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How to get your story in your local paper

Written by on July 25, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Want to get the word out in your area about the Challenge Walk? It's not as hard as you may think — just follow this handy list:

  • Make a list of your city/town and surrounding towns.
  • Google the names/websites of each newspaper.
  • Write a short letter about the Challenge Walk. Include the dates, start and finish places and information about the route, i.e. walking on the Cape Cod Rail Trail and the beauty of Coast Guard Beach.
  • Say why you are participating, why fundraising for MS is important to you, etc. Be sure to include a picture of you wearing MS apparel. Tell people how they can contribute; include the link to your personal MS page. Mention that they can volunteer for one day or all three days.
  • If you really want to be thorough, call and ask for the editor first. I found everyone to be receptive and helpful.
  • Everyone likes a human interest story. By printing your letter, they are helping to spread awareness and raise funds for vital research. I received a couple of online donations from people I did not know, who had personal connections to MS!

    By following these steps, I got my story printed in Middlesex East, the paper of my town, Woburn. You can read "Woburn's Carrai walks for MS" online.

    For more tips, check out the Publicity Tools section of the Challenge Walk MS website, or read our other publicity tips.

    Good luck! See you in September!

    Sue has been an MS Challenge Walker since 2003. She began her journey with MS in honor of two good friends who were diagnosed with MS in the early 1980s; since then, the list of people she proudly walks for has grown.  Sue is committed to continue her fundraising efforts for as long as it takes.  She has made lifelong friends at MS Challenge Walk and looks forward to spending one weekend each September with the ladies of Cabin 56! Sue works for UBS Financial Services in Boston and is a professional violinist. She lives in Woburn, MA, with her son, Nathan.

    Another spring — time to kickstart my fundraising

    Written by on June 5, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    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.

    Notes of support from the trail

    Written by on September 13, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    In the eight years I've participated in MS Challenge Walk, I've made plenty of connections. From friends and family who support my training and fundraising, to the steering committee that tolerates my off-the-wall ideas, to the walkers and crew who cheer each other on, the relationships formed around this three-day weekend are ones that I cherish year-round.

    This year, not only did I receive notes of encouragement before the walk, but I had more letters waiting for me even after I arrived on the Cape. A former formal member of Gordon's Team and now an honorary one, I arrived at their annual pre-walk homestead to find a sealed message waiting for me. It came from one of the team's youngest members, Emma, who this year made the transition from crew to walker. Here's what she wrote:

    Letter from Emma

    A transcript follows:

    Dear Ken,

    Excited for another year? I know I am. I just want to say how glad I am that you decided to be a part of this. It has shown me how pure determination and hope can form amazing friendships. No matter what team you are listed under officially, there will always be a spot for you on Gordon's Team, and we will always claim you as one of us. So thank you for everything you have brought to our team. Thanks for a smile along the route (which I'm sure I will need this year), that trolley ride (it is in my top walk memories), and a friendship the whole family holds dear.

    Smiles,
    Emma

    What a wonderful way to start the walk! How could I not be eager to get out there and support this family, without whom I never would've heard about or joined MS Challenge Walk?

    That wasn't the last note of support I'd find that weekend. A friend who spent her Labor Day weekend on Cape Cod knew I'd soon be following in her footsteps, so she stopped by Nickerson State Park — better known to us as Day 2, Rest Stop #1. There, she engaged in a bit of letterboxing, a distant cousin of geocaching. At a specific place in the park, she left me a message, one I could find only by following these clues:

    This is a "drive-by", "walk-by" or "bicycle-by" letterbox with one caveat. It is located right off Flax Pond Rd, and this road is very busy with cars coming to and from one of the park boat ramps. If traveling by car, it would be best to enter the Area 5 campground, and park near the Restrooms. [Proceed] down Flax Pond Rd until you see a large glacial erratic on your right. Approach on foot, and look into the "jaws" of the boulder. The Nickerson State Park Letterbox is hidden inside.

    Near the end of the walk's first day, where I found Pocahontas handing out hugs to walkers just 0.42 miles from the Cape Cod Sea Camps, I abandoned my post and took a detour off our prescribed route to follow the above instructions. I wasn't far into the park when I found the boulder in question.

    A large boulder in Nickerson State Park

    I dismounted my bicycle, climbed into the "jaws", reached my hand in… and came out with this!

    Letter from Cara

    My thanks to Cara and her fiddler crab for taking the time and effort to support me and all our walkers! And to everyone else who let their humanity shine this challenging weekend. Before, during, or after, be it a hug, a tweet, or these letters, there's no limit to the support to be found at MS Challenge Walk.

    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.

    The Hall of heroes that keeps me walking

    Written by on August 22, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Six years ago, the Nintendo Wii came out. As someone who was raised with Mario and Zelda, I was first in line at the game store to get the new video game console. As I'm also Computerworld's youngest editor, I didn't share this interest with many co-workers, but I nonetheless brought the Wii to our annual editorial retreat, figuring it would be a novelty.

    Sure enough, the intuitive way in which the Wii's tennis and bowling games are played made it a hit. As he tried the bowling game himself, one co-worker, Mark Hall, commented that his late mother, an avid bowler, would probably have lived longer had she been able to enjoy her favorite sport in this low-impact, risk-free fashion. I empathized, saying that I hoped my mother would similarly enjoy the Wii, since she's not as physically active since being diagnosed with MS.

    Mark paused his swing and looked at me. "My wife has MS," he said — not a secret, but not one we expected to have in common.

    Although I was still Computerworld's newest hire, had just met Mark and had never met his wife Cathie, and had been doing the MS Challenge Walk for only two years at that point, I boldly solicited them in my fundraising efforts, sending them a letter that concluded, "I am truly grateful for your support and feel fortunate to be able to walk the paths of Cape Cod for those who cannot." What I received in return was more valuable than any impact on my bottom line.

    I have noted on this blog and in person what I first do when I receive someone's donation in the mail: I look not at the value of the check, but at the donor's words of encouragement. Every year, Cathie — whom to this day I have still not met — takes a deeply personal and generous perspective that she shares in a note enclosed with her donation. With her permission, I am sharing her letter this year:

    Letter from Cathie Hall

    A transcript of the above scan follows:

    Dear Ken,

    I am compelled to echo your own words, in your fundraising letter:

    "I am truly grateful…" for your and others' consistent MS fundraising efforts and participation in MS Challenge Walk(s)!!!!! Year after year.

    and

    "I feel fortunate…" to have been the beneficiary of consistent support & aid from family, friends, and even strangers during my 30 years face-to-face with MS; to have a life better than I imagined it would be.

    I send you Mark's and my contribution to your 2012 Cape Cod 50-mile Challenge Walk for MS; our very best wishes for perfect walking weather, Sept. 7—9; and my deep, heartfelt appreciation for all you do to defeat MS!

    Thank you!

    Cathie Hall

    I am humbled and awed by the spirit of individuals such as Cathie. It is for heroes like them that I am glad to walk, peddle, and cheer my way across Cape Cod time and time again, until it is no longer necessary.

    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.

    What's so special about a bunch of candles?

    Written by on August 14, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    CandleThe captain of The Rhode Trippers, Paige Magratten, whom we interviewed on this blog three months ago, isn't the only member of her family who's active with MS Challenge Walk. Her husband and daughter also do their part to bring the world closer to a cure for multiple sclerosis.

    One way 16-year-old Colby Magratten has supported her mom is through her way with words. Two years ago, she penned the poem "The Light of Hope". This year, she produced this solicitation letter that Paige found worth sharing with the MS Challenge Blog community:

    In seven weeks The Rhode Trippers will be walking 50 miles on Cape Cod. This will be Brooks' 11th, 50 mile walk: an amazing gift he continues to give each year. The gift of your thoughts and support I feel is a big factor in my "remission" of 11 years now. This weekend always recharges my batteries for the whole year to come. Below are thoughts that Colby shared for our letter this year.

    What's so special about a bunch of candles?

    A candle is just a string dipped in wax but hundreds of them lit and held high can truly be extraordinary. Under a huge tent hundreds of amazing people all hold up their candles to show their hope for a world free of multiple sclerosis.

    With blisters on their feet, these people walk fifty miles over three days all to help people suffering from this disease. We all, one-by-one, lift up our light not letting the wind blow it out. As I wait for my turn to light up the sky, I think of my father. Fighting off the pain that millions of steps bring, trying to find the energy for the miles ahead.

    We are there as: one heart, one pain, and one hope for a cure. Why am I here? My reason is my mother. She is still able to stand with us and hold her candle, unlike others who will sit in a chair forever. But still, she is limited. The simple things like taking a walk or going to a museum are major struggles for her. Though she is in remission, that doesn't mean she's going to get better. That is the reason why I stand with my candle; I am standing strong for her. I need to be strong and help her gain strength from this light.

    So I stand watching a shared flame. A flame passed on to others affected by MS. We stand as part of a family of strangers holding their candles high for the entire world to see. So let me ask you this: What's so special about a bunch of candles?

    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.

    Let the fundraising begin!

    Written by on March 28, 2011 at 10:27 am

    I was in Columbia, South Carolina, for the weekend as my family there hosted our team's annual fundraising golf tournament. It is always a beautiful time of year down there, and a great time is had out on the course. My deepest thanks and love go out to my family for continuing to support the National MS Society by organizing this fundraising tournament each year.

    Our family's team fundraising campaign is kicked off each year with golf tournament, which raises a significant portion of the team's funds. We are fortunate for so many wonderful personal and corporate supporters.

    Now that we have entered our fundraising season, I look forward to reaching out to friends, family and new co-workers (if done selectively) to ask them to support our family's team at the upcoming MS Challenge Walk. As I've been mentally (and manually) organizing my "ask", and starting to compile a list of people to solicit, I am eager to take advantage of the online tools in my Participant Center.

    While its functionality (and ease) is great, I don't it to lull me into laziness in my solicitations. It would be easiest to import all the email addresses from my contact list into my Participant Center and shoot out a generic email to all, asking them for money. While there is a group of people to whom I will send such an email, I'll avoid this approach for just everyone. When you think about it, there are some people who should be sent an individualized email or letter. I mean, isn't the money they give valuable enough to take another moment to send them a special correspondence. I think it is.

    The point is this: think about each person to whom you are soliciting. If someone falls into the category of receiving a more general email, that is fine. But if you come across someone who for whatever reason prompts your mind (or heart) to pause and suggest you send a personalized correspondence, follow your instincts and go that route. If you need help writing your letter, check out our advice and templates. The extra minute it will take to send them a personal solicitation may just turn out to be your biggest donor because of the attention and care you showed them. The money they give is worth your investment of time.

    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.

    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.

    Donors' words of encouragement

    Written by on June 11, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Envelope

    It's what's inside that counts.

    As I wrote last week, I do almost all my fundraising via postal solicitation. A few people donate online, but more than half of my donations arrive as checks. When my self-addressed stamped envelopes come back to me, I eagerly rip them open and look not for the amount of the check, but to see what else they included. For me, the arrival of the SASE is a giveaway that they've donated at all. The amount is irrelevant; it's knowing that I have their support that matters. But what really lifts my spirit are the personal words of encouragement many donors choose to include with their checks. Sometimes it's on the back of my fundraising letter mailed back to me; sometimes it's on a sticky note; other times, they include their own cards. Whatever the medium, and whether they come from close friends or from those with whom my only communication is this fund drive, these notes let me know that what my teammate Kahm and I are doing is important.

    Here are the reasons I'm walking so far this year:

    Keep up the good work! Hope the MSchief Makers do well. Good luck to U & Kahm! Give your mom our best! Glad 2-B of some help…

    Good luck with the walk!

    Good luck in the MS Challenge Walk! I hope your team reaches its goal! Cheers!

    Nice to see you'll be joined by Kahm, Ken! 

    Thanks so much for doing this every year, Ken — you rock! Best wishes for a great walk and for an end to MS!

    Good luck, Ken & Kahm! We wish you the best with your walk!

    Good luck Kenny!

    Keep walking for my cousin! He continues to battle & win his fight but would of course love a cure for all!

    Good luck and have fun! 

    Thank you for all you do and for letting me again be part of your walk. Happy walking!

    Good luck Ken! 

    Good luck with your fund drive. "Hi" to your parents. Hope they & you are doing well.

    Good luck!

    We are ever proud of all the wonderful things you do! Keep it up! Good luck with the walk and with fighting MS.

    Seeing all this support in one place… I'm a bit choked up to know that what we do does make a difference.

    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.