Bicycles for Humanity empowers people in the developing world by transferring skills to them that enable them to create opportunity for themselves.
Section 2 Understanding who collects bikes in the developed world
Who is collecting bikes
Earlier we talked about the large numbers of bikes that will be coming on stream over the next several years. There are many reason why people in the developed world are organizing and collecting the bikes and many different financial models are used. If you are looking for bikes for your community, than it is very important to understand the motivation of those collecting bikes. In general there are 3 types of organizations collecting bikes.
1. There are people that want to make a difference and empower others with the gift of mobility. All of the Bicycles for Humanity Chapters fall into this category. Many church’s and other small groups wanting to make a difference do so for the same reason. Generally do good organizations try to cover a portion of the shipping costs, and in some cases, all of it.
2. There are organizations who’s sole purpose is to collect bikes because it is good for the environment and they see repurposing the bikes as important to business development. These groups are generally small NGO’s, like Bikes for the World, who do a great job, they have a tremendous number of bikes and containers ready to be delivered, but they seldom cover the shipping costs, instead leaving this to you to solve and there are many ways you can solve this, we will talk more about this in the future.
3. The third type is purely entrepreneurial, with so many bikes piling up, they see an opportunity to collect them, and sell you a container of bikes at a marked up price, making money for themselves and hopefully it allows you to be able to sell a good portion to cover the costs,leavinga quantity of bikes for you.
If you stand back and look at this model, the first group are the ones you want to work with, they are more caring, they want to make a difference and if you can meet their needs for accountability and help them tell your story, they will cover a good chunk of the costs. If you cannot find an existing one, than reacing out to organizaitosn like church's or Rotary to help you as a partner is a great choice. The program wil lbe beneficial for them as well, in that they like you will have gained a better understanding of the entire process.The Second group, those collecting bikes as NGO, will send you bikes for the cost of the shipping. Since the average bike with tax’s included might cost you $30 to $35 US landed in your country, if you can sell them at a price that covers your shipping costs and leaves you with a profit, this can be agreat path to take. The last model, the purely entrepreneurial model, means that you will pay top price for the bikes and it will make it harder to break even and to meet the needs of your community. Ideally, building great relationships with organizations who want to make a difference is your best approach.
What Donors Expect
Ifyou lookingfor a container, 500 bikes for your community, than it is very important to understand whatmotivates the volunteers to organize. Groups like Bicycles for Humanity and many others, civic and church groups, schools and other civic minded groups are in it to make a difference and help others. To inspire them to step up and support your community, it is important that they first and foremost understand your community so that they can organize the bike collections and if you want them to do it ongoing and to raise a portion of the funds, it is very important to provide them with ongoing monthly updates of how the bikes were used, the difference the bikes made in helping members of your community and what you plan on doing , going forward. Having delivered bicycles to Africa for 15 years, I can tell you that the few people in Africa understand this simple idea of accountability. I think many in Africa think the bikes just grow on tree’s and that everyone in the developed worldis rich and that they are there to server you. I can assure you, this is wrong and donors today expect accountability and you telling the story so that they can excitedonors to support you and your initiative. I have had over 400 people email me asking me to send them bikes, with nothought as to what is involved or even why I would support them, but the email keep coming. For those that grasp the concepts in the program, and who are determined to tell your story and be accountable, you will get a lot of support, but you have to make it happen, no one else will do it for you. It is a lot of work for the groups sending yo ute bikes and if you cannot inspire them to step up, nothing will flow, this even goes to the groups that are NGO’s and collectthe bikes and you pay the shipping and the tax’s. yes, there are a lot of bikes out there, but it is competitive for people’s time and if you cannot tell the story of the need and be accountable, thani am sorry to say, nothing will happen, but if you take the time to learn a new way of partnering a lot of good will flow to your community .
I know if you received a container full of 500bikes in your community and you are overjoyed at this incredible gift, it is important understandwhat happenedbefore it arrived. You are seeing the end of the journey, many months before a lot of hard work had to go into getting this container to you.
Community groups and small NGO’scollecting bikes, like the Bicycles for Humanity Chapters had to first organize a team to take on this project. They then had to post adds online snd in newspapers to set up collection dates. Volunteers were needed to manage the collections and then take the bike to a storage area. There, another team of volunteers had to prep the bikes by taking the pedals and the front wheel off and then loading the bike into a shipping container. On the financial side, they then had to raise the monies to cover the shipping, which usually involves a number of events where the donors tell the story of the importance of bikes in Africa and where they will be going and who will benefit from the bikes. After the money is raised, there is still all of the logistical problems to book the transport and manage all of the logistics. In short, it is not easy and when the African partner receiving the container does not provide accountability and updates, the volunteers here become demoralized and stop doing it.
Why Accountability is so important
The best relationships are when the team inAfrica understands the needs of the team in the developed world and they work together meeting each groups needs. This is not a one way street, where the developed world team just gives bikes to the Africa team with no expectations. I can say after doing this for 15 years, that veryfew groups in Africa really understand their responsibility or how the process works, it is why I am writing this course now to help all parties build better relationships. If you can build that bond, thanthe people of the developed world will work hard to support you and your efforts,if you do not understand their needs, and if you do not understand that it takes work on your part, bikes will never flow to your community. Accountability is the key