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Timing is everything

Written by on January 28, 2015 at 8:59 am

It's that time of year again. While many of us make resolutions after the ball has dropped and the champagne glasses have been put away, January, for me, is all about the base. The sponsorship base, that is. Did you know that many businesses make their sponsorship decisions for the year during the first quarter? Now is the time to hit the ground running, not with your feet, but by getting your sponsorship request out in front of potential sponsors.

I know it's hard to ask for money, but corporate sponsorship is completely different from asking your Aunt Hazel for a donation. Corporate sponsorship is a business arrangement where you offer benefits that a potential sponsor will see as valuable. It is a tool that companies use to build their brand. You can help them do that by inviting them to support one or more of your fundraising events.

Here are a few simple steps to help you get started:

  1. Understand what you have to offer. What is the target audience of your event? A golf tournament audience will be different than an 80's themed fundraising dance. It is important to know who your audience is and how that audience will overlap with your sponsor's target audience. Businesses like statistical information, so when reaching out to potential sponsors, include as much demographic information about your planned event as possible: projected number of attendees, age, gender, etc.
  2. Understand what sponsors are looking for and offer benefits and value that meet their needs. Benefits for sponsors include:
    • Raising a company's profile by association with the Challenge Walk
    • Improve corporate image
    • Meet corporate responsibility by supporting a good cause
    • Hospitality opportunities by inviting clients to events
    • Improve employee morale and engagement by inviting employees to events
    • Increased exposure to desired target audience
    • Alternative marketing channels
    • Social media
    • Press
    • Event site signage
    • Category exclusivity
    • Presence at the event
    • Logo on all collateral material

    You get the idea. There are a number of benefits associated with supporting an event that will benefit the Greater New England Chapter of the National MS Society. The key is pitching the sponsorship opportunity appropriately.

  3. Research potential sponsors. It's not enough to get a list from the local Chamber of Commerce website. You should research the companies you are going to approach and solicit them individually. While a broad request letter can have some success, it is much more likely you will hook a major sponsor by tailoring your request to the company's needs. It has been helpful for my team members to approach businesses in three different ways:
    1. Companies that have an association with you, personally. Think about the people you do business with: your dentist, dry cleaner, the restaurant you go to every Friday night. They already know you and are more likely to support someone they see doing business at their establishments.
    2. Local businesses that could benefit from an association with your event. These are companies you may not do business with, but who could benefit from the exposure they'll receive by being affiliated with your event.
    3. National companies who sponsor similar events.
  4. Craft a proposal letter. The letter should include details about you. Why are you doing the Challenge Walk? What is the Challenge Walk? Include the purpose of the fundraising event and the benefits to the sponsor. Be specific about what you're looking for: sponsorship to cover event costs? Discounted goods or services? Straight cash donations? In your proposal letter, it is vital to include the cost per sponsorship. As the former VP of marketing for a community bank, I used to receive numerous sponsorship requests without a specific financial request. When I received a letter without a dollar amount, I'd usually approve a $100 donation. While a $100 donation is a nice gift, the charity seeking funding may have been looking for $1,000. Bottom line: if you don't tell the company how much you want, you won't get what you need. For a larger event, such as a golf tournament or a dinner cruise, it may be helpful to "tier" the sponsorship levels. For example, as the "Gold Sponsor" the company would receive X; for a "Silver Sponsor," the company would receive Y in benefits.
  5. Identify the person who can say yes. Send your request directly to the person who will approve it. It is absolutely worth it to take the time to call a company and ask who handles corporate donations. That task can fall to the marketing department, community relations, or even the company president.
  6. And finally, the business relationship with a sponsor doesn't end when you receive the check. You have to ensure that the sponsor receives the benefits you offered. Follow up with a thank you letter, detailing specifically how the event reached the goals you set.

Diagnosed with MS in 1994, Patty responded the way many do: she refused to discuss it. It took her ten years to realize that silence isn't the answer. She, her friends and family formed the Blister Buddies for their first Challenge Walk in 2004. Patty is now on the Challenge Walk Steering Committee and chairs the PR Subcommittee. In November 2008, she became a member of the Greater NE Chapter's Board of Trustees.

Hands

Written by on June 28, 2010 at 11:38 am

The other day was my grandson's last day of kindergarten, which got me thinking about the very first day I walked a child to school.

My oldest daughter was always very grown-up and mature beyond her years. On her first day of kindergarten, she informed that she could go by herself and didn't need me to walk her in. I wasn't about to let that happen and insisted I walk her up the stone steps, down the hallway and to her classroom. "All right," she reluctantly agreed, "but no hugging or kissing."

We drove to the school and parked. Students were streaming into the building, yellow buses lined up along the driveway. Cars were parked every which way as more children raced to the doors.

My daughter got very quiet and as I opened her door, she hugged her backpack to her chest. We started up the steps and she peeked up at me. "Mommy?" she said. When I looked down at her, I saw that her eyes were filled with tears. "Are there mean people in there?"

And I was filled with this overwhelming love and a fierce protectiveness. "No honey," I said. "They will all be very, very nice." She didn't look convinced, so I reached out to her. "My hand is right here," I told her; "All you have to do is reach for it." She did, and holding hands, we walked in together.

It's taken me a long time for me to admit when I need a hand. That's what the Challenge Walk, the crew, walkers and volunteers represent for me: a helping hand, support, encouragement and, yes, love. I've learned to reach. Thank you for reaching back.

Diagnosed with MS in 1994, Patty responded the way many do: she refused to discuss it. It took her ten years to realize that silence isn't the answer. She, her friends and family formed the Blister Buddies for their first Challenge Walk in 2004. Patty is now on the Challenge Walk Steering Committee and chairs the PR Subcommittee. In November 2008, she became a member of the Greater NE Chapter's Board of Trustees.

Walking with friends

Written by on June 25, 2010 at 10:32 am

Friends walking

You're not in this alone!

Training is not easy for me. Lack of time and fatigue are big reasons why I find it so difficult to commit to a regular training schedule. This year, though, I'm approaching training differently: I'm walking with friends. We walk at lunch time, after work and on weekends. The walk group isn't always the same. Some days, there are five or six of us walking, other days, just one or two. It doesn't matter how many of us are walking together, the result is always the same: we laugh, talk and the miles fly by.

If training is difficult for you, consider forming a walk group of co-workers, friends and family. You'll be surprised how much easier it is to train!

Diagnosed with MS in 1994, Patty responded the way many do: she refused to discuss it. It took her ten years to realize that silence isn't the answer. She, her friends and family formed the Blister Buddies for their first Challenge Walk in 2004. Patty is now on the Challenge Walk Steering Committee and chairs the PR Subcommittee. In November 2008, she became a member of the Greater NE Chapter's Board of Trustees.

Fight like a girl

Written by on August 14, 2009 at 11:34 am

I got into my first fight when I was twelve years old. I was walking home from school with my best friend Gina when a group of other girls surrounded us. In seconds, I went from thinking about my afternoon snack to strategizing how to get home with my teeth intact. The fight — here's a surprise — was over a guy. The boyfriend of the one of the girls had taken far too much interest in my red hair, and she wasn't pleased.

Words escalated, pushes turned to shoves, hair was pulled, fists were thrown, nails were dug, sweaters were ripped, and the world went upside down. I was looking up at kneesocks and plaid skirts, the sky was grass, and then I was back on my feet again. Long story short: Gina and I had the stuffing kicked out of us.

"Stay away from Nicky," said a girl who looked almost as bad as we did. I could see tears glistening in her eyes and in that moment, I was childishly glad. I pulled my shoulders back and said, "Stay away from me." Big words. Little girl.

I looked down at my sweater, absolutely dismayed at the dirt and holes with only one thought circling my head: what was I going to tell my mother?

Click to continue »

Diagnosed with MS in 1994, Patty responded the way many do: she refused to discuss it. It took her ten years to realize that silence isn't the answer. She, her friends and family formed the Blister Buddies for their first Challenge Walk in 2004. Patty is now on the Challenge Walk Steering Committee and chairs the PR Subcommittee. In November 2008, she became a member of the Greater NE Chapter's Board of Trustees.

Running with it

Written by on July 6, 2009 at 9:48 am

I have little patience for emotional displays. So when I was first diagnosed with MS, I did what all people with low tolerance for commotion do: I refused to talk about it and pretended it didn't exist. MS? Who, me? I've since come to learn that chronic illness isn't a personal fight that can be hidden away or ignored — it's a battle fought by friends and relatives who share the pain and uncertainty of life with MS.

My MS doesn't show. I'm often told how good I look, and sometimes, those words are said in a rather self-obsessed reassuring tone ("Don't worry about your progressive, incurable neurological disease — you're still attractive for someone your age"; other times, I think I hear disbelief in the but-you-look-so-good statement ("C'mon, how bad can this disease be when you look as healthy as you do?").

For the most part, I believe the majority of people simply don't understand what living with MS is like. For that matter, sometimes I forget, too. And then something happens, a big wake-up call named Relapse, and instantly, I remember how nasty MS really is.

After my second Challenge Walk, I had a call from Relapse that meant multiple hospital stays and a recovery that took months. During that time, my Challenge Team was far more than a group of friends raising money for a good cause. These wonderful, amazing people were my lifeline. They made me laugh when I didn't think I had it in me. They made me feel strong when I wasn't and they let me pretend all was well when things were far from okay.

At this stage in my life, I've stopped running from MS and, instead, I'm focused on learning how to run with it. So how do you learn to run with a disease? You tell your family and friends. You accept their love and support. And gradually, you come to know that disease isn't a shameful word.

Living with an illness that has no horizon is difficult. Right now, there's no cure to stake hope to. The physical toll of MS is obvious, characterized by hospital beds and dark glasses, but the unseen effects are the ones that are the hardest to live with. MS challenges emotional strength, tests relationships and can make any goal seem impossible to reach.

Thanks to the Challenge Walk, I know what seems impossible isn't. While there's no cure now, there will be one some day and eventually, MS will have more than a horizon. It will have a sunset.

Diagnosed with MS in 1994, Patty responded the way many do: she refused to discuss it. It took her ten years to realize that silence isn't the answer. She, her friends and family formed the Blister Buddies for their first Challenge Walk in 2004. Patty is now on the Challenge Walk Steering Committee and chairs the PR Subcommittee. In November 2008, she became a member of the Greater NE Chapter's Board of Trustees.

High tide

Written by on June 5, 2009 at 12:45 pm

When my father decided to move us from Chelsea to the little rural community of Pepperell, I was angry. I was a teenager, used to living in a city surrounded by my mother's family. I had best friends, public transportation and a wicked attitude. I had no idea what my father was moving us to. He said it was the "country."  My concept of country was limited to what I saw on Bonanza and Gunsmoke. I expected everyone in town to own a horse, a barn and a rifle.

My grandmother recognized my anger for what it was: fear. She told me I had nothing to be afraid of, because "water seeks its own level."

I had no idea what she was talking about.

I was moving to the country, whatever that meant. I was leaving the T behind, St. Stan's and John's Corner Market. What did water levels have to do with anything?

Now I get it. She wasn't giving me a science lesson. She was talking about finding people with common values. People do find each other; we make friends with people who share the same interests or have similar goals. The Challenge Walk is more than a fundraising event; it's an opportunity to be with people who are passionate about making a difference.

My grandmother used to use another old adage: "high tide raises all boats."  The Challenge is a high tide; it raises our awareness of MS, the Chapter Office and the fight against MS. Most importantly, it raises our hope.

I am so glad to be part of that tide.

Diagnosed with MS in 1994, Patty responded the way many do: she refused to discuss it. It took her ten years to realize that silence isn't the answer. She, her friends and family formed the Blister Buddies for their first Challenge Walk in 2004. Patty is now on the Challenge Walk Steering Committee and chairs the PR Subcommittee. In November 2008, she became a member of the Greater NE Chapter's Board of Trustees.

Vanishing point

Written by on May 29, 2009 at 12:45 pm

I'm a writer. I have to tell you that right up front, because that's where this blog begins. I've been working on a short story called "Vanishing Point".

I had the idea for the story based on the definition of vanishing point: "the point at which a thing disappears or ceases to exist." My story is about a woman driven to vanishing point. I got through the first few pages easily, lost in the world I was creating on paper, then the words slowed to a crawl… and stopped. I tapped my fingers on the desk, looked out the window, daydreamed about dinner, and then my eyes wandered back to the title. Those words. Vanishing point.

Isn't that what the MS Challenge Walk is all about? We're driven to find the point where MS ceases to exist. I have to confess, though, and say that sometimes, for me, that ultimate goal gets lost in the days prior to the walk. I spend hours agonizing over my fundraising: what event will work this year? Will people come? Will we make any money? Should we do a newsletter for our supporters? Have I tried enough? Have I trained enough? Are my teammates getting tired? Am I overworking them? And what about my kids?

By the time I get to the Cape, I've usually worked myself into a tizzy. And then I stand on the Hyannis Green, looking at the crowd of walkers and crew, feel the excitement crackle, listen to Todd, Lori, and Arlyn as they welcome us; by the time I'm under the balloon arch with my team, the nervousness disappears, and I remember why we're here. What the Walk is really all about.

Vanishing point.

It's all about perspective.

Diagnosed with MS in 1994, Patty responded the way many do: she refused to discuss it. It took her ten years to realize that silence isn't the answer. She, her friends and family formed the Blister Buddies for their first Challenge Walk in 2004. Patty is now on the Challenge Walk Steering Committee and chairs the PR Subcommittee. In November 2008, she became a member of the Greater NE Chapter's Board of Trustees.

The hardest part

Written by on May 20, 2009 at 11:57 am

The other day, one of my friends asked me what the hardest part of the Challenge Walk was, and, she added, "you have to tell me in one word." I knew what she was expecting my answer to be. After all, walking fifty miles is no piece of cake. And I am no athlete.
"Asking," I said.

Her eyebrows lifted. "Asking?"

I nodded. "Asking for money is the hardest part of all."

Soliciting donations in a terrible economy can be a daunting task. And for people involved with the Challenge Walk, asking for money is likely not a one-time thing. So how to you raise the $1,500 minimum, not just in year one, but in years two, three, four, five?

  1. Relationships count. Don't hesitate to email, call or write to families and friends. They love you and want to support you. Asking them for contributions includes them in your challenge. They have a vested interest in seeing you succeed.
  2. Explain why you need the money. Tell people not only about the Challenge Walk, but about the people it benefits: direct services, programming and grants. Make it personal.
  3. Partner with another group. Speak at a Rotary, Lions or Kiowans meeting and offer to "partner" with them on an event. By sharing the workload and splitting the ticket sales, both groups will benefit.
  4. Acknowledge every gift. "Thank you" isn't said enough. Say it often!
  5. Consider in-kind services. If an acquaintance isn't able to support you financially this year, consider asking him or her for for an in-kind donation.

Asking for money is never easy, but know this: the people living with MS thank you. Over and over again.

Diagnosed with MS in 1994, Patty responded the way many do: she refused to discuss it. It took her ten years to realize that silence isn't the answer. She, her friends and family formed the Blister Buddies for their first Challenge Walk in 2004. Patty is now on the Challenge Walk Steering Committee and chairs the PR Subcommittee. In November 2008, she became a member of the Greater NE Chapter's Board of Trustees.