A Funny Thing Happened ...
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research seems to have it all wrong.
The organization does its work from a single office in New York City. It doesn't want to branch out and establish regional offices around the country. It doesn't spend a lot of time and effort prospecting. Or trying to get donors to commit to multiyear giving. Corporate giving is minimal. It doesn't have an endowment. (Nor does it want one, since one of the organization's core beliefs is that capital raised for the purpose of curing a disease has an obligation to be spent on research today, not stockpiled for the future.)
Yet the $57 million MJFF raised last year ($50 million of which went toward its mission) tells a different story. The foundation, which has funded more than $240 million in research since its founding 10 years ago, is light on its feet and built for speed.
"The goal of the foundation is to speed therapies and ultimately cure Parkinson's, and [we] would ultimately like to put ourselves out of business," MJFF Deputy Director of Development Sheila Kelly says.
"We don't have an endowment. We don't put money in the bank to grow. This keeps us accountable to our donors because each year we have to go back to our donors and ask them to support our work again," she adds.
Call it counterintuitive. Call it flying in the face of every PowerPoint-ed highlight at every session of every fundraising conference you've ever attended. Or you could just call it successful.
MJFF's revenue stream includes very little corporate support and relatively few multiyear gifts, which means it has to stay in front of its donors, asking them continually to support the mission. It's a lean and unusual fundraising model, but you'd be hard-pressed to argue with its results. Kelly says it keeps the foundation nimble and, most importantly, honest.