Bill Wagner, a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, volunteers every year with a non-profit organization called the MIMA Foundation. The MIMA Foundation is a grassroots non-profit that sends medical specialists to Third World countries that have limited or unavailable medical care for the indigent population. This year to raise money and awareness for the organization so close to his heart, Bill embarked on a unique fundraiser. He rode a mountain bike across the United States from Canada to Mexico. And he asked us to build bike.mimafoundation.com to chronicle his amazing journey.
At first we figured that any of the free blogging sites would be suitable, but Bill wanted more. In addition to a travelogue, he needed to accept online donations, sell merchandise, play movies and slideshows and track his journey on a map. Plus this was a solo project. Bill had no sponsors or volunteers to help him. So the website had to be inexpensive and something he could maintain himself from the trail. We decided to use Joomla, a free, open source, content management system. Joomla features a native blogging feature plus an easy to use online editor for adding content. Joomla has hundreds of free plug-ins, including plug-ins for movies, slideshows and maps. And, there are hundreds of free templates which helped reduce design costs.
Selecting PayPal to handle the online donations was an easy choice. We relied on PayPal's reputation for safety and ease of use to alleviate any fear people might have about making online donations. The transaction fees are fair, especially considering what it would cost to develop an online donation system in-house. The account creation and integration into the website was easy. The non-profit verification process was the most difficult aspect of using PayPal.
Bill had sold t-shirts for a fundraiser before and wanted to do so again. But the problems he had previously were discouraging. He had to pay up front to have t-shirts printed. He had to recruit someone to handle the sales and shipping of the shirts. Then he had to deal with left over inventory. We suggested using CafePress. CafePress allowed us to setup a store with dozens of items, not just t-shirts. Cafe Press handled the sales, manufacturing and shipping of the items all for a reasonable transaction fee.
Bill's ride along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route took him through some of the most remote areas in the nation. So the problem was, how to update the website from places that didn't even have cell phone coverage? We initially looked at laptops, but quickly discovered they weren't a good solution. Bill was going to be out in the wilderness without electricity for several days at a time. The typical laptop's battery only lasts 4 hours between charges. Plus space and weight is at an absolute premium when everything you need to survive must fit in the saddle bags of your bike. So we chose an Apple iPad because it's smaller than any netbook, weighs only 1.5 lbs and its battery lasts and incredible 10 hours between charges.
Bill was pleased with the end result. We were excited to be a part of his incredible endeavor. And we were both surprised by the number of WiFi hotspots along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route!