This October marks the one-year anniversary of Pursu.it, an online crowdfunding website that was created to help Canadian athletes find the extra funding they need to compete.
The idea of crowdfunding is simple: it’s easier to ask 100 people for $10 than it is to ask 10 people for $100. Small donations can add up to big money.
Leah Skerry, who created Pursi.it with her business partner Julia Rivard, said the public response so far has been incredible. Their most recent campaign for freeskier and Olympic halfpipe hopeful Matt Margetts raised over $20,000 in just five days.
“Margetts blew all of our previous campaigns out of the water,” said Skerry. “Not many athletes have had that kind of support, but Matt is super-driven and he already had a following, which really helped.
“It helps to have some kind of established network and to approach the campaign the same way you approach training — schedule something every day, whether it’s sending out tweets, sending a few gifts, saying thanks to supporters and fans, and Matt’s a fantastic example of that.”
In the one year since Pursu.it was created, the website has helped 23 athletes, with 13 of those athletes raising the full amount they were asking for. A few Whistler-based athletes, including snowboard athletes Alexandra Duckworth and Molly Milligan are on the list, while Andrew Matthews — who trains with the Whistler Valley Snowboard Club — was about 81 per cent funded.
The most successful campaign so far is for Milligan, an Olympic snowboard slopestyle hopeful who lives part-time in Whistler. She was asking for $4,600 and ended up with close to $7,500, 163 per cent of her goal. And then there’s the tandem of biathletes Brendan Green and Rosanna Crawford, a couple in real life with Olympic aspirations. They were looking for $13,000 to help them prepare for the Sochi Olympics, and with 16 days to go in their campaign their tally was already $19,500, or 150 per cent of their goal.
So far Pursu.it has collected funding from 73,337 fans, raising a total of $204,835 or athletes.
Sometimes there are large donations — Green and Crawford had one anonymous donation of $5,000 — but Skerry said most donations are between $50 and $100.
“The big donations skew the numbers a bit, but for the most part it’s true crowd funding and small donations,” she said.
The idea came about last year when business partners Skerry and Rivard from Norex sat down and start to think about crowdfunding ideas. Making it about athletes was an easy decision.
“Julia was an Olympic paddler for Canada in 2000, and I grew up as a competitive gymnast, so we both understood the challenges athletes face, and we’ve worked with them in different capacities over the years,” said Skerry. “They really do struggle in terms of maintaining their fitness and training… and trying to find sponsorship is quite difficult. We saw Kickstarter take off, and we were sitting at a kitchen table one Sunday night and story-boarded the idea. We launched it at the AthletesCAN conference last October and it’s taken off from there.”
While successful, Skerry said the goal is to make Pursu.it even bigger. “We would love to be a household name in Canada,” she said. “We’re really striving to create some national pride and build a strong brand here that supports athletes.
“When we first started testing the idea I think a lot of people were skeptical because it’s a small group that really supports amateur sports in Canada. When the Olympics happen everybody rallies around the TV and supports Canada, and my goal is to take those two or three weeks where people care and spread it out over the four years to all of the athletes training extremely hard in between Games.
“It’s a bit of a surprise to see the success, but social media is able to create a direct connection between a person and an athlete in a way we haven’t seen before.”
There’s also potential that Pursu.it could take the idea to other countries as well.
A Pursu.it athlete profile introduces the two athletes, explains what they need money for and usually includes a video of those athletes in action. Pursu.it also supplies athletes with a kit they can use to promote their Pursu.it campaign in the media and using social networking.
For more, visit http://pursu.it.