A Funny Thing Happened ...
"We start at zero each year, and 87 percent of what is raised is allocated [to research programs] that year," she explains. "Because of our aggressive model, [donors] understand our approach and believe strongly in accountability.
"We are highly transparent," she adds. "Our donors know exactly what we're doing with their money, and that's why we try to get in front of them as often as possible — because that's where we see the most success."
Many disease-specific organizations battle the problem of establishing relationships with donors outside of the patient/family/friends circle, but Kelly says MJFF has a number of six- and seven-figure donors who give simply because they're impressed with the organization's "purity of motive."
Simply put, MJFF is the fund raising powerhouse that it is because it's tightly focused and able to clearly state its objectives and show results — something organizations of every size and mission can aspire to and attain.
Of course, MJFF has something other organizations don't — Michael J. Fox — and you simply can't overlook the power of celebrity. The Canadian actor who rose to fame in the U.S. mainly for his role in the iconic sitcom "Family Ties" and the "Back to the Future" film franchise is undoubtedly the face of the organization.
And what a face. Fox was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson's in 1991 at the age of 30. Since announcing his diagnosis publicly in 1998, he has gone from beloved film and TV star to international symbol of courage, persistence and hope (so much so that The Foundation for a Better Life recruited him for its Optimism campaign, using his face on a billboard with the words "Determined to Outfox Parkinson's").
Fox is the backbone of the organization, Kelly says, "but he lets us do our work."