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Help Sign Shows Lost In Labyrinth

by Kimberly Goodrich, CFRE, Senior Director of Development

In previous blog posts and articles in our magazine The Motivator, I have addressed the controversy over whether charity ratings are really helpful in giving a true picture of an organization’s effectiveness in meeting their mission.

Earlier this month, I attended a luncheon on this topic with Steve Nardizzi, CEO of Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). Nardizzi gave several examples where ratings from charity watchdogs were not helpful in determining if an organization is meeting its mission. In some cases the ratings were even misleading. One example was the Central Asia Institute, formerly run by Greg Mortenson co-author of Three Cups of Tea. When Mortenson was ordered to pay back over one million dollars in misused funds, his organization had a four star rating. How does this help us decide where our dollars should go?

This makes it harder for the donor. There is no one single number that tells us if an organization is doing a good job or not. We need to dig deeper and ask questions about goals and impact – not ratios. Ask about the people they help. Is that number growing? Are they feeding more people? Saving more forests?

WWP continues to grow despite mediocre ratings. Why? Because its supporters see the incredible impact they are having on the lives of wounded veterans. Eight years ago they had higher ratings, but only 10 million to spend on programs. By making a conscious effort to invest in fundraising, marketing, and staff, they now have lower ratings, but spend 176 million on programs for veterans. By ignoring the ratings and focusing their resources on their mission, more veterans are helped. And really, isn’t that what it’s all about?

At MSAA our mission is to improve the lives of those living with MS. Like WWP, the amount we spent on fundraising went up. Some think this is bad. However, this increased fundraising helped our overall rating to go up. This increase in fundraising led to a significant increase in revenue (16.5% growth last year). This increased revenue in turn allowed us to help more people living with MS. Our toll-free Helpline assisted 6% more people. We provided ongoing MRI assistance to 9% more people, and diagnostic MRI assistance to 70% more people than the year before. Our mobile phone app was downloaded by an additional 7,000 people who now use it to track their symptoms and improve their daily lives. These are increases we are proud of and that make the decision to invest in additional fundraising streams worthwhile.

What numbers would mean the most to you? How do you think we should decide if an organization is meeting its mission and therefore worthy of our donations? We’d like to hear your thoughts. Help us help you to help others.

*About Kimberly

I am the Senior Director of Development at MSAA and have worked in the nonprofit arena for over 15 years. I love reading, running, theatre and the Green Bay Packers. I volunteer with the Disabled American Veterans teaching outdoor sports like skiing and kayaking to injured veterans and find that I receive much more from them than I am able to give.

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How does MSAA improve lives for the multiple sclerosis community?

Last week, we shared an infographic with our supporters showing just a few of the ways MSAA improves lives for the multiple sclerosis community. Today, we wanted to post that infographic again in case you missed it.

But we wanted to start by posing a question: What, exactly, is a “good” charity?* 

There has been a lot of talk recently about good charities and bad charities. News reports have focused on charities that do little, if anything, to help alleviate social issues…and on companies who profit from the increasing need for funding to ensure missions are fulfilled. The nonprofit world is buzzing with words like “expensive ratios,” “ratings,” and “overhead.” The result: We are now taking a new look at what being a good charity really means.

How does MSAA improve lives?

                    How can your donation improve a life today?

As an organization, MSAA welcomes this conversation. We believe in using our resources efficiently to best serve the needs of the MS community. We have worked hard over the years to streamline our processes and improve our program delivery.

In addition to the wealth of information and support MSAA provides, for those who would be unable to afford equipment or MRI scans on their own, MSAA’s programs make a tangible difference in day-to-day quality of life. This is attested to time and time again in the unsolicited tesmionials of our clients.

*Excerpt from “Thoughts about Giving” in MSAA’s magazine The Motivator (Summer/Fall 2013)

Also made possible through the help of our supporters…

1,040,554 visits for vital information through our website

About 215,000 MSAA publications distributed to provide information and support

66,596 views of our 36 on-demand video programs

7,174 new downloads for MSAA’s smartphone app, “My MS Manager”

Donate now and improve a life today. 

You, too, can improve a life today.

“Thank you so much for getting back to me so soon! After over two years of waiting and being passed off [by other organizations], my MRI is scheduled for a couple of hours from now! Thank you!” – Jordan R. from Colorado. 

Improve a life today for someone like Jordan. 

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America is a leading resource for the entire MS community, improving lives today through vital services and support. 

Improving Lives Today!

 

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