Iliado and I during the team test at NAJYRC

Iliado and I during the team test at NAJYRC

Hi everyone!

As the FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships are quickly approaching and the qualifying process for a spot on the team is heating up, some of the dressage juniors and young riders have been working hard to plan a fundraiser for the Ottawa Dressage Festival CDI this coming weekend.

Amidst all the sponsorship emails and logistical planning, I thought back to our efforts last year and I realized how important it truly is to be part of the fundraising experience. It’s not only a great way to show support for youth dressage but it is also the way that I became really good friends with my teammates from last year’s NAJYRC! It also brought to the surface the true generosity of the dressage community, as the amount of donations, fiscal or material, were incredibly overwhelming.

Fundraising is obviously super important because the NAJYRC fees are large and it takes a great amount of money to even try and qualify for this show. Competing at this level is super costly. There is transport for ourselves, our coaches and our horses of course, hotel fees, stable fees, entry fees, you name it! Fundraising not only provides the needed financing, but also raises the profile of youth in dressage and raises awareness for the next generation of Canadian dressage riders. Although we have found that everybody we asked has been more than happy and proud to help our youth dressage efforts, we have realized that we really need to keep stressing how much the pony, junior and young riders need the support of their communities. Fundraising is a really great way to do this because we are able to bring forth this awareness and inspire people to be a part of helping us achieve our goals of riding down the centerline at NAJYRC.

However, supporting youth dressage, although important, is not the most significant reason why I feel fundraising is such a great thing. Through our fundraising efforts for the 2014 NAJYRC, four of the other juniors and I became really great friends. Together we planned 50/50 draws, raffles and silent auctions and this brought us closer, as working together broke the ice and enabled us to get to know each other very well. Obviously, there was still competition between us, but we were all extremely supportive of each other, which really enhanced the show environment for me.

Ontario Dressage Team at NAJYRC 2014

Ontario Dressage Team at NAJYRC 2014

It was really amazing because three of the girls that I worked with to organize fundraisers ended up being my teammates for NAJYRC, which was so amazing because we already knew each other well and were able to help support each other and have a ton of fun together that week. Fundraising was a really positive experience for me, and in hindsight I am especially grateful for it because through my efforts I was able to make great new friends!

Lastly, fundraising showed us how truly supportive our community is of all juniors and young riders. The number of donations that we received from our silent auction was incredible, and the number of people who participated in our draws, raffles and other activities was overwhelming. It really showed us how kind and generous everybody is. I think this actually helped us because we were able to see first hand how big the web of support was behind us, and it boosted our confidence in the show ring.

However, fundraising takes a lot of work. My group and I were planning and organizing for months before we actually hosted the events. You need to be really prepared in order to have a successful fundraiser. Below I’ve included a few tips for other juniors and young riders that might help you arrange a really great event!

1. Plan really far in advance

  • Organizing an event will take much more time than you think, and chances are that if you are doing it with other people, there are going to be scheduling and logistical conflicts, so you need to work those out well before the event. You don’t want to wait to the last minute and then realize that it isn’t possible because of a scheduling or timing issue!
  • If you need donations from tack stores or other companies, make sure you also give them lots of time to get their donations ready. It is likely that everyone you ask will want to help out, but they can’t do that if you don’t give them time to do it. It isn’t really fair to expect a donation if you don’t ask ahead of time.

2. Reach out to friends and family

  • From my experience, friends and family are the ones who are most inclined to participate and donate so make sure that they know about your fundraiser.

3. Get the word out

  • Many people will want to be involved in your fundraising efforts, whether this means helping out at the events, donating money or items or even just attending the events, so make sure that you let everybody know the details so they can participate.
  • This means telling all your horse friends, putting an on-line poster on your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, asking the organizer of the show to announce it on the competition website, and putting up signs at the shows. Make sure everyone knows about it!!!!

4. Follow up with donors

  • Donors who don’t respond initially to your emails and donation requests may not have actually chosen to ignore you – they may have forgotten or not seen your message, so make sure that you send them a quick reminder email.
  • Also, after your event, make sure you follow up with donors by sending thank you cards or emails. That way, people will know that you appreciate their donations and will be more inclined to donate in the future.

I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped us with our fundraising efforts this year!

From the juniors and young riders, thank you:

Dean Veterinary Hospital, Finchams Saddlery, Greg Carpenter, Nobleton Feeds, Equestrian Factory Outlet, Doonaree Tack Shop, Potter Veterinary Services, Roots, Hawthorn House, Running Fox, Baker’s Saddlery, Ecogold, DASH Equine, Tina and Jaimey Irwin, Diane Creech and Schleese Saddlery.

If you are at the Ottawa Dressage Festival on the last weekend of May, be sure to stop by our silent auction! Everyone listed above has donated something, so there are going to be an assortment of amazing items there!! Be sure to check it out.