Tag Archive for charity challenge

Simon Albert, Managing Director of Charity Challenge meets HRH The Prince of Wales at The Big Connect 2013

On Friday 12 July, Charity Challenge attended The Big Connect 2013 which is aimed at creating ‘connections’ between local organisations to tackle needs in communities, with a particular focus on projects and groups that support young people in education, boost employment and enterprise, or increase community cohesion.

HRH The Prince of Wales met and spoke with Business Connectors, before commending those involved in the programme and calling on more businesses to support it at The Big Connect 2013.

Simon Albert, Director of Charity Challenge, was there to offer those organisations looking for ways to raise funds for their community groups, some ideas and solutions.

“After hearing such stories of success, one might be forgiven for thinking that these wonderful businesses have already achieved their task. I’m afraid there is a great deal more to be done, and we desperately need more support for their tireless efforts and a greater number of Business Connectors across England’s most deprived urban and rural areas.” – HRH The Prince of Wales

Addressing an audience of 1,000 representatives from businesses, charities, voluntary sector organisations and local authorities, the Prince thanked the pioneering companies already supporting Business Connectors, and expressed how encouraged he was by the programmes’s achievements.

The Prince had previously met many current Business Connectors and representatives of the community organisations that had benefited from connections during a tour of The Big Connect.  The event, taking place in Islington’s Business Design Centre, brought together Business Connectors current and former and representatives of hundreds of community and private organisations, including many that have benefited from the work of Business Connectors.

We are now recruiting for the position of Bookings and Finance Administrator

Background

Our company (Challenges (Un) Limited, trading as Charity Challenge) has been in business for more than 14 years and is currently 14 people strong. We work exclusively for the charity sector, raising funds for worthwhile causes. We operate treks, bike rides, mountain climbs and other adventure travel itineraries, whereby our clients raise money for charity through their participation. We operate about 100+ challenges a year and have raised over £38m for 1500+ UK and Irish registered charities to date.

We have organised the very successful BT Red Nose Day Climb and BT Hell and High Water expeditions for a number of celebrities, including Gary Barlow, Cheryl Cole, Chris Moyles, Jack Dee, Dara O’Briain and Melanie Chisholm, which have together raised over £5.35million for Comic Relief.

The company has gone from strength to strength developing an excellent reputation both within the corporate and charity sectors, donating hundreds of thousands of pounds to local community projects in the countries in which we operate.

The role

We are looking to recruit someone to assist with the bookings and finance departments.  They will have proven first class organisational, attention to detail, numeracy, customer service and communication skills including excellent spelling, punctuation and grammar due to the high level of front line, customer-facing written communications which are fundamental to the role. The successful candidate will also need to prove they are first rate administrators possessing high levels of attention to detail to successfully manage and take responsibility for the smooth day to day operation of our busy bookings department. They will also be able to take initiative and be independent in the role within the context of a team environment. This is a varied role that encompasses all aspects of the booking process from point of sale through to departure and responding to any queries or complaints with regards to our booking process, insurance and cancellation terms. As the role will also involve working with the finance team and assisting them in their day-to-day duties, you will be familiar with financial procedures, and preferably have experience with Sage line 50, although this is not essential.

The role includes:

•    Responding to and processing all post sale enquiries including cancellations, changes of expedition and late bookings.
•    Speaking to participants, charities and answering a wide range of general enquiries on the phone.
•    Responding to queries and complaints both on the phone and by email.
•    Processing of online and paper booking forms onto a bespoke database.
•    Sending authorization requests to charities and following up where necessary.
•    Dealing with new charities and assisting them in registering with Charity Challenge.
•    Actioning all participant and charity information updates and requests.
•    Issuing insurance policies to participants and tour leaders, and logging details.
•    Completing monthly insurance and IPP declarations, and filing the quarterly ATOL report.
•    Dealing with all insurance queries from participants, tour leaders and charities.
•    Updating website with any bookings and insurance related information.
•    Assisting the financial controller with timely financial administration of the purchase ledger system using Sage line 50
•    Reconciliations of bank accounts and credit cards in both sterling and foreign currencies.
•    Assist in year-end accounts preparation.
•    Assist with sales ledger and credit control.

Minimum requirements

Essential:
•    2 years post sale customer service / administration experience, preferably (but not essentially) in a travel related role.
•    Clearly demonstrable organizational and administrative skills and experience, including excellent written skills.
•    You must be a multi-tasker and be adept at successfully prioritising a full and varied workload.
•    Proficient with Word and Excel, and with very good general IT skills.
•    Attention to detail and a high level of accuracy are essential.
•    High level of numeracy skills and data analysis experience
•    A proactive, friendly, methodical, diligent and personable approach.
•    We need someone who can show initiative to get the job done, working both independently and as part of the team.

Desirable:
•    Demonstrated experience of financial control and financial management in a small/medium sized organisation
•    Some experience with insurance.
•    Experience and/or personal knowledge of adventure travel and/or the charity sector is

Preferable.
•    Capacity to effectively coordinate and manage finance-related timelines
•    Advanced knowledge of IT systems, specifically Sage Line 50 – desirable
•    Experience of working with web based invoicing systems preferable.

What you can expect from us
•    We are a small business, friendly office, full of people with passion for what they are doing. It is a lively and busy environment.
•    This is a chance to do something special, and work not only in the travel but also charity sector.
•    Salary is from £18 – 20K depending on experience.
•    Mon-Friday 0900-1730hrs.
•    24 Days holiday a year plus your birthday as a bonus day off and bank holidays.

To apply for this role email your CV along with a covering letter to bookings@charitychallenge.com.

Application Deadline: Wednesday 18th July 2013

Train for your Charity Challenge with Cyclebeat

Training for your charity challenge can sometimes be a bit of a mission, especially if you live in London.  This is where Cyclebeat fits in.

Cyclebeat is the country’s leading indoor cycling studio (aka spinning) with classes all day every day.  They are based in the heart of the City of London.
Cyclebeat can help you with your fitness training and prepare you for your challenge. Their indoor cycling classes are a great way of improving your general fitness, so they will help prepare you for any challenge, not just cycling! It’s indoor cycling, but so much more.

Here’s what they have to say:

  • Unique to Cyclebeat, they offer the Beatboard.  It shows your work rate on a screen in class, so you can compete with other riders (don’t worry, its bike numbers only, no names, and you can opt out if you don’t fancy it).  It’s incredibly motivating, and will push you to work harder
  • The results of every ride are sent to you by email and saved to your account.  You can track your improvements over time, and watch yourself getting stronger and faster.  This is an ideal tool for anyone training for a Charity Challenge event.
  • Their instructors are simply brilliant.  They have tracked down London’s finest to challenge and inspire you.
  • And all in a beautiful new studio, specially designed for indoor cycling.  It’s an awesome place to ride.

You can find Cyclebeat here at 8 Lombard Court, London EC3V 9BJ (just a few minutes from Bank and Monument tubes).

Cyclebeat would like to support your efforts in preparing for your challenge by offering you an amazing introductory offer.  You can enjoy unlimited rides at Cyclebeat for 20 days for just £15.  To find out how to sign up, click here for more details.

Good luck with all your efforts in preparing for your challenge, and have a great time taking part!

We are now recruiting for the position of Operations Manager

background

Our company (Challenges (Un)Limited, trading as Charity Challenge) has been in business for twelve years and is currently 13 people strong. We work exclusively for the charity sector, raising funds for worthwhile causes. We operate treks, bike rides, mountain climbs, skydives and other adventure travel itineraries, whereby our clients raise money for charity through their participation. We operate about 100+ challenges a year and have raised over £35m for 1300+ UK and Irish registered charities to date. We have also just launched a new operation out of Toronto, Canada for the North American market.

To round off the first decade for Charity Challenge, we organised the very successful BT Red Nose Day Climb for Gary Barlow, Cheryl Cole, Kimberley Walsh, Ronan Keating, Chris Moyles, Denise Van Outen, Alesha Dixon, Ben Shephard and Fearne Cotton which raised over £3.35million for Comic Relief.

The company has gone from strength to strength developing an excellent reputation both within the corporate and charity sectors, donating tens of thousands of pounds to local community projects in the countries in which we operate, and building houses, schools and health centres in developing countries as part of our award winning community challenge programme.

the role

We are looking to recruit someone with experience, drive and passion to join our operations team as an Operations Manager. We would expect you to manage a variety of challenges in different countries in which we operate amounting to approximately 10 different itineraries with 40+ departures in up to 11 different countries.  You will work within an operations team of 5 and will report to the Head of Operations.

The role will be one of overseeing and accepting responsibility for the day to day challenge preparation, organisation and operation, including liaison with ground handlers, the flights team, the sales team, the charities with whom we work and the passengers who book on to our challenges, making sure we offer the very highest levels of service and seamless efficiency to our clients and also you will ensure that we are operating to the highest standards of safety (as set out in “Challenge Safe,” our in-house Safety Management System) and quality as well as adhering to good responsible tourism practice.

The role includes:

operations

Pre-challenge:

  • Reviewing and updating all safety documentation for your challenges
  • Booking new departure dates in cooperation with the sales team
  • Researching and setting up new itineraries
  • Monitoring pax numbers, ensuring/monitoring profitability in liaison with the finance team
  • Liaising with ground handlers to ensure all operational details are correct, that any ad hoc changes or difference to exclusive itineraries have been organised and accounted for and any extra costs passed to the sales team.
  • Managing the ground handlers and negotiating rates. Dealing with queries from clients regarding all elements of the challenges and briefing leaders
  • Liaison with the flights team to ensure group flight schedules are all uploaded, leaders’ and medics’ flights are booked, extensions, add-ons and special requests are all in order ensuring any queries are answered and the challenge is running smoothly, handling emergencies / crisis (on call duty including evenings and weekends on a rota basis).
  • Dealing with feedback from the field (from clients and challenge leaders), liaising with ground handlers with a view to implementing changes to improve the programme in order to avoid re-occurrence of problems.  Being pro-active to avoid future complaints, following up on feedback from comments where necessary.

During-challenge:

  • Ensuring ground handlers in each country are working within their contract with Charity Challenge (carrying out all of the ground arrangements including hotels, food, transfers and so on).

Post-challenge:

  • Dealing with feedback from the field (from clients and challenge leaders), liaising with ground handlers with a view to implementing changes to improve the programme in order to avoid re-occurrence of problems.  Being pro-active to avoid future complaints, following up on feedback from comments where necessary.

General:

  • Taking responsibility for the maintenance and improvement of the quality and most importantly, the safety of your challenges – including training and ongoing appraisal of both UK and local leaders.
  • Assisting with the recruitment and training of both UK and local leaders as required
  • Liaising with the flights department regarding airlines and fares to ensure the correct flights are booked for all your challenges and that the agreed fares are within budget.
  • Liaising with clients: helping them prepare for their challenge, sending out visa application info, vaccinations, kit list etc, joining instructions, updates to their itineraries and flight details etc.  Collate challenge feedback and respond where necessary to problems.  Assisting clients with insurance claims on their return etc.
  • Ensuring challenge leaders and doctors on your challenges have signed off contracts.  Ensuring challenge leaders and doctors are prepared for their challenge with briefings, manual and relevant documents.
  • Organising and conducting a debrief post-challenge and detailed information fed back to the ground handler.
  • Prepare and ensure all customer facing documents are up to date and accurate on the website -  Q&A / fact file / itinerary / kit list
  • Attending WTM and other trade exhibitions as appropriate/required
  • Cross checking invoices from ground handlers and ensuring payment is made promptly
  • Assessing current costs and seeing where cost reductions could be made. Acquiring shadow quotes and negotiating with ground handlers to reduce those costs
  • Product Development – developing new challenges in liaison with the Operations and/or Sales team
  • Bespoke challenges – assisting in tailor making exclusive group challenges: sourcing ground handler, devising itinerary to client specifications, liaison with GH and negotiating cost.
  • Management of and responsibility for operations-based projects as per requirements

marketing

  • Assess levels of in country branding on your challenges and make recommendations to the marketing team
  • Blog Writing within your country areas.
  • Product and Sales Webinars and Presentations.

 what we are looking for

  • We are of course looking for someone with the relevant group/charity tour operation experience who has a sound knowledge of principles of safety and risk management.
  • Someone with adventure travel experience on at least two continents. Ideally but not essentially, you will have spent some time in South America and have had experience leading or acting as a charity representative on an expedition (although this is not an absolute pre-requisite).
  • In addition, we are looking for someone who is highly organised and process driven  with an excellent level of attention to detail to manage this area of our business.
  • Specifically, you should be able to manage your time efficiently, prioritise work loads and competently project manage many tasks, with a high level of care and attention to detail all at the same time.
  • You should also have the ability to take the initiative with regards to running your own portfolio of challenges and be a confident and competent communicator with clients and overseas ground handlers.
  • You will mainly be using Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Microsoft Outlook as well as our in-house database.

 what you can expect from us

  • We are a small business, friendly office in North London, full of people with passion for what they are doing.  It is a lively and busy environment. This is a chance to do something special, and work not only in the travel but also charity sector.
  • The job will also include experiencing the challenges and or conducting recces so will include some international travel.
  • Salary is negotiable depending on experience.
  • Mon-Friday 0900-1730hrs. One week in 4 will be spent on 24 hour emergency duty
  • 27 Days holiday a year plus your birthday as a bonus day off, and one extra day each year for up to an additional three years.

you can be part of our unique organisation helping to change people’s lives and raise millions for charity!

To apply for this role email your CV along with a covering letter to challenges@charitychallenge.com.

Application Deadline: Tuesday 18th June 2013

Leaders wanted…could it be you?

Charity Challenge often needs to recruit enthusiastic, experienced leaders to lead and manage overseas expeditions; mountain climbs, treks, bike rides and house-building community based challenges.  Expeditions are run all over the world in aid of UK & Irish registered charities.  The challenges are of varying degrees of difficulty that enable people from all walks of life and abilities to make a difference to someone’s life by pushing their personal boundaries.

In your role as a challenge leader you will have a set itinerary to manage and will be working with a local ground handler and support team to run this in a safe and efficient manner.  You will be the main point of contact for the clients and will need to liaise with the ground handler over any client problems, changes to the itinerary and generally efficiency of the expedition.

You will be given a handbook detailing all that the role entails on completion of a successful interview.

what we are looking for

  • We are of course looking for someone with the relevant group expedition leading experience (preferably overseas) with a larger adventure tour operator and/or within the charity sector.
  • Personal travel experience to the developing world is a requirement and high altitude trekking experience is desirable.
  • You will also possess relevant wilderness and remote rescue and emergency care qualifications (or be prepared to acquire them) – the minimum requirement is REC Level 2 but higher levels of rescue and emergency care training is advantageous. You may possibly also possess mountain leader qualifications
  • In addition, we are looking for someone who is highly organised and with a good level of attention to detail to manage these busy expeditions and ensure they run smoothly.
  • Specifically, you should be able to manage your time efficiently with a high level of care and attention all at the same time.
  • You should also have and the ability to take the initiative and be a confident and competent communicator with clients and overseas ground handlers.
  • You should have a good knowledge of overseas health and safety issues and be a diplomatic and effective problem solver who can keep calm in a crisis

For further information or to apply for this job please contact kathryn@charitychallenge.com and enclose your CV.

CAA to crack down on unclear websites and brochures

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has warned it, along with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), are reviewing travel companies’ websites and promotional material to check they are providing “clear, transparent and timely information” on the holidays and flights they are selling. In a statement the CAA said this is aimed at making sure the industry is “fully aware of its responsibilities under existing consumer legislation”.

Charity Challenge has campaigned from day one (way back in 1999) to provide clear and transparent pricing for its participants and charity partners, specifically, including all known air taxes at the time of launching a challenge. Many challenge companies do not include known air taxes and simply pass them off as surcharges a few months before departure. This is misleading and whilst the challenge appears cheaper, it is only deceiving the clients (or the charity) who have to pay later!

The CAA said key points of the guidance include a reminder of:
•    All unavoidable and foreseeable charges for flights must be included in the headline price – this includes taxes, fees and any other mandatory charges such as a booking fee.
•    Information on the financial protection arrangements for the booking and other key information must be made clear to consumers.
•    Terms and conditions relating to a booking must be clearly available and easy to understand.

Cavendish Elithorn, senior director of the OFT’s Goods and Consumer group, added: “Booking a holiday should be simple. People should be able to make a clear choice and should not be surprised by hidden charges or conditions after they have booked. Our guidance makes life easier for consumers by leaving the travel industry in no doubt about its responsibilities.”

The full guidance is available online here and a shorter version for quick reference is here.

To see more information about the array of amazing challenges we have, please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, please subscribe to this blog. You can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Supporting SOS in Ape-ril!

Unfortunately I can’t claim praise for the ingenious pun found in today’s blog title; it seems that the Sumatran Orangutan Society have already staked their claim on it as they promoted last month’s ‘Ape-ril’ campaign, which encouraged supporters across the world to grow a beard in solidarity with our orange relatives. We actually share a huge 96.4% of our DNA with orangutans, but we are pushing them to the edge of extinction due to the boom in palm oil plantations and other agricultural expansion across Borneo and Sumatra, the only homes left now to these iconic animals that were once widespread throughout the forests of Asia. Through their Ape-ril campaign, SOS is raising awareness (and money!) to make a lasting impact on the survival of the orangutans and the conservation of their rainforest home.

I’m pleased to say that Charity Challenge has also been able to support SOS throughout April, with 3 groups going out to Indonesia to take part on our Sumatran Jungle Expedition. Because of the huge presence of the Sumatran Orangutan Society directly in the area that we trek in, we make a donation of £50 for each person on this challenge, and we’ve just had the amazing news that we were able to make a humungous donation of £1400 for our 3 April groups! SOS rely principally on donations to carry out their work, so this money will go towards the campaigns, projects and other incredible work that they are already carrying out.

Our Sumatran Jungle expedition is not just a physical challenge, but also a learning experience as the group treks through the Gunung Leuser National Park, home to hundreds of our orange friends, and learns about their plight and the conservation efforts taking place in Sumatra to try and protect these endangered animals. The Sumatran Jungle Society plays a massive part in supporting the reforestation of the national park, promoting conservation among villages and communities who depend on the Gunung Leuser National Park for their livelihoods, and helping these communities to live sustainably and without animal-human conflict. If it wasn’t for the continued effort of SOS, we would not be able to run this challenge with a clear conscience, but because of them we are able to send groups out in the knowledge that they will be contributing to the protection of the Sumatran wildlife.

I think our participants can express their thoughts better than we ever could:

“To actually see the palm oil industry moving in and hearing the chainsaws while walking in the jungle was a strong reminder that we need to stop this deforestation and destruction of the orangutans’ natural habitat. If you think life is hard when you struggle with climbs and descents – think about the orangutans that get killed every day”.

“To have the opportunity to experience an adventure like this whilst doing good, with an amazing group of people was an honour. It was tough but when we all got back to the Eco Lodge and thought about what we had done and what we had achieved, from the fundraising to the trek itself, it left you feeling incredibly proud.”

To learn more about the Sumatran Orangutan Society and their conservation efforts, go to http://orangutans-sos.org/. Or alternatively, why not take the opportunity to visit Sumatra and see for yourself! For each person on our trip we donate £50 to SOS, so you can go in the knowledge that you are not only supporting the charity of your choice, but you are also helping to give back to the people, wildlife and environments you will be seeing during your time in Indonesia.

You can also find out more about our Sumatra Jungle Challenge by clicking here. If you have any questions on this challenge, please contact Jo, our Ops Manager on jo@charitychallenge.com. To see more information about the array of amazing challenges we have, please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, please subscribe to this blog. You can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Our Challenge Leader Penny Knight shares her experience with her Great Wall Trekkers April 2013

Before even meeting my great wall trekkers, I sensed a friendly, sociable and self motivated bunch as I approached the collection of people sprawled on the floor of Terminal 3 chatting excitedly.

As we trekked along the wall, climbing up steep ledges and clambering over broken stone steps, the real life stories started to emerge.  By the end of the trek, I realised that I had been incredibly privileged to spend such a memorable time with such an inspiring group.

Margaret, Kerri and Andy Chapman were a pleasure to spend time with, although I didn’t see much of them as they disappeared over the horizon! They had trained hard together prior to the challenge, were fit and driven, never failed to smile and effortlessly worked together as a family unit.

Edel McCaul and I walked together for much of the trek and my distraction tactics to encourage Edel up the numerous steps resulted in me discovering more and more about her astonishing story.  Edel was walking in memory of her beloved Grandfather who had died of cancer.  She had always felt a close bond with him and before he passed away she had vowed to do a challenge for him that took her out her comfort zone. After a selfless act whilst a teacher had resulted in an accident which left her in a wheelchair, Edel had worked on walking and then being able to get up a flight of steps. This challenge caused her severe pain in both knees but she remained determined throughout, conquering every step of her Great Wall Challenge.

Despite a heart condition, Marie (with her trusted colleague, Edel at her side) overcame many individual challenges, resulting often in tears which were instantly followed by laughter.  Marie had a naturally upbeat and jovial nature and nothing got her down for long.

Donna Freeman was another inspirational lady who had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and had major surgery and after recovering from all of that, she was then told that it had failed and that she had only 6 months to live. Instead of giving up, she put her life and family in order, ensuring that they would be looked after in her absence and sorted all the practical aspects she could.  Out of the blue, Donna received the incredible news that there had been a mistake and that she was for now cured – she vowed to live life to the full.

Abbie Ross and James Dennis were the only couple on the trek and won everyone’s hearts in no time. They were just adorable together, always watching out for each other and showing a respect and mutual admiration to be envied in any relationship. At a colourful oriental temple perched on the side of the hill below Jinshanling, James got down on one knee and proposed to a tearful but ecstatic Abbie.

The school holidays seem to have bought an influx of teachers and nurses to this group and the pre- natal and maternity crowd from Bristol Hospital were excellent value on this trip.  Claire and Kirsty although challenged by the trek remained inseparable and their unique friendship gave them a strength as well as a much needed sense of humour in order to tackle the many hurdles. Kath, Paula, Hien and Sheena all completed the challenge even throwing in some energetic dance moves and high spirits at the top watchtower!

Emily, Michelle and Zahrah knew no-one else on the trek when they started but I feel certain that some lifelong friendships will have been made during the trip.  Emily was already well travelled and despite this being uncharacteristic of the rest of her family, she is driven by her motivation to raise money for Great Ormond Street Childrens Hospital and the bear came with us as support. The hospital has asked Emily to go up in person to have photo’s done when she donates the money.

Michelle never faltered. She was physically fit, determined and always positive bringing fun to every situation.  Her and Donna will remain strong friends after this trip, I suspect. I hope her dance students appreciate her dynamic personality.

Zahrah was such a strong character and we got to spend a great deal of time together.  Backed by her class with their notes and pictures to encourage her on, Zahrah refused to miss any part of the challenge even when she found it tough.  It seemed that the more I put her under pressure, the more she raised her game and we finished the trek below Badaling at a run.

Naomi, with her infectious laugh, was a naturally caring and giving member of the group who was often more than happy to chat at a slower pace with those at the back.  She has overcome her own health issues which no-one would ever have suspected.  Nothing Naomi did was ever about herself and she was invaluable to the team.  I understand that she and Joe will also be tying the knot before long and he is a lucky man.

I hope that this exceptional group will continue to inspire others as they have done me. It has been a pleasure and a privilege.

Penny

You can also find out more about our Great Wall Discovery by clicking here. If you have any questions on this challenge, please contact Jo, our Ops Manager on jo@charitychallenge.com. To see more information about the array of amazing challenges we have, please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, please subscribe to this blog. You can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Dog Sledding in Sweden

After being lucky enough to join the dog sledding trip at the last minute I had no pre-conceived ideas as to what to expect, all I can say after doing it is…it was amazing!

The peace and tranquillity that you experience is second to none and the camaraderie amongst the group really made this trip a once in a lifetime experience.

After meeting the group at the airport there was the initial drama, after as one member of the group lost her passport and tickets before we even checked in! Frantically phoning the hotel to see if she had left them there the night before, she realised that she had put them in a very safe place; in the hidden compartment of her bag, of course! With two hours to spare we made the most of the last minute shopping and snack buying!

After a 2 hour flight to Stockholm, the group piled off the plane and queued up to go through the passport control, where upon Kirsty, who had previously lost her passport announced she couldn’t find it again! Drama ensued again, apart from this time it wasn’t hidden in the secret pocket! Thankfully the passport control staff and local police saved the day and were very helpful and escorted her back on to the plane where it was finally found in the pocket of the seat! Phew! It was then time for a well-deserved lunch.

Our next flight up to Kiruna, 200kms above the Arctic Circle was stress free. We were greeted by Kent and Jordana, our amazing leaders for the week, who whisked us away to our hotel in Kiruna, and after a speedy check in we headed down to the bar for our briefing and a well deserve drink. We also had to make the most of our last shower, as we would be reliant on wet wipes for the rest of the trip.

The following day we stopped off at the world famous ice hotel in Jukkasjärvi, and had a great guided tour. This hotel was the first of its kind in the world, and is re built from scratch every year using large blocks of ice cut from the Torne River, which is located next to the Ice Hotel and each block is completely unique. Artists from all over the world bid to have their designs picked for the luxury rooms which are built in their own individual style. The hotel is kept at a constant -5°C, I’m not too sure I’d want to stay there!

We then continued on to the kennels to meet our furry friends for the rest of the weeks challenge, and after a hearty lunch it was time to be kitted out in our warm weather gear and have a full safety breifing briefing on how to harness the dogs, and how to drive the sled. With Kent hurling himself on to the ground whilst being pulled along by Jordana, they finally showed us what to do if you tipped your sled over. we were hanging on his every word whilst trying not to cry with laughter, most of us failed in this task.

It was then time for us to actually put what we’d just learnt to practice, and we very slowly harnessed up all of our very excited dogs, and by the time we were finished the sound of them barking was like nothing I have ever heard before. After a final check we were off, most of us started slowly, worried about tipping over, but after about 10 minutes of getting used to the speed of the sled and figuring out how to brake, all of the worries disappeared! As far as the eye could see we were surrounded by a thick blanket of snow, which glistened in the sunshine that we were lucky enough to have all week. The pine trees popped out, to add an extra dimension to the perfect Christmassy landscape, and to top it off we occasionally had a reindeer running by…what more could you ask for.

The thing that got me the most was the complete silence, the only noises that you heard were the dogs paws pounding through the soft powder snow, the whooshing of the sled and the occasional shout if someone got distracted and fell off their sled – which happened quite a lot at the start of the trip! We got used to stopping and waiting for the person to right their sled  and then once they were up and ready and had managed to remove their snow anchor, we would trundle off again. We were only out for 25kms today which was our shortest run as we had to get back to the cabin before dark. I say cabin but what I really mean is an uninsulated traditional wooden tepee, with only a central log fire for heating. But before we could get settled in our ‘luxurious abode’ for the evening it was time to take care of the dogs. We had to unharness them, put them back in their kennels, prepare their food, clear up the poo in their kennels and then finally chop the wood for our fire that would keep us warm tonight.

We all piled into the tepee, as by this point the temperature had dropped to -25°, so it was a welcome relief to have a hot dinner waiting for us and a lit fire to warm our extremities. We all made a last minute dash for the loo which was a hut on the other side of the yard before being physically tucked into our 2 sleeping bags that we would have to use tonight. I am so glad that they provided an extra one, as I do remember waking up, I think it was with Rob’s snoring and feeling ice on my buff that was over my face for warmth. Brrrrr…

The next day after a good night sleep it was time to set off in to the wilderness and this time we weren’t coming back, well not for four days anyway! The next four days were a totally amazing experience as  we mushed over 200kms. We chopped fire wood, in fact Jamie was a demon when it came to chopping anything, however Kate did give him a run for his money when it came to chopping the dog meat. I have to say I was a pansy when it came to slopping the dog food into the bowls, so we helped each other out when there were tasks that other members of the group struggled with.

We were all gaining in confidence and even starting to run alongside our sleds to help the dogs out up the hills. I even thought it would be a good idea to hang off the back of the sled whilst trying to get a good shot of Nick’s dogs and promptly ended up face down being dragged through the snow whilst desperately trying to put the brake down. I did get the shot so it was well worth it!

Our evenings in the cabins were spent talking about what we had seen during the day and trying to outdo each other with the highlights of the day. This was until Barry came up with a corker of a story which included a flying reindeer that he had encountered. At this point we all started looking around for the illegal substances he must have taken to concoct a story like this…”a flying reindeer”, we all said in unison! The story began as Barry came around a corner, there was a reindeer standing in his path and the only place for it to go was towards him… the next thing he knew it was sitting on his sled. Sitting may have been a bit of an exaggeration but I couldn’t figure out when I came round the very same bend there was a very dazed and confused reindeer trying to figure out what had just happened! Barry was standing there, mouth ajar, also wondering what had just hit him…I think the answer in this case was a flying reindeer! Then next thing we know we are being called outside to have a look at one of the most breathtaking things I have ever seen, the natural phenomenon of the Northern lights. We had seen it the previous night, just faintly, but this was amazing and so much brighter than I had ever imagined. A real once in a life time experience. It didn’t matter that it was -25° outside – we didn’t feel the cold. I really didn’t want to go back inside but it was either that or freeze to death!

I could go on forever with other highlights – if you are sitting on the fence, what are you waiting for, sign up today! It is not the most physically demanding of our challenge portfolio but it tested me to my limits in other ways. The group of people on this trip were fabulous and it would be an absolute pleasure to travel with each and everyone of them again.

You can also find out more about the Dog Sledding Challenge by clicking here. If you have any questions on this challenge, please contact Kathryn, our Ops Manager on kathryn@charitychallenge.com. To see more information about the array of amazing challenges we have, please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, please subscribe to this blog. You can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

How to get the best out of online fundraising

In the last ten years or so, the field of fundraising has been revolutionised by the arrival of the internet. No longer is fundraising the act of knocking on every door in the neighbourhood with a clipboard in hand. Now, thanks to the internet, fundraisers are able to effectively knock on the door of thousands of people every day, via harnessing social media and email, with the proverbial clipboard being transformed into a ‘JustGiving’, ‘Virgin Money Giving’ or ‘EveryClick’ page. There’s no doubt that the internet has made fundraising – and fundraising to a high target – a lot more achievable, but online fundraising is no-one click fix, so read on to find out how to make your online fundraising campaign as successful as it can be!

It’s all about the emails
There are a lot of blogs and articles out there about social media, and what an amazing fundraising tool it is, and they’re not wrong, social media should be the life and soul of any online fundraising campaign. But don’t forget about good old fashioned emails. Due to the accent of social media, emails now tend to be used for more business-like transactions, so to receive a personal email in amongst formal mailings would be a real unexpected pleasure for the recipient, and stand out in their minds much more than a random post that pops up on a Facebook feed.

But make sure to be careful how you put together your recipient lists, and how you word your emails – different strokes for different folks! The type of email you might send to old classmates or parents of friends would be different to the one you send to your work friends. So bear this in mind,

Tell the Story
This is where social media really comes into its own! Don’t just send out one tweet/fb post about your challenge asking for donations, really tell the story of your challenge and your fundraising, tell everyone what you’re most nervous about for your challenge, what events you’re putting on for your fundraising, why the charity you have chosen is so important, etc – don’t forget to always include a link back to your fundraising page so people can donate easily.
Use all the mediums at your disposal to keep things interesting, post photos and videos of your fundraising events and efforts. Set yourself mini goals and build up a buzz on social media. We recently organised ‘The BT Red Nose Challenge: Hell and High Water’ which saw a team of celebrities white water raft down the Zambezi to raise money for Comic Relief. As a final push, Radio 1 DJ Greg James pledged to jump into the Zambezi River naked when a certain fundraising goal was reached, and (thanks to a massive social media buzz and a push by Radio 1) it was…and he did! We hardly recommend you go to such measures, but mini goals and extra forfeits like this, combined with a social media push, can really help tell the story and give people more reasons to donate!

Make use of new online technologies
There is always something new and exciting happening in the world of online fundraising. One of the latest is an easy two minute way to create your own challenge website at a cost of just £20. A website can provide a centralised hub which can host detailed information about yourself, your challenge, your charity, your fundraising page, your blog and pics. This is great as you can use this to engage your local press by sending them a link to your site – the easier it is for them to find info, the more likely they are to give you the coverage you need. You can also offer businesses the opportunity to feature their logo and information on your website in return for corporate sponsorship. To find out more info about setting up your own challenge website, visit thechallengenetwork.com.

Here at Charity Challenge, we’re going to be soon launching our very own new piece of online technology, that we hope is going to have a very big impact on online fundraising, and it going to be of special interest to our charity partners, so watch this space!
We hope you found this article useful! For more top tips, and to see the many other amazing challenges we offer, you can visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all Charity Challenge news, please enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.