How to fund your bicycle tourism project - part 2

How to fund your bicycle tourism project - part 2

Would you like to see a bicycle tourism project built in your area?

In part one of this blog, we looked at the first step you need to take, building an alliance, then the first two sources of funding, grass roots and government. In this blog we’ll look at two other key sources, business and philanthropy, then look at key steps you’ll need to take from dream to construction.


You could divide potential sources of business support into two categories:

The first and most obvious is all the local businesses who would directly benefit if your project went ahead. This would include café’s and hotels, but also many others.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that these businesses can see the potential benefits to them of your project. You may have to convince them with case studies of businesses in other communities who’ve benefitted from similar projects that have already been built. If you could get testimonials, ideally video testimonials, and referrals from those businesses, even better, as business people tend to have more respect and affinity for other business owners - those with whom they can see parallels and with whom they most closely relate.

Most of these businesses will not be big enough to afford large contributions to your project, but even their written support will carry weight with other potential funders, especially politicians.

A second group of businesses, smaller in number, will have a different motivation, but could be a source of larger amounts. Is your community the home base or major branch of a large national or multinational company? Bigger businesses often like to fund local community projects such as sporting facilities. They see it as part of being a good corporate citizen in their local community. They also see it as a benefit for their employees and their families, which in turn helps them to attract and retain good staff. These large businesses will often be more comfortable co-funding with donors from other sectors.


As total wealth increases and our populations age, philanthropy is growing. Major donations can come from private individuals or from a wide range philanthropic foundations and trusts.

The latter category is highly structured. They will have certain criteria for funding. If you don’t meet these criteria, then don’t waste your time! For example if a foundation’s criteria is to fund cancer research, they’re not going to fund your trail, no matter how compelling it is.

There are various intermediaries and research sources that can help you target the most appropriate charitable foundations.

Private individuals will be more flexible. They’ll usually fund projects in which they have a personal interest. Your challenge is to identify these people (often couples or families), get access to them, then build relationship and trust. If that sounds like a lot of work, it is! But the rewards can be large.

One stunning example is the widely acclaimed and hugely popular Indianapolis Cultural Trail, now getting well over a million rides per year. The total project cost was $63 million of which $35.5 million came from federal funding and $27.5 million from private donations. The first $15 million of funding came from a single source, the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Family Foundation. This was the catalyst for the additional $48 million which includes a $6 million endowment, the investment earnings from which pays for maintenance and improvements.

Image caption: As the name on the trail suggests, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail was truly a legacy of Gene & Marilyn Glick, but their $15 million donation was leveraged four-fold.

Key Steps From Dream to Construction

Sharing Your Vision

What exactly do you want to build and why? You’ll need to clearly communicate this with potential donors, regulators and your wider community.

This step is often called ‘community engagement’. There are no shortcuts! You’ll need maps, photos, videos, artists’ impressions of the finished project, social media campaigns, group meetings and one on one meetings – especially with potential objectors.

Sharing your vision an underlying requirement that will be ongoing even while you’re working on the next stages.

Economic Modelling

If this sounds dry and numbers based, that’s because it is! To get any serious funding from government and foundations, you’ll need a study that shows the benefits from your project significantly outweigh the costs. There are various terms for this such as cost benefit ratio, benefit cost analysis and so on. Although you could do this analysis yourself, it will carry far more weight if you can get the appropriate academics at a local university to do this work for you (ideally pro bono). Failing that, there are consultants who do this work, but charge professional rates. Whoever you use, they need to be respected by your target funders.

Detailed Engineering and Costing

Most projects don’t get full funding in one installment. You’re most likely to first win funding for detailed design, engineering and quantity surveying. This is the stage where your initial concept plans and images are turned into detailed plans and costings.

Hopefully your initial costing estimate is not too low, because this could hurt your credibility and slow your momentum. Most projects end up costing more than the initial plans, often because they’re added to and enhanced, so anything up to a 50% underestimate will probably be ok. But don’t wishfully estimate that a $20 million project will cost $5 million.

Securing Firm Funding Commitments

Once you have your final, detailed costings and plans and overcome any ‘roadblock’ objections, you’ll need to secure written, detailed funding commitments. This is one downside of multiple funding sources because it will require you to navigate the minefield of timing, differing funding rules and so on. For example, some funding sources may be able to roll over the funding into a subsequent financial year whereas others may require it to be spent within a certain defined period.


Make sure you allow for contingencies! Far more projects come in over time and over budget than under.

Finally the big day comes and the ribbon is cut; your project is built!

Post Script

Don’t forget to have worked out in advance who is responsible for paying for and doing maintenance, marketing and all the other ongoing costs.

Also, if your original dream was too big to get over the line, break it down into stages. When stage one is actually built and everyone sees how great it is, it will hopefully be easier for you to get stages two and three built.

Clearly getting any permanent cycling tourism facility from dream to reality is hard work and will take a long time. But quite apart from all the benefits your project will bring, it’s certainly satisfying to be able to revisit something that didn’t previously exist and know that you were instrumental in having it built.

Image caption: If you can fully crack open the money tin you can build projects to a world class standard such as the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.


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