Fundraising Best Practices

Padres Pedal the Cause. Bound for Cures. is on May 8 and we could not be more excited to have our community come together once again to accelerate cures for cancer.

At Padres Pedal the Cause, we are proud to donate 100% of funds raised directly to collaborative cancer research in San Diego. With the help of our cancer fighting community, we have raised over $13.1 million since 2013 which has resulted in 71 research grants including 6 clinical trials. Together, we truly are bound for cures and this progress would not be possible without generous donations and those who fundraise year-round.

We understand that for first time fundraisers, making that first ask can be intimidating. Especially in a time where uncertainty and change has been all too normal. So, we caught up with two of our Padres Pedal the Cause leaders and team captains, Jonathan, and Ronen, to see what has helped them to fundraise successfully both individually and in leading their teams.

Jonathan Schwartz is the Supply Chain Analysis Manager for WD-40 Company, father of SuperKid Savvy and team captain of Team WD-40 – We are #Savvy Strong.

Ronen Erlich joins us from Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc. (a.k.a. PlayStation) where he is a Senior Software Systems Engineer and team captain of Team Gamers vs. Cancer.


What is your connection to cancer?

Our marathon began on January 21st, 2018 when my daughter (Savannah 2.5 y/o) was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma which is a solid tumor in her brain near the stem. Her tumor metastasized in her brain and all down her spine. 

My mom is a 2-time breast cancer survivor (and) one of my dogs lost her front leg to cancer – vet gave her 4-6 month to live and 2 years later she is still with us at the age of 15! – she is an inspiration.


How were you first introduced to Padres Pedal the Cause?

In Rady Children’s Hospital you tend to network fairly quickly with other parents. One of the Padres Pedal SuperKids (Zainab) mom told us about Padres Pedal and what their goals are and how they plan on achieving them. I knew I wanted to be a part of the solution to help find a cure for cancer and decided to join the Padres Pedal team that year. The following year in 2019 I formed my own team with my work colleagues, family, and friends. This will be the 3rd year we will participate in Padres Pedal the Cause.

My good friend Charley Coffey, MD, who is the captain of ‘UCSD Head and Neck’ team, recruited me to his team back in 2017.


What excites you the most/stands out to you the most about Padres Pedal the Cause?

The biggest thing that stands out is everyone that I have worked with at Padres Pedal the Cause has a tie to cancer. Not like many of us don’t have some type of connection, but each one of them have a very close tie and I believe that drives a passion for wanting to achieve a world without cancer. I believe there will a day where we have a world without cancer and Padres Pedal the Cause will be one of the big reasons that exists.

  1. The community and dedication of the participants. It shows that we are so much stronger as a community. Cancer does not discriminate, we all face an equal risk of being diagnosed with cancer – so for one day we all come together to fight back, all backgrounds, religions, genders, ages, races, socioeconomic backgrounds etc.
  2. 100% of donations go to cancer research AND the money stays right here in San-Diego, which is home.


In your opinion, what is the hardest part of fundraising?

I do not believe anyone likes to ask others for money which makes it the hardest part.

No one likes to ask people for money, even when it is for such a great cause – for me this is the hardest part.


What are some fundraising best practices that you have learned?

A couple of best practices come to mind:

  1. Don’t take on fundraising by yourself. The team are all willing to help and it makes for some exciting fundraising if you do it together.
  2. Be creative and adapt. In 2019 we had a blast creating fundraising ideas through restaurants and breweries. Our Team even did a great job with bake sales in the office and raised a bunch of money. This year we are having to get creative once again and Team WD-40 – We are #SavvyStrong just issued a challenge to another team. This should make it engagement and inviting for others to join and participate.

I have learned many:

  1. Use social media (I use Facebook and LinkedIn)
  2. Organize a fundraising event (our team had a boba tea and Acai bowl sale at work – back when we were at the office)
  3. Sell t-shirts and the profits go to donation
  4. Use your company’s giving match policy to increase your donation
  5. Work with your company to recruit team members and to sponsor the event
  6. Reach out to anyone you can, worst case, they will say no, but it is worth trying
  7. Nudging is OK if it is done in moderation 🙂


Who do you reach out to when asking for donations?

When I started Team WD-40 – We are #SavvyStrong during a kickoff meeting with 60 of my tribe members. I asked them all if they knew someone or if they have a personal story with cancer. It was heartbreaking to watch 58 people raise their hand. We are all affected by cancer in some form whether it is a personal connection or through 6 degrees of separation. That makes it easier to ask everyone and anyone who is willing to listen.

I reach out to:

  1. Family & friends
  2. Co-workers
  3. Social groups I am involved with


How does your organization support Padres Pedal the Cause?

There are 3 ways my organization supports Padres Pedal the Cause:

  1. We formed Team WD-40 – We are #SavvyStrong
  2. We have a company match program for each donation our company will match that donation up to $2K per employee
  3. Through an auxiliary committee of our community involvement team of WD-40 Company, we have a team called Helping Hands. They have a small budget to help support Team WD-40 – We are #SavvyStrong

At first, when I started Gamers Vs Cancer team in 2018, my company did not have a big interest in involvement. Later, we got some team sponsorship from a VP in the company. This year we are one of the sponsors of the event, so we have come along way.

In addition, our company works on other initiatives to supports Rady’s Children Hospital, so we have supported some of the Super Kids and their families.


How do you motivate colleagues or family members to join Padres Pedal the Cause team?

We motivate our tribe, family, and friends by keeping it fun and reiterating the purpose of Padres Pedal the Cause. We have an amazing support group of co-workers, family, and friends that support Savannah in her journey and cancer touches everyone in some way.

I am the child of a Jewish mother, I use guilt…

TBH, it takes a team to motivate others. I have to give credit to my colleague, Amy Koger, who is helping me to spread the word around the company. Our team could not be in its current state without her. And also, of course, the team members themselves, especially the returning ones, who share their experiences from previous years.


In this new COVID environment, what have you learned about fundraising and team recruitment? What has worked? What has not worked?

What has not worked? It is a bit harder to fundraise in person and create opportunities in restaurants and breweries or even bake sales. This year we are going more virtual by challenging other teams to a month-long contest and the “loser” team captain each week will have to perform some type of task. The winners each week get a great gift by working side by side with all our superkids. Thank you, Padres Pedal the Cause team, for all you do and thank you for allowing me to be a part of the future.

Like everything else Covid-19 related, we adjust. I learned that it is actually easier to schedule a presentation across the company and use other communications tools like Slack, Teams and Emails to share knowledge about the event and individual stories.

Unfortunately, we are not allowed to get together for fund-raising events like we did previously and the same goes for practice rides/runs we had before.



Thank you to Jonathan and Ronen who took the time to share their experience with our community. We look forward to seeing the incredible impact that we make together this year, as cancer research is more prevalent now, than ever. “Don’t wait until cancer hits home…join the effort and end cancer now.” – Ronen

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