How the National MS Society puts donor dollars to work
The National MS Society addresses the challenges of each person affected by multiple sclerosis. To fulfill this mission, the Society funds cutting-edge research, drives change through advocacy, facilitates professional education, collaborates with MS organizations around the world, and provides programs and services designed to help people living with MS and their families move their lives forward.
The National MS Society is dedicated to being a responsive steward of donor funds, and we place the needs of people with MS at the center of all Society actions and decisions.
In 2011, through our national office and 50-state network of chapters, the National MS Society devoted nearly $40 million to support more than 325 new and ongoing research projects, including everything from discovery research to the Society’s commercial drug development efforts through Fast Forward®. The Society has made an additional commitment to raise $250 million for research by 2015.
The combined financial statements for the Society (chapters and the national office) show approximately 73 percent of Society income is devoted to research and service programs, while the remainder is invested in support services such as fundraising and Society management. To ensure the long-term financial strength of the organization in these uncertain economic times, the Society placed $10.8 million, or 5 percent, of 2010 income into reserves.
General guidelines for nonprofit organizations stipulate that fundraising costs should not exceed 35 percent of related contributions, and that total fundraising and administrative costs should not exceed 50 percent of total income. To view the national and consolidated reports, click here.
The majority of Society income comes from private contributions, 66 percent of which is generated through special events. Approximately 7 percent is received from corporate support, including pharmaceutical companies and government grants.
For the chapter, it costs 20 cents to raise a dollar, and 72 percent of revenue is spent on research and local programs and services for people affected by MS. To view our annual 990 form, click here, or call 612-335-7900 or 800-FIGHT-MS and request a copy of this information.
There are many organizations that monitor nonprofit groups, and the Society meets or exceeds the standards for each of them. Because individual rating organizations have different sets of criteria they use to rate nonprofits, and many charities’ structures don’t readily fit into these criteria, ratings often become inconsistent when compared across these rating groups. For example:
- Some rating systems consider having a reserve equal to a year’s operating expenses essential. At the Society, we believe three to six months of reserves are appropriate and allow for funding more promising research and better serving the needs of people with MS.
Other rating systems penalize an organization for maintaining significant reserves as they believe virtually all income should be passed through to support programs. The Society provides local community services in all 50 states and must balance program service needs with reserves to ensure that those program service needs will not be interrupted in emergency situations.
- An example: When hurricane Katrina severely damaged New Orleans, the Society had reserves in place and was able to step in to assist the local chapter, making us one of the first charities actively serving the community after the storm.
The Society not only is in compliance with but exceeds the standards of all groups that monitor nonprofit organizations. These groups include the National Charities Information Bureau, the Philanthropic Advisory Service of the Council of Better Business Bureaus and Charity Navigator.