Two of the best things about Buffalo are its food and its sense of community. Donnie Burtless has brought the two together quite serendipitously in the Buffalo Eats Ride For Roswell team he captains.
Donnie’s day job is in finance, and his wife, Alli, is a school psychologist. But together, they took their passion for food and turned it into the popular Buffalo Eats. It began as a food blog in 2009. As it developed a following, the blog expanded to interviews with local chefs, weekly podcasts and posts by other bloggers.
Now, Buffalo Eats has its biggest presence through its Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts, which together total about 50,000 followers.
In 2014, Donnie, his dad and his brother did their first Ride For Roswell. To boost their fundraising, they sought sponsors.
“We had always wanted to do The Ride, and that spring we started getting into riding our bikes, so it just naturally happened,” Donnie explains. “Plus some of my family ride for the Cure de Madeline team, and for years I saw how much fun they had doing it. I then put together the idea of using the Buffalo Eats name to hopefully attract sponsors and more of a profile to our team, helping us raise as much money as possible.”
Donnie became team captain by default. “I started to recruit more riders. Reaching out to restaurant contacts that I had made through years of food blogging.”
In 2017 the Buffalo Eats team had a whopping 14 sponsors. They’re well on their way again this year with nine so far. So how do they do it?
“Our initial process for sponsors was reaching out to various business owners we already knew, offering them some exposure along our social media platforms in exchange for a $100 donation. We wanted to keep it relatively low so that we could really get as many as possible. Over time and as our social media presence grew, we stared getting sponsorships from owners whom I’ve never met or didn’t have a relationship with. We also worked on recruiting more and more riders to expand the network,” Donnie says.
His advice for other teams? “Having an outlet to share thanks really helps. I really try to go out of my way to say thank you as often as possible. This year, we are even going to start showcasing previous sponsors with our Roswell Park page we created on the blog.”
What inspires Donnie do this every year? “Like most people, I’ve had several family members and friends fight and luckily beat cancer, in large part due to the great work done at Roswell. It just seems like a no-brainer to help raise money so they can continue that work for others.”