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Raising $1,500 is no easy task. These tips will help!


Jumpstart Your Fundraising

Written by on Feb 21, 2015

Here is my secret: I hate asking people for money.

Phew! It feels good to get that off my chest.

But it's true — fundraising is difficult for many people. Which is why it's great that there are SO many different ways to raise money for Challenge Walk MS.

Are you a good writer? Share your story in a letter to your friends and family. Do you or someone you know have a talent such as photography or hair styling? Raffle off a complimentary session. Is your basement or garage getting a little cluttered? Have a yard sale. Do you have a fabulous brand-new idea, but are unsure how to get it off the ground? We can help.

We will be discussing strategies like these — and more — at our upcoming "Jumpstart Your Fundraising" Meeting. Join your fellow Walkers and Crew Members on Saturday, March 14, 9 AM – 11 AM at the NMSS Greater New England Chapter office at 101A 1st Avenue in Waltham.

Topics to include letter-writing, raffles, corporate sponsorships, events, and social media. You'll also have the opportunity to make new connections with other Challenge Walk Participants, share ideas, and maybe even launch a joint team fundraiser (which is a great way to expand your audience and increase your profits)!

Finally, each attendee will receive $50 BONUS BUCKS toward their fundraising goal for joining us! That's right, you'll be $50 closer to surpassing your fundraising goal. A light breakfast and coffee will also be served.

Be sure to RSVP here, where you'll have an opportunity to tell us what topics YOU want to discuss.

Whether this is your first year or your fourteenth at Challenge Walk MS, I can guarantee that you'll walk away (no pun intended!) a better fundraiser.

Even if you cannot make it to "Jumpstart Your Fundraising", please do not hesitate to reach out to me, the Steering Committee, or Aileen Callahan at any time during your preparations for Challenge. We are here to help you succeed.

Amy has been participating in the MS Challenge Walk since 2002, in honor of her father, who was diagnosed the year before.  In 2007, she joined the Steering Committee. She feels blessed to be accompanied by such an amazing group of people in this fight against MS.  Amy lives in Lowell, Massachusetts with her husband, son, and daughter.

Timing is everything

Written by on Jan 28, 2015

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.

Botox for MS: Not your usual fundraiser

Written by on Sep 3, 2014

When you're a dermatologist and your beloved sister gets multiple sclerosis, what do you do?

If you're Dr. Jim Campbell, you give out free units of Botox(TM) for a donation to the National MS Society.

"It's a complete win for everybody," said Campbell.

The Dover, NH, dermatologist held four of these "unusual" fundraisers recently at his business, Dermatology and Skin Health. The money raised went to his team, Minion Milers, in the upcoming MS Challenge Walk on Cape Cod.

Campbell said the idea for the fundraiser came out of a "fatigue" for fundraisers.

"We do so many fundraisers [each year]. You hate asking [people] every five minutes for money," he said.

So, Campbell thought, why not give people what they are looking for at a reduced price, in exchange for money that will help people with MS? He got his distributors to donate the product, and he and his staff donated their time; that way, all the money raised went to help people with MS.

Jim Campbell

Jim Campbell (center) with two of his teammates.

Campbell said it wasn't a difficult to get distributors to give him the product for free.

"I do enough business with them," he said laughing.

At each of the fundraisers, people lined up for the chance to save about $100–$150 off the usual cost of the wrinkle treatment. It was a huge success! Campbell raised between $2,000 and $3,000 dollars each night, bringing his team total to more than $20,000.

For Campbell, it's a chance to use his professional skills to help his sister and others who live with this disease that has no known cause or cure.

"I have the opportunity to do this and that makes me feel good," said Campbell.

Eileen is a Media Relations Specialist for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Greater New England Chapter.

Another spring — time to kickstart my fundraising

Written by on Jun 5, 2014

Okay, I know what you are going to say. And you're right: I should be fundraising all year long in preparation for the MS Challenge Walk. When I was on staff at the Greater New England Chapter and overseeing the MS Challenge Walk, I couldn't fathom why a person would wait till the spring to start their fundraising for the September event. But here I am, starting in spring.

I have enjoyed getting back into the swing of my team's fundraising efforts. My focus for this year was to create an informative, personal, and meaningful solicitation message for 2014. In addition, I am attempting to send as many 1:1 emails as possible to past donors and new friends/colleagues that I might solicit for the National MS Society. Simply, this means that I will be sending out more emails and personalizing them as much as possible to better target the donor.

Here is the trick, though: to really reach, connect, and engage a friend to give to the National MS Society, I need to think about how that person will mentally and emotionally receive what I've written, and what part of my family's MS journey is important to them.

For example, when I had a significant MS attack last August, many friends reached out to show support and hear how I was doing. Well, you better believe that in this year's solicitation message to those folks, I will highlight what we went through together last summer as a motivator to stay involved. Other friends like to discuss the impact that research will have on eradicating multiple sclerosis. For those people, I'll have to work in a few points about the cutting edge research done through the National MS Society.

Given my work schedule, I tend to send my NMSS solicitations in the evening. Being tired after a long day, it is hard for me to avoid sending out one email to a group of people for the sake of efficiency and time. But I find when I send out the 1:1 solicitation emails that the response rate and dollars donated are higher.

How is your fundraising going this year? On behalf of the MS Challenge Walk Steering Committee, might we be of service in any way to you or your team?

Todd, formerly the Director of Development for the Greater New England Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, is now the the Regional Director of FAS Capital Giving at Harvard University. In addition to reading his blog posts, you can also find Todd on Twitter.

What I learned in 2013

Written by on Feb 5, 2014

In each of my five years of walking the MS Challenge Walk, I've learned something new. Last year in particular was a very eye opening year for me and the rest of my amazing team, Sweaty Already/Sweat'n for Susan, named after my courageous, beautiful, strong mom, who has been living and learning how to manage her MS since 2003.

Last year, we were coming off of a very busy 2012 and an already busy start to 2013. I was married in October 2012; my first adorable nephew was born in January 2013; and my twin sister got married in March 2013. To say we had a busy couple of months is an understatement. But throughout that time I was excited to think what more I could do in 2013 to help raise funds and awareness for multiple sclerosis. We did decently with fundraising in 2012, but not nearly as well as our team wanted. But the adrenaline of those busy months led to us having an "aha" moment in spring 2013 of how to jumpstart our fundraising.

Team Sweaty Already

Team Sweaty Already

The MS Challenge Walk is a great place to connect with others who are affected by this disease, but it's also a fundraiser to find a cure and help those living with MS now. People fundraise in different ways: letter-writing campaigns, social media, direct asks, email outreach, restaurant nights and stand alone events are all great. The key is finding something you enjoy doing and something that your friends and family will enjoy either participating in or helping with. Our first three years of fundraising, we solely relied on letter-writing campaigns and a few small fundraisers at a generous local paint-your-own pottery shop in North Reading. I knew I could do more, though — I just needed to figure out what.

Each year my husband Brian and I host a summer cookout for all our friends and family. We have a rousing volleyball game, a fire pit, ladder ball, Polish horseshoes, music, cornhole boards (bean bag toss), and more. We always enjoy this get-together, and here was my "aha" moment: why don't I organize a cornhole tournament? I enjoy playing, my friends and family enjoy playing, I know how to organize brackets, and I knew it would be fairly easily to execute and enjoyable for me. So we hit the ground running: we secured a location that was amazing to work with, the Knights of Columbus in Wilmington; and we reached out to local restaurants for food donations and newspapers for publicity; and we hung flyers all throughout Wilmington and the surrounding towns to spread the word.

Cornhole tournamentIt worked: come the day of Bags and Beers (that's the name of the event), we had 32 teams, over 25 raffle items, donated food, and volunteers to help, too. That's another tip: if you are planning an event, remember to get volunteers to take charge of certain areas of the event — that way, you aren't doing everything on the day of! That one event brought in close to $4,000. We even purchased custom cornhole boards that we can reuse each year.

For me, this was an easy event to organize since I enjoyed doing it and had experience with the subject matter. If I'd had to plan something I was unfamiliar with, such as a a golf tournament (what's a handicap?), or something that I am not really interested in, it would be harder. That is my main tip for anyone interested in starting an event: to increase your fundraising for the MS Challenge Walk, pick something you enjoy doing.

Sweat dries, blisters heal

Sweat dries, blisters heal:
suck it up for MS!

My execution wasn't flawless, though — "mistakes were made"! I was so excited to be planning this amazing event that I completely neglected to train for the walk! Wow, did the 2013 MS Challenge Walk do a number on my toes and feet! The National MS Society Greater New England Chapter provides training tips and even a suggested training calendar with how much you should be walking as the Challenge Walk gets closer. Use it! Also, try to buy your sneakers ahead of time and really break them in — same with socks. One walking tip that typically works for me is changing my sneakers at lunch. Just like with your change-of-clothes bag, it helps to have a slightly different shoe halfway through the day — different fabrics and styles of sneaker allow parts of your foot that might have been irritated to breathe.

So what did I learn in 2013? That planning a fundraiser isn't as hard as you think, as long as it's something you enjoy; that people will donate items and food to your event, all you need to do is ask and get over that first no, and that it's REALLY important to train; but blisters really do heal (eventually). See you all in September!

Tara has been participating in MS Challenge Walk since 2010 in honor of her mother, Susan, who was diagnosed with MS in 2003. Her mom is her greatest inspiration, and this is just one way team Sweaty Already, which consists of Tara, her twin sister Shelley and their respective husbands, gives strength to those with MS and their families each year. Tara lives in Halifax, Massachusetts with her husband, Brian, who has been walking alongside her at MS Challenge Walk since 2010.

Why I train for MS Challenge Walk

Written by on May 31, 2013

Rainy days can be very reflective. I woke up the other morning, and the thought that went through my head might have been the same as the one that went through yours, "Ugh rain… so messy… more traffic." I went about my usual morning routine and continued to think about how the rain would impact my day. I need to do a training walk today for the Challenge Walk (I was a little lax over the long weekend!) — do I suffer the elements outside, or relocate to my local gym?

Then it hit me: MS Challenge Walk. The reason for my training is to help those living with MS. That is why I am walking.

On my drive into work, I thought more about my attitude towards rain. Those living with MS experience unexpected rain storms throughout the disease. I thought of my friends and loved ones whom I know who have MS. They have such courage and tenacity when bearing those storms. I am training and working for them, and a cure for this disease. I am training and working for all of you who are joining me that weekend on the Cape. A little rain is not going to stop me!

How is your training going? Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns. I would love to hear your story on why you walk.

Congratulations to our top teams (so far):

  1. The Lombardi Party – $25,393
  2. Cocktails for a Cure – $13, 897
  3. Team DEA and Friends – $13,202
  4. Sarah's Sponsors – $10,612
  5. The Believers – $7,433

And kudos to our top individual fundraisers:

  1. Kate Carlson – $10,725
  2. Kevin Lombardi – $10,170
  3. Ann Scannell – $5,300
  4. Tom Olafsson – $5,025
  5. James Derick – $5,010

Jumpstart Your Fundraising

Thursday, June 6 at the National MS Society's Waltham Office from 6:30 – 8:30 PM.

Come and talk to your Challenge Walk peers about how to reach your goal in fundraising and take it to the next level! Pizza dinner will be provided. RSVP on Facebook or on the Challenge Blog.

Training Walks

Walk MS Wakefield: Saturday, June 22. All MS Challenge Walkers are welcome to attend and waive the registration fee! This will be a great opportunity to meet a number of your Challenge Walkers before September! Please register by clicking here.

Franklin, MA: Every Saturday at 8:30am, some South Shore members of the Lombardi Party will walk, starting at the Kennedy School on Pond Drive. All are welcome to join! Any questions? Email me.

I have loved meeting so many of you just in these past few months and look forward to continually meeting and talking with you all!


Aileen Callahan
Development Manager of Challenge Walk

Aileen is the Director of Development for the Greater New England Chapter of the National MS Society responsible for the 2013 Challenge Walk. She has interned with the National MS Society at the Greater Delaware Valley Chapter with Program Events and is looking forward to working closely with the Steering Committee and Challenge Walk Teams to make this year's MS Challenge Walk a memorable one!

Bouncing into fundraising action

Written by on Apr 26, 2013

April 20, 2013, was a cold and raw Saturday morning. Despite the less than desirable weather, approximately 50 people came out to the Mercy Centre in Worcester, MA to support Team Walk With Wheels for our first ever MS Volleyball Tournament. Among the teams who came out, we had one of our very own MS Challenge Walk teams (Team Sole Train) come out!

This event was a new event idea for us as a team, and it helped demonstrate how reaching out to your extended team members can help raise funds for your team event. Oftentimes, people think that actual walkers on a given team are the only people who can organize and run events. This is far from the truth!

About one month ago, Carolyn and I reached out to a friend from our church. We knew that this friend had a passion for volleyball and he also organizes sport based activities for our church. We asked him if he would be interested in organizing a volleyball tournament. for us He happily agreed to pull something together.

A few weeks later, Dan informed us that he had designed a flyer for the event and that he already had a few teams that were interested. He also informed us that he had secured a facility and a referee for the event. The event was open for up to eight teams.

Fast forward a few weeks and all eight teams arrived at the Mercy Centre ready to compete and to help raise funds for MS. Dan started the event out with an introduction to Carolyn Rossi (captain of Team Walk With Wheels) and explained that the funds collected for this event were helping people like her.

One at a time, teams went up against teams, slamming the ball around the court. The first game started at 9 AM sharp. As the morning went on the brackets started to fill and teams were advancing toward the final game. As teams took breaks, Dan's wife Loraine graciously stood and served a variety of home prepared foods, baked goods and drinks, which also benefited the National MS Society.

By the end of the event, it was down to two remaining teams of the original eight. The games had become super competitive, and we saw some pretty serious moves! In the end, team Spike City won the tournament and were rewarded with extra large chocolate bars!

After the clean up was taken care of and everyone had returned to their homes, the final tally came in for funds raised. On April 24, 2013, I delivered roughly $600 to the MS Society office for Team Walk With Wheels! Great job to everyone who came out and helped! We couldn't have done it without your support.

I hope this recap encourages you to reach outside the box. It has been mentioned many times at kickstart meetings and the like. If you try to take it all on your shoulders alone, it seems burdensome. Look among your friends and social circle for people who already enjoy doing a particular activity and see if you can leverage their passion and joy of that thing for the benefit of helping people live a life free from MS.

Brian, a resident of Central Massachusetts, has participated for several years in the MS Challenge Walk as a member of the bike support crew.  Not only does his wife Carolyn have MS, but his grandmother had MS and eventually died from complications related to it. Brian is best known to as the provider of tropical flavored Starbursts and Jolly Rancher candies along the trail.

Jumpstart your online fundraising

Written by on Feb 8, 2013

A growing percentage of MS Challenge Walk fundraising occurs online — and why not? Which is easier: sending a letter to your friend in Nome, Alaska, her writing a check and returning it in your self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE), you then writing a receipt and mailing the check to the NMSS; or sending your friend an email and asking her to punch in her credit card online?

Not only does the online approach get the money into the bank more quickly, it also gives the National MS Society a bigger cut, as fewer hands need to be hired to process a check. It's a winning situation for all parties.

There are other online fundraising tools, too: you can make every email into a fundraising solicitation; a handy Facebook application can do your fundraising for you; you can promote your offline events in an online event calendar; you can even get to give you a piece of the action.

I reviewed all these tools and more at last month's Jumpstart Your Fundraising meeting. Didn't attend? A 20-minute recording of that presentation is available in the below YouTube video:

If you want more details about any of these opportunities, please email me or leave a comment. For more advice from Jumpstart, listen to the MS Challenge Talk audio recordings. To be alerted to future Jumpstart sessions, sign up for free email notifications!

Ken joined the MS Challenge Walk in 2005, more than a decade after his mother was diagnosed. After walking for three years and 150 miles, he switched to the support crew and now rides his bicycle along the trail, providing whatever encouragement (and snacks!) he can to the 600 walkers. He is also an alumnus of the event's steering committee and is this site's webmaster.