How a Perth engineer raised $5M in five weeks during the pandemic
28 October 2020 at 6:01 pm
In four years, Perth-based engineer Nick Hudson has turned what began as a fun challenge for a handful of friends, into an event with more than 130,000 participants raising $5 million for mental health literacy, writes Alecia Hancock.
“If you told me a couple of years ago this is where we’d be – I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Push Up Challenge founder and engineer Nick Hudson.
Despite the pandemic throwing plans for the 2020 Push Up Challenge into disarray, the challenge founder took a leap of faith and used social media to connect thousands of Australians isolated in their homes to support mental health and raise a whopping $5 million.
So how did a few mates from Perth egging each other on to trim down in the winter of 2017 become one of Australia’s biggest cause-based fundraisers?
Hudson said the idea for a push up challenge got people interested right from the beginning. He said linking to mental health seemed obvious and he realised it had the potential to spread beyond his group of friends.
“From here, we built a tracker and by 2018, the event had 1,000 registrations from around Australia,” Hudson said.
“Which I was pretty stoked with.”
Then Hudson received the shocking news that he needed to undergo heart surgery.
“The surgery went well but the recovery was awful,” he remembers.
“I’m quite an active person, I like to keep fit and help out, so to be told you won’t be able to exercise was really hard for me.
“I had amazing support, but I just didn’t deal with it well and I slipped into a depression. It took me some time to come out of the fog.”
Hudson said finding himself with Netflix as his main option to fill time post-surgery, he decided it was an opportunity to focus on growing the Push Up Challenge.
“I was sitting in bed and I just needed something to focus on so I looked at how we could evolve things, how it could grow,” he said.
And grow it did.
Using social media as the main strategy to build awareness of the event, in 2019 the Push Up Challenge got 49,000 sign ups and raised $2.5 million for mental health.
Riding the wave, the team started planning for 2020 only to hit the ultimate snag in March.
“We had things ready to go for June but COVID-19 hitting Australia meant we had to make the call,” Hudson explained. “Do we bring it forward or do we push it back?
“At that time things were so chaotic; information was changing daily and there wasn’t much certainty and we started getting feedback from people asking us to bring it forward because they wanted something to do in isolation.
“We brought it forward which meant instead of 10 weeks, we only had a five-week lead in to the 2020 event and it could have gone either way.”
The 2020 Push Up Challenge was an amazing success with thousands of people reached on social media and more than 130,000 people signing up to complete 3,046 push ups (the number of Australians that committed suicide in 2018) over 21 days.
When the decision was made to bring forward the 2020 event, more people were pulled in to help out.
“It was full on for a month,” Hudson said. “We had to change so many things and it wouldn’t have been possible without a lot of hard work.”
Hudson is the first to admit when you rush things, you will make mistakes. “Mistakes are inevitable, but you do learn from them,” he said.
“We had some pretty major tech issues, our site crashed on the first day, but you just have to own it. Most people understand these things do happen.”
Hudson has just two top tips for emulating his success. Just start and find your niche.
“It sounds obvious, but you just have to get started,” he said. “Lots of people are frozen by fear or uncertainty and desire to be perfect. Start now and make the mistakes as early as you can and as cheaply as you can so you can learn from them and make things better.”
Asking people for constructive feedback is key to really understanding your audience and how you are connecting with them, Hudson added.
“You need to find the people your idea resonates with and connect with them,” he said.
“Understanding your niche will make it so much easier for you but it can be tricky. Early on we thought we had our niche figured out but turns out we were totally wrong, so we changed focus.
“We’re always learning and when we know better, we do better.”