell their friends and family about it.

Mountain to Mountain aims to create cultural and athletic events that attract support and enthusiasm for the event itself.   Photography exhibits, book signings, speakers, trail running events, movie nights at the local theater, all revolving around the themes of our projects and partners.  People come to listen to a speaker or see award winning photography, and leave a little more educated about the individuals and communities we are striving to empower.   Last year’s, speaker and book signing event with Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, helped not only inspire donations, but allowed the audience to ask questions and further their understanding on the importance of girls education in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Without that event, we wouldn’t have raised over $105,000 in donations in a little under seven months.  Sponsorship totaled around $30,000 for several events in the same time period.

The downside is the cost of putting on events, versus more traditional fundraising.  The goal has always been to have our events sponsored entirely versus donations.  In this way, donations can go directly to the project or the partner charity in their entirety.  Photography exhibits are extremely expensive, even when the images are donated by the artists.  Production of the show, opening night costs, and traveling the show to multiple venues is not cheap.

Despite the second tier of fundraising needed, that of sponsorship in addition to donations, the events do make fundraising and the outreach less dull.   A bored supporter is a quiet one.  Entertain, educate, and inspire and your supporters will become vocal proponents of your work and cause.

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Views of the Himalaya – A Curator’s First Steps

Upon entering the vast unknown of the non profit world – I quickly realized how I wanted to do things differently.  I didn’t want to just raise money, I wanted to tell stories and connect communities together.   I didn’t want someone to just donate money and forget about it.  Or worse, not really understand where their money was going.  I wanted to them to care about the communities we were raising money for.  To care what happened to people on the other side of the world.  To understand that while they have a different face, language, culture, and religion – they want the same things for their children that we do here at home.

As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

I chose photography to be the medium to create the story around our year two partner, the dZi Foundation.  Unwittingly, casting myself in the role of curator-in-training.

In four short, fast, months I enlisted the help of a local photographer and documentary filmmaker to help me reach out to photographers I wanted in the show and to develop a critical opinion of the pieces we found that seemed appropriate.  We set a high bar for the quality of the show, never considering that we wouldn’t get the artists we searched out.

Lessons learned:

1.  Photographers live hectic lives, are hard to pin down, and are asked a lot to donate work for shows or good causes.  Keep it simple and inexpensive for them to be involved.

2.  At the same time, almost every photographer saw the value of what we doing and wanted to be part of creating the story of this diverse and colorful region.

3.  Producing a show is expensive!

4.  Traveling show is even more expensive.  I shipped ‘Views’ out to Los Angeles for its second gallery show.  A month later, I flew out myself one way, rented a car, and drove the show back to Colorado for a third of the shipping cost.

5.  Trust your gut.  And your eye.   I knew immediately what I liked or didn’t like even if I didn’t have the words yet to express why.  90% my initial reaction was the right one.

6.  Find artists you trust and ask their opinions to help hone your eye,  create your verbage, debate your decisions, and develop your overall view of the show as a cohesive story.

7.  You can publish your own exhibit book.  Blurb.com rocks!   No design fees, no minimum orders, and you get a ISBN number and link so that people can view and buy your book online!

8.  Many galleries book a year out and many have submission guidelines and dates.  If galleries are booked, get creative.  We have shown the ‘Views’ show in a variety of venues.  The American Mountaineering Museum, as the first show at a new gallery in LA, and a movie theater with a formal gallery attached to its lobby.

9.  .  Don’t forget the purpose of the show beyond storytelling is fundraising.

The unexpected lesson is that the ‘Views’ show connected me intimately with people that had only been on my periphery.   We ran in different circles, some in different cities, our busy lives preventing any real connection.  They are deep and talented individuals that gracefully allowed me to be ignorant, helped me develop my ‘curator’s eye’, shared their experiences, and gave me their enduring support.

I’m so grateful for that blissful twist!

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from small beginnings…

…big things can grow.

Such is the nature of Mountain to Mountain’s creation, its outreach, and the projects we support.

Two years ago the seed was planted to ‘be the change’. Like many across the world it was a simple act that spurred me to action. In my case, I read a book, “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson. Inspired by the story of what one man can do to promote peace and educate children, with nothing more than passion and the willingness to make mistakes, I came to a realization. “What are you waiting for?”

A traveler and ex-pat for over ten years, I considered myself a global citizen. If that was truly the case, what was I doing to be part of the global community? How was I helping my global neighbor? The answer depressed me. And kick-started me in action.

Truth be told, I’m a doer. Some people may call it impulsive. Reckless. Crazy. Others close to me have kinder labels. I had no prior experience in philanthropy, fundraising, little public speaking experience, and no management background. Yet overnight, I decided to create a non profit. I’d learn ‘on the job’.

So, with the help and support of a good friend, Mountain to Mountain was born. The decision was made to host an author event with the man that had inspired my call to action and raise money for his foundation, Central Asia Institute. Our mountain community here in Colorado would come together to fund a school in the remote mountains of Central Asia – thereby connecting our mountain communities together through a common thread of education for all.

Our mountain communities are unique. We are small knit communities that share the common love of the outdoors, sports, and travel. We endure long winters, yet have thriving art cultures. Tapping into those values was what could make Mountain to Mountain unique in its fundraising and outreach. I didn’t want to just raise money, I wanted donors and supporters to understand WHY it was so important to get involved with our partners and our projects.

And thus, through the winter season of 2006/7, the author event branched out into a much larger fundraiser and booksigning alongside an inaugural charity trail running event, Race for the Mountains. Now I was adding the additional branch of ‘Race Director’ to my rapidly growing tree.

In just seven short months, we raised over $100,000 through our grassroots outreach. Enough to support the building of two schools in Pakistan with Central Asia Institute. Two communities that will benefit from their girls and boys being educated in a region with few schools, teachers, or opportunity. Two communities that recognized the value of educating their children and devoted their time, sweat, and materials to provide the manpower to make it happen.

and so we continue to grow….

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