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Ask and you shall receive

Written by on Aug 10, 2009

I have to admit, I was nervous about reaching this year's fundraising goal. We are dealing with an unstable economy, and we all know people who are struggling financially. I had a friend who walked in previous years and decided to take this year off because she did not want to reach out ask for money this year. 

I approached this year's fundraising with the attitude that this was not going to be a record breaking year. This is my fifth year doing the walk, and it was hard for me to ask the same network or people for money. I sent out my emails, mentioning that I recognized that people are struggling. Within minutes of sending my first email blast, I was overwhelmed with the number of donations and inspirational messages. It is overwhelming to see the continued support that friends and family provide each year. I actually had a huge "a-ha!" moment when I realized that people will reach into their pockets even in these tough times.  Friends, family, and strangers continue to support a cause which which they have a personal connection. They will also find a way to support something that makes them feel they are making a difference. I had people tell me that they set aside this money every year in anticipation of getting my email. I had no idea!

We are getting down to the last weeks of fundraising. Don't be afraid to ask for support. I think that you will be surprised with people's generosity and their need to be a part of something positive.

Five more weeks. Woo-hoooo!!!

Caroline is getting ready to walk her fifth MS Challenge Walk. This is also the anniversary of when she was herself diagnosed with MS. Her walking team is Kranny's Cruisin' Divas. Caroline spoke at last year's last year's August Celebration and is a member of the walk's steering committee.

The hardest part

Written by on May 20, 2009

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.

Don't be afraid to ask for help!

Written by on May 8, 2009

One of the most difficult and most rewarding aspects of our family's first Challenge Walk was the process of actually asking for money. It seems strange that we should be nervous about asking others to give to a charity, but for us, it was difficult.  We felt that our struggles were private and personal, we are after all New Englanders (renowned for our extroverted nature).

When we began the fundraising process, we decided to keep it simple: we would send letters to our family and friends asking them to help fight a disease which had struck our brother (actually my brother-in-law, but after all these years of dating and being married to his sister, he is my brother Gordy). As we went through the list of those we might send our letters to, we began making excuses for why we  shouldn't ask certain people. "They don't have a lot of money," " I don't know them well enough," or "He's just cheap" were ways of disqualifying them from our list. There were inevitably those that we doubted but decided to send anyway.

When our responses started coming back, we had what I consider one of the most powerful moments in our Challenge Walk experience. Many of them said things like "Thank you for considering us part of your friends and family," "We too have a family member with MS," and "What else can we do to help?" We not only brought in more than we thought we would; we expanded our team. Some of our friends and extended family decided to walk and send letters to their friends. Soon, we didn't just have a few siblings and spouses walking — we had a team that spanned the length and breadth of the United States. Gordon's Team was born.

We learned so much that first year, not only about how far we can walk on blisters, or how nice it is to put the cell phone down for three days, or that after twenty miles, a foot soak is pure bliss. We learned that so many people want to help, want to feel connected to someone on a personal level. When the response from "He's just cheap" came back to, our surprise it not only contained a check for $10 (every bit counts!), but a note that read "Thank you for allowing me to contribute to your lives."

Now, every April vacation, my wife Kim creates the Gordon's Team Newsletter and donation request filled with info and photos about Gordon himself and the activities of our team. We make sure that we send it to everyone we know whether they are friends, family, colleagues or acquaintances. We no longer discuss why someone won't help; we just assume the best.

Our little story comes with a word of advice: don't be surprised if some people don't respond. That's OK too, two of my three siblings have never donated to our team. I don't question why, as everyone has their own story, but I send them a letter every year just in case.

This is truly a Challenge Walk. We are challenged to believe in ourselves and more importantly to have faith in others. Keep the faith, and allow people to contribute to your life: it not only helps the cause, but you will feel better about the world and yourself.

Tim is a member of Gordon's Team, named for his brother-in-law, Gordon Mellis. Tim signed up for the Challenge Blog in the hope that his story is both personal and at the same time common enough to be useful to others.