We’ve taken a look back at some of the things we shared with you through our monthly newsletters in 2023. It was a busy year for our organisation and volunteers! Here’s a reminder of some of the things we covered.
We celebrated our volunteers and our 70th anniversary
This year we wanted to highlight and celebrate the diversity of our volunteer network and give thanks for the different ways in which they contribute. We did this through:
Volunteers Week: Volunteers Week is an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make across the UK through volunteering in their communities. We shared a thank you message from our CEO, Nick Moberly, alongside a video with messages of gratitude from volunteer trustees and ambassadors. We also published blogs from our volunteers. They showed the breadth of volunteering roles available and shared their experiences of volunteering with us.
Our followers loved hearing about the impact our volunteers make. A combined social media post promoting the stories of the following volunteers had a reach of 5,685,13 shares and 23 link clicks.
- Siobhan who runs an online café for young people
- Northern Ireland (NI) Council Chair, Catherine
- Group Coordinator, Oberuomo
- Helpline Volunteer, Stuart
- Shop Volunteer, Annemarie
Blogs: We continued to highlight our volunteers’ contributions, experiences, skills and knowledge throughout the year via blogs featured in our Volunteer Newsletter, and on our website and social media. These included blogs from:
- Barbara Ramsden, Group Coordinator of the Retford Group
- Robby Khullar who’s involved in our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Reference Group
- Philomena Mulligan, Administration Volunteer and Support Volunteer of the Fermanagh Group
Impact Awards: At the end of November, we came together to celebrate the impact our volunteers make and recognise outstanding individual contributions at a star-studded event, which was live streamed on YouTube and Facebook. Hosted by comedian and MS Society Ambassador, Ivo Graham, we shared 19 inspiring finalist stories from six award categories.
We had some great press coverage. Ivo’s letter to editors was covered in 50 local newspapers, and our finalists were featured in a number of media outlets, including Express & Star, Lancashire Telegraph and Yahoo News.
Turning 70: On 2 December, we marked 70 years of working tirelessly with and for our community. We invited volunteers to join us by offering free party items available through our online shop, such as themed bunting, balloons and pin badges.
The celebrations didn’t stop there!
Helpline won Resilience in the Face of Adversity Award: At the beginning of the year our MS Helpline volunteers helped us scoop the Resilience in the Face of Adversity Award at the Helplines Partnership Award Ceremony.
Mutual Support won 'Soldiering on Awards': Our military support group, Mutual Support, won the prestigious 'Soldiering on Awards 2023' in the family values category.
Sharon Hier won a Coronation Award: Sharon Hier, Group Coordinator of our Swansea and District Group, was one of 500 outstanding volunteers in the UK to be chosen as the nation's Coronation Champions.
Well done to everyone involved!
MS Walks: Volunteers are instrumental in helping us raise funds to reach our goal of a world without MS. 2023 was a great year for the MS Walk series. With £228,000 raised for the Stop MS Appeal, it was our most successful year yet. Held in five locations, we had 1,600 participants and 85 volunteers.
My MS Woof: It was a great year for My MS Woof too with 263 humans getting involved and over 1,000 paws walking 13,597km. And it’s been its most successful year with income, raising over £56,000!
Carols by Candlelight: And our annual concert raised £194,000.
Amounts donated: In July we started sharing our group donations in our newsletter. Group donations in 2023 came to over £270,000. The kindness of our supporters and local groups means we're able to continue providing services and making big strides forward in MS research. Thank you!
Cost of living grants pilot scheme: We worked with our Gwynedd Group to co-produce a framework to support people with small, one-off grants towards essential cost of living needs. We then piloted this approach with a small number of groups across all nations. We’ll evaluate to see how it worked and what impact it had. And, from that, we’ll consider whether it’s something we can roll out to all groups.
We reached some big milestones in research in 2023!
Octopus: Octopus, our revolutionary mega-trial, has gone from strength to strength since its launch early last year. There are now 12 sites operating across the UK, with others to follow. The multi-arm, multi-stage approach to trialling emerging medications has been very successful in other conditions. Now, an extension of this trial – named Platypus – will recruit up to 250 participants in Australia.
Chariot MS: In October, Tina Morris became the hundredth person to join ChariotMS, our phase 2 trial testing whether cladribine can help people with MS maintain the use of their arms and hands.
#10YearsOfPIP: 2023 marked the tenth anniversary of Personal Independence Payment (PIP). We launched our #10YearsOfPIP campaign and asked our community to sign our petition, calling for the Government to fix the PIP system. It was signed by 22,524 of us. We took it to Westminster to meet MPs, and to hand the petition in to the Department of Work and Pensions. We haven't finished campaigning on PIP or disability benefits. Thanks for your ongoing support.
My MS My Needs: Last year we released our 2022 survey results. Over 6,500 people took part in the fourth instalment of our My MS My Needs survey. The results revealed that the unmet needs of people with MS are at a record high in the UK. And the data showed stark inequalities within the MS community. The results are invaluable for our campaigning work. They've guided our organisational strategy and priorities. And they’ve been key to opening up conversations with decision makers in national government and local services about the things that matter to people with MS.
Keeping you updated
Volunteer Voice: We hosted six Volunteer Voice sessions, with organisational updates from our CEO and the opportunity for volunteers to ask any questions. Guest speakers covered various topics, such as tools/resources available to help people grow MS communities online, research, an update on how staff and volunteers have been working together to deliver our EDI strategy, new shop openings and paid face-to-face fundraising. And Sir Paul Curran joined us for a Q&A on his role as our Chair of Trustees.
Improving our guidance to support volunteers
We focused on creating new training and guidance to upskill and support volunteers to carry out their roles as efficiently as possible.
GDPR: Our GDPR e-learning has now been completed by over 900 volunteers, with over 300 completing it in 2023.
Local Action for MS: We hosted sessions in spring and autumn for volunteers to find out more about our Local Action for MS programme, which provides volunteers with tools and resources to campaign in the local area.
Deeper conversations: We created a practical guide to help volunteers feel more confident having difficult conversations, managing feelings and how to plan what to say to have the best possible outcome.
Safeguarding: Our new safeguarding reporting and training was developed to help staff and volunteers understand safeguarding and know when and how to act.
Health and Safety for Group Volunteers: We developed a short, interactive course to help raise awareness of the forms needed for events and activities, how to use the Portal for recording them and where to get support.
Volunteers told us they want more opportunities to connect with each other. So we added new informal support sessions, so volunteers can network/share experiences whilst also receiving the support they need from staff. Many of these sessions are continuing in 2024. Sessions linked in blue are available to book.
- Portal support
- VST drop-ins
- Health and Safety drop-ins
- Training troubleshooting sessions
- Group fundraising
- Enthuse training
- Grants sessions
- Support Volunteer forums
- Coffee and Chat
- Finance year end
Working closely with volunteers
CNAP: We want to ensure that the support we’re providing to our local groups is as effective, timely and accessible as possible. So groups can, in turn, support their local MS communities. To help us do this, and to better understand and agree our priority areas of work, we continued to work with a panel of volunteers and staff, called the Community Networks Advisory Panel (CNAP). This group came to the end of its two-year term last year, so a big thank you to all who gave their time and input.
Comms Network: We launched a new Comms Network made up of Communication Volunteers and those who have an element of communication within their role. The Comms Network enables members to come together in an informal space every few months to seek advice, as well as share best practice, opinions and feedback on specific pieces of work.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Reference Group: Last year, we also set up and invited volunteers to join our EDI Reference Group. This group helps shape our EDI work and ensures everyone’s voice is reflected in what we do. We want to become more diverse, supporting and campaigning on behalf of the whole MS community. We want to make sure everyone feels included in what we do. Our EDI Reference Group supports various EDI projects, gives feedback on how we’re doing and raises any EDI issues its members have experienced.
We know this is just a snapshot of what was happening across the organisation and our volunteer network in 2023. If you’d like to find out more, take a look at the news section on the volunteer website, or look back at our newsletters from 2023.
If you have any questions, please contact [email protected]
We’re looking forward to bringing you lots more news and updates in 2024!