A gold-medal winning Paralympian is trying to change the way funding is raised and support up-and-coming riders by launching a membership club.
Dressage rider Sophie Christiansen has launched Sophie’s Gold Club which allows people to join for an annual fee of £25 in return for benefits.
Sophie told H&H: “I got the idea from racing, and some of the eventers like William Fox-Pitt have membership clubs. We’re not generating enough sponsorship in para dressage so I thought we need a different way of securing more funding and I thought this might be a good way to go about it. It’s much more than people just donating money, they get something in return.
“Crowdfunding is an amazing platform and works well for some people but it is getting so saturated at the moment and you really need to think outside the box now about how we fundraise. I have a GoFundMe page, but this membership is for people who want to be part of my journey – it’s to cover my costs of being a para athlete but also to encourage people to get involved.
“This is different from crowdfunding — it’s about getting a new group of fans into the sport and closer to the action, which will only be a good thing.”
Members of Sophie’s Gold Club will receive a welcome pack, discounts from Sophie’s sponsors BMW, Equilibrium products and Kate Negus Saddlery, access to a private members-only Facebook group with Sophie where she will share her exclusive news and tips, and the opportunity to win raffle prizes throughout the year.
“Our first raffle prize is four tickets and a backstage pass to Olympia London International Horse Show on the Tuesday this year. The raffle will be drawn on 25 October,” said Sophie.
If Sophie’s club is successful she hopes to offer grants to up-and-coming para dressage riders and share the model of her club to other para riders who want to raise funding.
“I’m worried about the future generation and how are they going to fund getting to Paralympic level and afford horses so I think this is a really innovative way to increase funding for them. I’m really open to sharing how I came up with this to anyone interested in starting their own membership club because it was a lot of hard work,” said Sophie.
The club will also offer a limited premium membership similar to sponsorship aimed at individuals, corporate clients and businesses for a fee of £15,000 with benefits including access to Team GB para squad training days, invitation to team selection trials and the opportunity for Sophie to give speaking engagements.
“The premium membership is in order to help me fundraise my journey to winning more gold medals, but also to allow me to help others, top up their pots and give out grants to the up-and-coming riders,” said Sophie. “It’s quite daunting — I really want this to work in order to help other people, to inspire them and to help fund them to go and win gold. I just think this could be a really good way to make the sport sustainable.
Horse & Hound's guest para dressage columnist isn’t too surprised by the Netherlands snatching gold
The rider has received a donation to her crowdfunding campaign in her bid to compete at Tokyo 2020
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“It’s scary launching something when you’re not very sure how its going to be received – I really hope people get on board.”
Sophie said without further funding she is concerned about her future in the sport.
“We have to think about innovative ways to fund our sport. If I don’t raise enough money I wont be able to continue competing for Great Britain but saying that, I want people to join the club because I want them to be part of the sport.”
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