Since she began working at Chai Lifeline seven years ago, Mindy Tyner has covered a lot of ground (figurative and literal) while growing into her dual role: Bike Tour Director of one day-long bicycle race, Tour de Simcha, and Bike Tour Producer for another, Bike4Chai, both raising millions of dollars for Camp Simcha, a free-to-attend camp designed specifically for kids with long-term illnesses and congenital development issues. She spoke with us about the intense level of detail that goes into the job, and why people remain her top priority.
My un-official title: Bike Tour Director and Producer (and Best Friend to 200 Ladies).
My role, by the numbers: Planning two yearly fundraising bike rides involving, in 2015, a total of 575 cyclists, 300 volunteers, 255 miles, 10 events, and $6.5 million in funds raised.
My role, the long version: It’s a “many-hats” thing. As director of this big fundraiser, I recruit the whole year. I travel to different cities to meet people, educate them about what we do, and get them to sign on. It’s a lot to sign on for: the race itself is 72 miles, spanning 2,500 feet of elevation, and everyone is raising at least $2,500. I also support those riders throughout their training and fundraising efforts.
As producer, my team and I are responsible for all the logistics from start to finish. We have to plan a route on our own, which includes rest stops every 25 miles. Each point—start, finish, and each stop—is its own event, with refreshments and entertainment to cover. We also arrange transportation to and from the event, work with Camp Simcha on the finish-line celebration, and plan the night-before party that kicks off the tour.
In addition to our team of 5 staffers, we have a group of very focused volunteers—200 on one race, and 100 on the other—many in very specific jobs.
What the role requires: Pulling together two huge events, including all that goes into them, takes an eye for detail and strong leadership abilities. You need the ability to find people who want to sign up for and work on the event, and support them all: 200 riders who look up to you as their director, and up to 200 volunteers. Having a handle on that many-hats thing helps.
How I got here: To be honest, I never finished college. Halfway through my degree, I met my husband and moved to New Jersey, where I was working from home and going a little stir-crazy. I was thinking about getting back into school, when a friend who was leaving Camp Simcha encouraged me to pursue the open position. I joined as an executive assistant in 2010, the first year of Bike4Chai. Since I’m good with logistics and details, that’s how I helped out. As the ride continued to grow in participants and funds raised, and my role became more official, I began pushing for a lady’s bike ride to support the girls’ camping session specifically. That became the Tour de Simcha, which began in 2012.
Most rewarding part of my job: Of course, there’s nothing like the day of the event, when it all comes together. But this year, the most rewarding moment was hitting the 200-rider threshold in the Tour de Simcha. Even though I organize both events, Tour de Simcha is my baby. It’s hard for women to get into bicycling because it takes so much time—a lot of the women we reach are moms, many work, they all have a lot going on. It’s hard to get them to commit to training for it, and then to take off the day from their families, their jobs, all their responsibilities.
Favorite way to support my colleagues: To be very clear and concise, explaining not just what needs to be done but how to get it done. I’m a big believer in telling people, especially volunteers, “Ask me questions!”
At the top of my to-do list: The most important thing is to be available for my riders. These people are volunteering their time and effort to train, fundraise, and ride for the kids. They’re working really hard, so if they have a question, need advice, support, a listening ear, having trouble with fundraising or deciding which bike to buy, my top priority is being available for them.
That said: two months before an event, everything is at the top of my list!
My goal(s) for the year: To raise $1 million through Tour de Simcha. We’re very conscious of our costs, and it costs money to throw these events. So the question when we started was, “Can women be as effective fundraisers as the men have been?” We raised $550,000 last year with 125 ladies registered, and if we hit the $1 million mark it would blow everyone away. Of course, that’s my personal goal! I wouldn’t mention that to the ladies—it’s too much pressure.
Chai Lifeline is an international organization that helps families of children dealing with pediatric illness, loss, or trauma. Their programs range from Camp Simcha to family counseling centers to crisis intervention to in-hospital assistance, and more, totaling $14.4 million in services in 2014 alone. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and LinkedIn.