The National Multiple Sclerosis Society's theme is movement -- helping people with MS keep moving, creating a movement to support people with MS and using movement (walks and bike tours) to raise money for MS support and resources. Together, this approach has made the MS Society one of the most successful health-based organizations around.
MS Society Awareness Raising
One of the most amazing things that the National Multiple Sclerosis Society has done is to raise awareness around multiple sclerosis. Think about, it is estimated that 400,000 (or so) people in the U.S. have multiple sclerosis, and yet the awareness of this disease is quite high, compared to other diseases. Other diseases (like lupus or fibermyalgia) effect many more people, and yet no one has heard of those diseases (there are no city-wide "lupus walks.") We have the National MS Society to thank for the simple fact that most people know a little bit about multiple sclerosis and have heard of the disease.
The MS Society's awareness campaigns use a classic, multi-pronged approach. There are professional lobbyists in Congress, celebrity spokespeople, researchers ending up television and events that involve the participation of thousands of people. I can even remember my grade school, years ago, sponsoring an "MS Walk" one year.
MS Society Support and Resources
The MS Society offers a range of programs through its regional and local offices. I'm not sure how much variation in programs there is from office to office, but personally, I just haven't "clicked" with many of the offerings. Granted, an MS Support organization has a challenge -- the people it is trying to help often have trouble driving (I fall into this category) and moving, making it difficult to get to events and programs. My main suggestion to the MS Society would be to find innovative and excellent ways to get more people with MS involved in activities to enhance quality of life. That said, I have to compliment the society for having hotlines and experts available (both locally and nationally) to help people MS deal with workplace, medical and other issues (just call 1-800-344-4867 to find our more).
MS Society Fundraising
The MS Society is a fundraising juggernaut. There are hosts of fundraising events each year that are well run and lots of fun for participants. These events include iconic "MS Walks" and "MS Bike Tours" as well as more typical events such as galas and dinner. Given the scope of the illness (again, only 400,000 people in the U.S.) the amount of money raised by the MS Society is fantastic. The real brilliance in the MS Society's fundraising strategy is getting people who normally wouldn't be involved in MS to participate in fundraising activities by creating fun and compelling events (in the case of some of the MS150 bicycle tours, these are even somewhat "exclusive" social undertakings).
MS Society Research
One of the most insightful things that the MS Society has done is create programs and grants to assist researchers interested in developing treatments and learning more about multiple sclerosis. Each year, the MS Society gives millions in research dollars to new and promising scientists working the field of multiple sclerosis.