Fundraising tips from the Walk With the Docs champions

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Melanie Johnston (left) led Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Family Medicine Interest Group to victory in the 2017 Walk With the Docs in Montreal, Quebec, with support from Dr. Nicole Stockley (President) and Dr. Dave Thomas (Past President) of the Newfoundland and Labrador College of Family Physicians.

Medical students from Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) know how to walk the walk when it comes to philanthropy.
Each year Family Medicine Interest Groups (FMIGs) from across the country come together at Family Medicine Forum in a fundraising challenge as part of Walk With the Docs – Advancing Family Medicine Globally. Students from MUN’s FMIG have established a remarkable reign as the top fundraising team that spans the past five years; in 2017 the FMIG raised $4,200 of the Walk’s total $12,685.
Melanie Johnston (Class of 2019), who represents MUN on the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC)’s Section of Medical Students, has been a FMIG rep since she started medical school. She notes her FMIG ramps up fundraising activities in September and hosts a local walk as part of the Newfoundland and Labrador Chapter’s Family Medicine Conference (formerly known as the Annual Scientific Assembly, or ASA) in October, which draws as many as 50 participants—even in years when it snows early in Newfoundland!
In this quick Q & A Johnston shares some fundraising ideas and ways to drum up support.

Memorial’s FMIG has won the fundraising challenge for the Walk With the Docs for the past five years in a row. What is the secret of your success?

Our success in recent years can be attributed to a lot of help and support from our local CFPC Chapter, as well as the family docs from across Newfoundland who year after year continue to support us in our fundraising efforts.
For example, this past year we added a few new fundraising ideas to our campaign. Dr. Jackie Elliott was kind enough to donate a handmade quilt that we sold raffle tickets for at our ASA, and it was extremely popular. Debbie Rideout from our local CFPC Chapter worked with a few people to design T-shirts supporting the Chapter that illustrate the care of all ages that family doctors provide that we sold at our ASA and to local medical students and residents.

In 2017 the Walk changed its focus to support the Besrour Centre and its mission to advance family medicine around the world. How does this resonate with the members of your FMIG?

We’re fully in support of the mission of the Besour Centre in advancing family medicine around the world. Increasing access to primary care services around the world is a great strategy in working toward health equity.

The winning team receives $1,000 to put toward a FMIG initiative. How has your FMIG used past winnings?

In the past we’ve opted to use the prize money to support one of our major events. Each year we hold a Procedures Day, a Wilderness Weekend in Terra Nova Park, a Family Medicine Interest Night, and weekly Fridays With Family talks. The money has helped us buy supplies and materials for these events. Since these are our major events, it’s nice to have some extra funding to allow for more people being able to attend and participate while we promote family medicine as a specialty.

Do you have any fundraising tips to share with other groups?

In terms of fundraising, the best advice we could give to other FMIGs is to do your best to get local physicians interested and involved. We’re so lucky in Newfoundland that regardless of where in the province family physicians practise, they do what they can to support MUN’s FMIG. For those who are unable to attend the ASA, we send out emails to our members every year asking for support, and oftentimes they’re eager to help. We also have a lot of support from members in our Family Medicine Dept. at MUN as well as the CFPC Chapter.
Simple strategies like T-shirt sales, bake sales, email campaigns, and a quilt auction have been really successful for us. We’re one of the smallest medical schools in the country, but over the past five years we’ve contributed almost half of the fundraising efforts through pretty straightforward fundraising campaigns.

Are you doing anything new for this year’s walk in Toronto?

While we haven’t decided on anything yet, I’m sure between our committee and local Chapter we’ll come up with a few new ideas. Our big goal every year is to get as many people as we can out to support MUN at the Walk, both locally and nationally.