Fundraising tips

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Fundraising Tip #16: Keep fundraising!

Written by on August 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm

[Note: Today being the last Wednesday of the month, this will be our last entry in the weekly Fundraising Tips series. We'll continue to publish three times a week on other subjects up until the MS Challenge Walk!]

The MS Challenge Walk is a once-a-year event, but the cause that motivates us to participate is perennial. For many of us, that means the fundraising never stops. Whether your fundraising efforts span the entire year or just the few months leading up to the event, hundreds of walkers have proven time and again that $1,500 is not as insurmountable a goal as it first seems.

The National MS Society can work with those walkers whose fundraising must extend beyond the MS Challenge Walk deadline. Although submission of donations before or at the event is strongly encouraged, if you need a few more donations to make your goal, please do keep fundraising for the 2010 walk after the fact. We won't keep you from walking the route! We appreciate your dedication to the cause, as will your potential donors.

Online donations will be accepted through November 15. If you have any questions, please contact the MS Challenge Walk team.

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.

Fundraising Tip #15: Promoting your fundraiser on the event calendar

Written by on August 18, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Some folks rely solely on solicitation letters for their fundraising. Others — especially teams — complement this approach by hosting a variety of events, from dinner parties to yard sales to bowlathons. But no matter how creative the occasion and passionate its hosts, fundraisers need promotion to attract a potential donors. So what's the easiest way to promote your event?

Why, by letting us do it for you, of course!

Event calendarNo doubt you've seen many fundraisers listed on this site over the summer. The next month continues to be filled with such opportunities. A quick look at the calendar shows a baseball game in Dracut and a clambake in Denver this Saturday; a restaurant outing and a training walk on Sunday; a dinner in Portsmouth on Tuesday; a pottery-painting party next Wednesday; and a baseball game and a training walk next Sunday. Phew! Many of you are intent on those last-minute fundraisers, apparently!

It's not too late to be included on this list — just fill out this online form with your event details. This will put the event on this blog's homepage, where it'll be seen by hundreds of people and emailed to more; put it on our Facebook page, where it will show up in our hundreds of fans' news feeds; and even get it tweeted, where Boston-area event calendars might see it.

There are a few caveats: the event calendar is not well-suited for recurring events (eg, something that happens every Tuesday) or events that have no specific time or place (such as an online sale). But submit these events anyway, and we'll work with you to find ways to publicize it.

Getting others to promote your event for you is more tactful than your own blatant plugs, but it's worth doing both. If you're on Facebook, post your Challenge Blog event listing to your own Facebook profile and invite your friends to come.

May all your fundraisers be the successes they deserve!

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.

Fundraising Tip #14: Sell jewelry

Written by on August 11, 2010 at 11:27 am

Fundraising year after year for your event can be tough, right? Instead of trying to do all of your fundraising in the few months leading up to the event, consider fundraising all year long!

This year is my first being involved with the MS Challenge Walk. I am a crew member and will be in The Big Tent. I've previously walked in the Boston MS Walk for the past two years; in total, my team has raised over $18,000! If you had asked me two years ago, if we could ever raised this much, I would have said "No way" — but we did it, and I'm already fundraising for the 2011 Boston MS Walk.

I have found that for me it is less overwhelming to do a little fundraising all year long. The past two years I sold "MS Awareness Bracelets" that my friend made for me. Since I had to pay for only the supplies, I was able to raise a good amount of money — and my friends and family are now wearing beautiful bracelets for MS.

Jodi's rings for MSThis year, I am selling "Rings for MS" that I made myself. So far, everyone loves them! I started last week carrying them with me everywhere I go and show them to everyone I meet. I've already sold 20 rings at $20 each, and I hope to see at least 75 by walk day in April.

I find selling something works well. People love new jewelry, especially when they can get it for a good price and help a great cause. Often the same people who buy something from me are willing to make a straight donation closer to walk day! I'm always looking for new things I can make and sell as a fundraiser.

I've also found Facebook, Twitter, and my personal blog to be really helpful tools when fundraising. In 2010, I sent personal messages to each of my Facebook friends and found that people I haven't talked to in ten years were willing to donate. I also posted regular updates in my status. Following the walk, I started my blog for the main purpose of sharing my journey with MS and as a fundraising tool. I'm hoping it will help as the 2011 Boston Walk approaches.

This fall I hope to host my first fundraiser at a bar with a silent auction. I've never done this before, but I've heard they can bring in a lot of money. So I'm excited to plan this event and get together with all of my supporters.

Doing a bit at a time has really helped me fundraise. It works well for me, and I'm always trying to come up with new ideas.

I wish you all good luck as the Challenge Walk approaches. I hope you have met your goal and enjoyed your fundraising.

See you in the big tent!

Jodi was diagnosed with MS in 2008 and quickly got involved with the Greater New England MS Chapter. She has participated in the Boston MS Walk since 2009, with her team, The Bean Team. She has also participated in the Challenge Walk since 2010. She lives in Boston and works as a medical social worker at a local hospital.

Fundraising Tip #13: Soliciting friends of friends

Written by on August 4, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Most of your fundraising solicitations are sent to first-degree contacts: your friends, your family, your co-workers. But many more people are affected by MS, and that which affects your loved ones affects their loved ones, too. Why not expand your network and reach out to these second-degree connections?

In my case, I walk for my mother, who was diagnosed with MS in 1990. My three older brothers are unavailable to join me in the MS Challenge Walk, but their motivation to fundraise is no less than mine. I wanted to ask them to send a solicitation letter to anyone they knew that I might not — but then I figured, I'm already sending more than a hundred letters myself, I'm set up for such a process, why not do it for them? I instead asked my brothers for names and addresses from their rolodex. I then prepared a different letter to those individuals. Instead of beginning with:

"I am writing regarding this September, which will mark my sixth participation in the MS Challenge Walk, a two-day, 30-mile event that raises money for and awareness of multiple sclerosis, which affects my mother."

I wrote:

"I am writing regarding this September, which will mark my brother Ken's sixth participation in the MS Challenge Walk, a two-day, 30-mile event that raises money for and awareness of multiple sclerosis, which affects our mother."

I continued to make these little changes throughout the letter, constantly referring to myself in the third person, and ended by signing by brother's name. After getting final approval of the letter from my bros, I mailed the letters with self-addressed stamped envelopes directed to me. Sure enough, a week later, those envelopes started coming back with checks in them: "I got your brother's letter and am happy to help you in your walk for your and his mom!" Now that I've made that initial contact, I can (and have) solicited these same people for future walks under my own name.

Note that I am not promoting identity theft or forgery. Pretending to be someone else requires a friend or relative's full permission and cooperation, and they should be kept abreast of who you are soliciting and how.

Online networks like Facebook and LinkedIn help us meet friends of friends, but "social networking" works in the real world, too. Ask your siblings, parents, co-workers, and friends to fundraise on your behalf, and leverage your connections to bring us that much closer to a world free from MS.

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.

Fundraising Tip #12: A night at the movies

Written by on July 28, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Everyone loves going to the movies. From Toy Story 3 to Predators to Sorcerer's Apprentice, there's something for everyone. So why not appeal to that broad audience for your fundraising by organizing a movie night?

Have fun and raise funds by inviting friends to your house to watch some movies. Charge a small cover price, or ask for a donation of their choice. You can even prepare some popcorn and soda and sell it for half the price that a theater would. With trips to the movies being so expensive, your friends and family will enjoy the opportunity to see their ticket prices going toward a cure for MS.

Film projectorOf course, you'll need some good movies to show, too! Start the evening with a family-friendly movie; save any anything for the adults (like a boring old romantic comedy) until after the kids are asleep. You can also try to theme the movies by showing films from a similar era, genre, or actor, while still providing some diversity. For example, Jimmy Stewart appeared in two very different films: Harvey and Vertigo, two classics that kids and adults, respectively, can enjoy.

If you're feeling particularly ambitious (or if you don't have a sufficiently large television or movie-viewing area), you can even organize an outing to the movie theater, complete with raffle tickets and prizes. Take a look at a similar fundraiser organized last year by team Gail Force at the Elm Draught House in Millbury.

So pick some flicks, call some friends, and raise some dough toward your MS Challenge Walk goal. We might have a happy ending after all!

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.

Answering questions about MS

Written by on July 23, 2010 at 10:49 am

When you engage in fundraising for the MS Challenge Walk, you're not only raising money; you're also raising awareness. Despite MS afflicting 400,000 Americans, many people do not know exactly what this condition is or how it affects their loved ones. When confronted with questions about MS, you may not always have a good answer. If you try to be specific, you can watch their eyes glaze over as you explain that "multiple sclerosis is a neurological disorder in which the immune system attacks the myelin sheath that helps conduct electrical impulses throughout the nervous system" — what a mouthful! And even that biological perspective doesn't convey what it's like to live with MS. So how do you succinctly tell people what this cause is that you're walking 50K for?

Songwriter Kristie Salerno Kent can answer these questions for you, as she knows something about MS herself:

A few years after Kristie received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Syracuse University, Kristie was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis … She decided that she was not going to give up her dreams of performing just because of her MS diagnosis. Kristie took on the role of an MS Lifelines Ambassador and travels the country speaking and singing for others who are affected by the disease. Now her performances are for a purpose and not just entertainment.

Kristie doesn't have to come to your neighborhood to give a speech about MS. Her YouTube video, "The Show Must Go On", is something you can send to your friends and family to help them understand the experience and condition that is MS.



There are several more excellent videos that give other perspectives on multiple sclerosis. Since my mom has MS, one of my favorites is "My Fight with MS", by Kyle Surkovich, whose father has MS.

These videos will help you raise funds for and awareness of multiple sclerosis, bringing us a step closer to a world without it!

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.

Fundraising Tip #11: Send reminders

Written by on July 21, 2010 at 10:42 am

With the MS Challenge Walk less than two months away, chances are you've begun your fundraising in earnest. Depending on when you started, now may be a good time to remind your potential donors of your progress toward your goal and that you need their help to reach it.

Since I walk for my mom, who has MS, I send my postal solicitation letter around Mother's Day every year. That's four months before the walk, which puts July at a halfway point to my fundraising deadline. By now, I have collected dozens of checks and online donations — yet less than half of the people I solicited have responded. I hope many more of them want to, but summer vacations inspire forgetfulness of more mundane tasks, and mail gets piled in the corner of the kitchen with my SASE at the bottom. A gentle reminder helps these friends and family avoid the "Oh, crap, I forgot!" moment that occurs when they realize in late September that you've already walked!

Since I have already reached out to my donors postally, I send reminders via email. You may do this via your Participant Center or regular email. If the latter, be sure to include a link to your online donation page. Just like including a SASE makes it easy to receive checks, providing a link makes it easy for donors to click and donate.

If you feel uncomfortable nagging your friends, remember that that's not what you're doing. You're providing them the opportunity to help someone they care about and be a part of something greater. Fewer people will begrudge you that than will help you meet your goal.

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.

Fundraising Tip #10: Business cards

Written by on July 14, 2010 at 11:30 am

The captain of team Walk With Wendy recently recommended keeping all your letters, flyers, and tax information handy, as you just never know when the next fundraising opportunity will arise. Maybe you'll meet someone at a party, or have a co-worker stop by your office to ask for details, or find a corkboard on which you wish to leave a fundraising plea, or even see a friend's car in the parking lot and want to leave them a note.

Business cards

A business card with all your fundraising details could be just what you need to capitalize on unexpected opportunities.

You can have all this information at your disposal without burdening your pockets or purse with reams of paper by shrinking it all down to the size of a business card. Include your name, your team name, the event name and date, and your goal. To receive checks and other donations by postal mail, provide your name, address, and who to make checks out to; for online donations, list your Web site address. (Shrink it down to make sure it fits!)

You'll probably decide the content and layout of your card as you're designing it on your computer. You can make your own business cards at home — there are templates available for Microsoft Office, for example. You can also use a printing service such as VistaPrint, which offers 250 glossy, double-sided business cards for only $10. When I last took advantage of that deal, I found no hidden fees, such as shipping — though I did need to turn down offers to buy at least a dozen unwanted add-ons!

A succinct business card is no substitute for a thoughtful, personal, and well-written solicitation letter — but it could be just the thing you need to capitalize on opportunities as they arise!

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.