turns 10

Celebrating the first 10 years of community support for recently diagnosed MSers 10 Year Report 2009-2019

George Pepper

A message
from George

When we launched ten years ago, I never imagined that a decade later would be a global network of well over 30,000 members. What an achievement! Not just for all those who have supported along the way, but for the MS community as a whole.

Multiple sclerosis is the most commonly diagnosed neurological condition in people in their 20s and 30s. Yet despite this, when I was diagnosed, I found it incredibly difficult to find other MSers my age, even online. Because of this crucial gap in support for people recently diagnosed with MS, was born.

Since then, over 1.5 million people have visited our website, our 30,000+ members have posted on our forum over 120,000 times and our volunteer network ‘The Energy’ is made up of over 200 active volunteers. has come far since we launched in 2009, progressing from a small UK charity to a global network of thousands of MSers.

But we won’t stop here, in fact we’re just getting started.

We’ve reached an exciting time at, where the future holds promises of international expansion; our second MS Sessions event; the release of films relating to the challenges of having kids, relapses and support networks; and a revamped MS Reporters (watch this space!)

Our strategic priorities are clear, we know who we are and what we can deliver. We place MSers at the heart of all we do now more than ever before. We’re excited about what we can achieve together.

A huge thank you to all the MSers who make our community what it is, but also to our funders, volunteers and supporters - without you all this would not be possible.

Thank you for your support.

George Pepper
Co-founder & CEO

George Pepper signature
Chair of the Board of Trustees

A message from the Chair of the Board of Trustees

Faced with a long term, progressive and unpredictable condition like MS, not knowing what the future holds, is traumatic. However we believe that people with MS can live their best lives with more connections to information, resources, and other people with shared experiences. In 2009 was founded to give people recently diagnosed with MS hope for a better tomorrow.

Ten years on, thousands of people at the beginning of their journey with MS have been fueled by knowledge, advice and support to make the health and life decisions that are right for them. People with the most expertise in how to live powerfully with MS are those who are already doing it. That’s why millions of people affected by MS visit’ digital platforms each year from across the world and share their experiences and questions with others like them. Over these past 10 years, they have been building a supportive community of MSers. Reaching out, connecting, sharing - these are at the heart of living the best life possible with this unpredictable disease. The feedback from our community is overwhelmingly positive and confirms our belief that is making a real difference to the quality of life of people with MS and their families.

It’s been an incredible privilege to work with hundreds of dedicated individuals who have been drawn to the mission and values of over these years. We have learned so much working alongside all of you and, as we recognise our first decade as a community, I wanted to thank all our volunteers and partners across voluntary, health and social care, academic, and healthcare sectors.

We have only been able to make these hugely positive changes in the lives of MSers thanks to the financial support of the generous people and organisations that have supported Without your help simply wouldn’t be possible. With your help we look forward to making even more difference in the next 10 years. With immense gratitude, I thank all our donors who have invested in changing the lives of MSers over the last decade.

This next year is going to be full of change, challenges, celebrations and progress. As I transition out of the role as Chair of the Board, it is my privilege on behalf of the Board of Trustees to introduce the Chair-elect of, Sylvie Watts. We are thrilled to know that Sylvie will be at the helm, leading us through this next era of innovation and growth.

Thank you for your support.

Sylvie Watts
Chair of the Board

Sylvie Watts signature

How we got here

  • 2004 George is diagnosed with MS aged 22
  • 2006 George struggles to find other MSers his age - a crucial gap in support for recently diagnosed MSers is identified
  • 2009 George and co-founder Freddie launch
  • 2011 receives funding from Wellcome Trust and hires its first member of staff
  • 2012 Our first short film, and one which would set a high benchmark, 'Gallop' is released
  • 2016 reaches 10,000 members with a global reach
  • 2019 turns 10 & reaches 30,000 members

What's next?

  • 2019' second MS Sessions festival
  • 2021 reaches 50,000 global members
  • Scaling up the Buddy Network
  • becomes multilingual is

Let's get #GOOB:
Good Out Of Bad

Our vision

We believe that MS doesn’t mean giving up on ambitions, just rethinking how to achieve them.

Our mission

To equip people to make sense of MS as soon as possible after diagnosis.

Who we are is the social network for people with multiple sclerosis. Founded by MSers, for MSers, the charity supports many thousands of recently diagnosed people across the world as they make sense of MS. It’s independent and it’s free.

Why we're here

To encourage the ability to come to terms with diagnosis and adapt to life with MS.

To provide greater knowledge and confidence to make positive choices about health, lifestyle and the future

What we do hosts an online community where thousands of MSers connect, form meaningful relationships and make sense of the confusion and disruption that is caused by MS.

It is a network built on real life experiences and uses peer support as an accessible way to deal with MS. Our forum allows MSers the freedom to ask open and honest questions from the 30,000 strong community while our Buddy Network connects newly diagnosed MSers with a Buddy - an ‘experienced’ MSer - on a one to one basis.

We produce award-winning films – by, for and about people with MS – which tell compelling stories and connect MSers with world-leading experts.

  1. Challenge
    For an estimated 2,500,000 people in the world with multiple sclerosis, a diagnosis of MS is life-changing, because it negatively impacts health and mental wellbeing, it is socially isolating, it reduces employment and impacts financial security; and it interferes with life goals and ambitions.
  2. Need
    People within ten years of diagnosis are currently underserved. There is limited access to information and support required to manage their condition, while the information that is available is not useful. 60% of all MSers are socially isolated.
  3. What we do
    We develop platforms for people to connect digitally and face to face and develop tools for MSers to create and share content. We work with patients to create narrative storytelling and expert information films.
  4. Outcome
    MSers have stronger social networks and relationships, have better confidence to manage their MS, become better informed about the things that matter to them, are better able to cope and adapt to a diagnosis of MS and changes to their condition.
  5. Desired impact
    To improve health outcomes, to improve mental wellbeing and improve quality of life.

By MSers
For MSers

In the past ten years, has made a dramatic impact on the lives of MSers using our services, as evidenced by the Tavistock Institute and

  • 80% of members are better informed about MS and treatment choices
  • 81% found a positive impact from Peer Support
  • 70% report improvement in coping with MS or getting on with their life
  • 82% reported positive impact after joining less than two years after diagnosis
  • 80% are less socially isolated through their volunteering with
  • 87% receive the support they need within 24 hours of posting on the forum
  1. Increase membership Increase membership numbers includes expanding our international reach even further.
  2. Maximise health and wellbeing benefits As we increase our reach, it’s paramount that we maintain and further improve social and emotional benefit from the service.
  3. Increase member participation Increase member participation to allow for more established MSers to support those in need of peer support.
  4. Deliver video excellence As a leader in video content production, our films will continue to entertain, inform and support MSers.
  5. Secure sustainable income Develop sustainable income streams that secures the future of and the community we serve.

"I feel less alone with a disease that is unpredictable. Knowing there is a community of people who understands the challenges of MS is comforting."

Our volunteers

Our work wouldn’t have been possible without the dedicated efforts of volunteers. Without them, we simply wouldn’t exist. All our volunteers whether past, present or future are awesome.

Volunteers are involved in all projects and areas of our work, where their input and opinions help shape our development ensuring we’re truly led by MSers.

Over the last 10 years, we’ve worked with 1,193 volunteers, MS Reporters, Buddies, bloggers, film participants, ambassadors and Trustees. Their contribution, regardless of size, has helped us to become the organisation we are today and will continue to influence how we develop in the future.

Meet some of them here


2 million views of 500 'MS Reporters' films

Digital outreach highlights

  • In the past year, our videos have been viewed 2.3 million times
  • In the past year, our website has had 305,000 visitors and our pages have been viewed 1.4 million times
  • We have 50,000 followers across our social media channels and an average of 22,000 social media engagements each month

Follow us on social

Member engagement highlights

In 18 months we increased our membership by 84% - from 16,300 members in April '18 to 30,000 members in Oct '19.

Our network is continuing to grow. In 2009, was started by George and Freddie as a UK charity, but now our reach is global.

36% of our users are from the UK
40% of our users are from the US and Canada

The community also spans across Europe, Australia and South America, and the website has welcomed visitors from six continents.

Over the last 12 months, there were 3,178 posts on our forum, that's 60 unique conversations every week, and 9 new conversations every day.

Plot yourself on the map


Cathy was 30 when she was diagnosed with MS.

"My diagnosis was just the biggest thing. The symptoms were coming thick and fast and I was finding it very hard to deal with. It seemed like I was deteriorating quite rapidly."

Cathy remembers huge uncertainty about her diagnosis: "I don’t have life insurance. I don’t have a partner. What about work? I just wasn’t ready to hear my diagnosis." Cathy isn’t an isolated case, it’s estimated that 45 people in the UK are diagnosed with MS each week.

Like many newly diagnosed MSers, Cathy went through a grieving process during and after her diagnosis; feeling denial, isolation and anger, lots of anger. "I began to have walking difficulties over the first summer I was diagnosed, this was very difficult for me to deal with. My relapses and symptoms just didn’t follow any kind of pattern, I was so confused and scared. I just felt this intense kind of burning anger."

Cathy was referred to the community by her MS nurse and felt an improvement in her mental health as a result of being around people on "That definitely helped. I think my mental health totally improved - the culture is about making adjustments."

"One thing that really worried me was getting depressed. I was lucky, I was referred very quickly to but I could imagine the isolation and the denial really affecting me. Having made a massive difference to accepting my MS."

"Looking back it would have been very bleak if hadn’t been there."


  • Sylvie Watts Chair
  • Fabrice Allum
  • Elad Duschak
  • Rachel Hillman
  • Raj Kumar
  • Zera Ong
  • Victoria Tills
  • George Pepper Founder & CEO
  • Freddie Yauner Founder & Head of Development and Innovation
  • Sam Billington Head of Digital
  • Emily Thompson Relevant Reporters Programme Manager
  • Amy Stow Head of Community
  • Sultan Yu Head of Fundraising
  • Rob Sloan Service Design Lead
  • Fiona Brown Relevant Reporters Programme Coordinator
  • Sophie DiMauro Digital Marketing Manager
  • Millar Maxwell Account Manager
  • Ellie Bangay Community Coordinator
  • Jason Nguyen Junior Video Editor
  • Mark Webb Head of Comms
  • Julie Talbot Accountant
  • Martin Petts Web Developer
  • Mike Litson SEO Manager
  • Chelsey Hobson Ads Consultant

Where your money goes

When you donate to, you’re investing in a charity whose purpose is to support and empower people affected by MS and improve the quality of life for those who live with the disease. We make every pound count at

For every £1 we spend

  • Supporting MSers 39p
  • Connecting MSers 35p
  • Service innovation 20p
  • Fundraising and other 6p

Your return on investment: £5 to provide advice, support and social connection for one MSer.

Income and endowments from
Donations and legacies244,068134,466
Other income446,035267,744
Investment income143
Total incoming resources690,116402,213
Expenditure on
Cost of raising funds
Fundraising costs6,70813,381
Charitable activities
Operational costs461,770347,740
Service development276,200150,900
Total resources expended750,164516,094
Net incoming resources-60,048-133,880
Total funds brought forward285,541399,421
Total funds carried forward255,493285,541
Unrestricted funds128,941127,043
Restricted funds96,553158,498

Please refer to the Charity Commission website to view the full accounts.

* The 2018/19 figures are subject to an independent examination.

Thank you for
your support

Our work wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t have a network of incredible supporters and skilled individuals from various disciplines giving their money, resource and time to us year in, year out. We really can’t thank you enough.

We’d like to say a special thanks to our friends listed below, who regularly contribute to our work and have helped grow into the global network it is today.

Start-up founders

James Alexander, Hugo Pilcher, Nick Sandham, Will White, George Nelson, George Murray Willis, Georgina Smith, Maxine Cadzow, Charlie Butcher, Jamie Briggs, Kevin Allgood, Justin Addleton, Paul Fleming, Rob Hough, Ed Cooper, Lucy Pilcher, Digger Cooke-Hurle, Katie Cooper, George Pepper, Freddie Yauner

Previous trustees

Graham Cooke, Will White, Matthew Peppitt, Suzanne Peppitt, James Alexander, Matt Frank, Cathy John, Nick Sandham, Allison MacLeod, Gus Alexiou, Dr Simon Shields, Kate Watkiss, Nicky Pepper, Clare Ball, Bernadette Porter MBE, Katie Pepper, Dr Jane Petty, Rabbi Gideon Schulman

Funding partners

Bay Foundation, Tony Bramall Charitable Trust, The Charles & Elsie Sykes Trust, Phillip Morris Trust, Sir George Martin Trust, Wade’s Charity, Aviva Community Fund, Wellcome Trust, Nominet Trust, Comic Relief, The Monument Trust, National Lottery Community Fund, NHS England, ECTRIMS Congress, MS Brain Health, Actelion, Biogen, Merck, Novartis, Sanofi Genzyme, Roche, Teva, Bentley Organics.

Individual donors and fundraisers

Thank you to the hundreds of fundraisers who have done some weird and wonderful activities to raise money for But a special mention to those who have gone the extra mile:

Alex Long; Andrew Denney; Neil Webb; Justin Addleton; James Alexander; Charles Dawson; Simon Knaggs; Chris Hogarth; Jessica Webb; Hannah Furnival; Jen, Liz and Ste Mitchell; William Roberts; Scarlett Short; Gavin Lehmann; Simon Robertson; Michael Harrison; Katie Pepper; John Pepper; Margie Pepper; Rebecca Smith; Andrew Dobie; Matthew Bolton; Philip Critchley; Jessica Rust; Gavin Lehmann; Ella Kaye; Lindsay Holyland; Sadie Spencer; Jess Frank; Nicole Ettinger; Edward Peppitt; Sandra Caldwell; Kit Keyser; Julia Dixon; Penny Barrett; Mark Price; Richard Jones; Lisa Gowland; Matthew Peppitt; Henry and Hayley Pepper; Lee Gleeson; Mark Gleeson; Steven Taylor; Heather Lang; Tom Sabokbar; Carrie Blount; George Sloan; Sarah Moore; Bob Safford; Jonathan Sim, Lucy Wigan, Jonathan Smailes; Josh Whitehead; Robin Irwin; Katie Cooper; Jamie Bentley; Pannal CC; John Strover; Ed Cooper; Rob Hough; Dan Cowdy; Matt Frank; James Barrett; Charlie Butcher; Sam Yauner.

" has kept me informed and sane. It has given me a sense of perspective and hope. It is without a shadow of a doubt the best thing that happened to me after dx."
@Tabbycat logo is dedicated to impacting the lives of MSers when they need us most.

To continue to support, give a one-of donation or set up a monthly gift


Here’s to the next ten years.