WBR Ambassador Yann Bertaud raises more than $20K

Back in late February, I applied to be an ambassador for World Bicycle Relief. There were three reasons for doing this:

1. I was turning 50 this year

2. I wanted to do some good for people less fortunate than myself.

3. I believe in the power of the bicycle. It has changed my life in so many different ways. I’ve lost weight, gotten through some very tough times, and made some incredible, lasting friendships with fellow cyclists who share the same passion for the bike.

At the end of March, I was notified that I had been accepted as an ambassador along with four other people. In April, I started fundraising, sending emails to friends, colleagues and family. By the end of the month, I had raised just over $2,700. As the month of May approached–my birthday is May 16–I needed to come up with a tagline that would incentivize people to donate. As an ambassador, we have to raise a minimum of $10,000 throughout the year. I did not think I would get anywhere near that by my birthday.


Earlier in the year, one of my cycling friends wanted to complete the California Triple Crown, three double centuries (200 miles) over the period of a year, and asked me if I would join him on a couple of them. Since I love riding long distances and had done a couple of doubles in years past, I had said yes. I needed to do some kind of long bike to celebrate my 50th birthday. And it turned out that the Davis Double was the weekend after my birthday. Perfect timing.

Karen, my wife, was very supportive and proud of my wanting to be an ambassador and wanted to help. We were going to host a birthday party at our house in May and invite our friends, most of them cyclists. In lieu of gifts, I asked for donations to World Bicycle Relief. I added that I was going to ride 200 miles the weekend after my birthday and that I wanted to raise enough money for 100 bikes for my 50th birthday.

I reached out to everyone I knew via email. Some emails were to small subsets of friends that knew each other so they could see I wasn’t just singling them out. Otherwise, the emails were sent BCC so people couldn’t see who else was being approached.

I wanted to emphasize the difference a bicycle could make to a high school-aged girl, since my daughter is high school-aged as well. I could not imagine my daughter not being able to finish high school. I think that that really helped. A lot of people can relate to that and understand the consequences for girls who don’t finish school in Africa.

I bombarded my Facebook page with reminders of my upcoming ride and pleading for donations. And I used my company’s Slack sustainability channel along with our geo-based cycling channels to raise awareness for WBR. Surprisingly, 95% of the donations from co-workers came from people on our sustainability channel, most of whom I have never met. The rest were from a few co-workers I have ridden with in the past.

Our company (Autodesk) matches donations at 100% up to $3,000 each year. So any amount donated would get matched 100% assuming the employee submitted a matching request.

After all was said and done, by May 16, I had raised a total of $8,900. The following weekend was the Davis Double. I went back through my contacts list and emailed people I hadn’t emailed the first time around. I really wanted to hit $10,000, and that number was within sight.


Atop Mt. Tam in California


On the Friday night before the double, I posted one more plea for donations on Facebook. A former coworker from the UK whom I hadn’t seen in ages donated $616 after seeing my plea, sending me over the $10,000 mark. I was thrilled.

By the end of the month, I had raised $11,954, $2,933 of it from coworkers. All coworkers had submitted their matching request, so on June 23, another $2,933 came in from Autodesk. Including donations that trickled in during the month of June, I had surpassed the goal of 100 bikes and hit $16,490, enough for 112 bikes!

It was a great belated birthday present. Through the generosity of friends, family and coworkers, I surpassed my goal and moved my goal to $20,000 by the end of my ambassadorship.

On July 31, I passed that goal and am now at $20,345. I will write about how I got there another day.

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