Bill Wagner, a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, volunteers with MIMA Foundation every year. MIMA Foundation is a grassroots non-profit that sends medical specialists to Third World countries with 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 incredible journey.
At first, we thought any free blogging site 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. The website had to be inexpensive and something he could maintain from the trail. We decided to use Joomla, a free, open-source content management system. Joomla features a native blogging feature and an easy-to-use online editor. It has hundreds of free plug-ins for movies, slideshows, and maps. And there are hundreds of free templates which 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 people's fears about making online donations. The transaction fees are fair, especially considering the cost of developing an online donation system in-house. The account creation and integration into the website were easy. The non-profit verification process was the most challenging 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. Bill had to pay upfront 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 unsold inventory. We suggested using CafePress. CafePress allowed us to set up a store with dozens of items, not just t-shirts. Cafe Press handled the sales, manufacturing, and shipping 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. Bill was going to be out in the wilderness without electricity for several days. 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. The typical laptop's battery only lasts 4 hours between charges. Plus, space and weight are at an absolute premium when everything you need to survive must fit in your bike's saddlebags. So we chose an Apple iPad because it's smaller than any netbook, weighs only 1.5 lbs, and its battery lasts an incredible 10 hours between charges.
Bill was pleased with the 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!