The National MS Society
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society addresses the challenges of each person affected by MS. 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.
$159 Million for Programs and Services, $37 Million for Research
In 2010 alone, through our national office and 50-state network of chapters, the National MS Society devoted more than $159 million to programs and services that assisted more than one million people. To move us closer to a world free of MS, the Society also invested more than $37 million to support 325 new and ongoing research projects around the world.
The combined financial statements for the Society (chapters and the national office) show that it costs the Society about 15 cents to raise a dollar. 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 non-profit 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 seven percent is received from corporate support including pharmaceutical companies** and government grants.
For the Wisconsin Chapter, it costs about 16 cents to raise a dollar. To view the Wisconsin Chapter’s annual 990 form, click here, or you may call 262-369-4000 or 800-242-3358 and request a copy of this information.
There are many organizations that monitor non-profit groups and the Society meets or exceeds the standards for each of them. Because individual rating organizations have different sets of criteria that they use to rate non-profits, 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 as essential having a reserve equal to a year’s operating expenses. At the Society, we believe that 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 servicing 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.
* General guidelines source: Better Business Bureau.
** In 2010 the Society received less that 5 percent of its national income from the pharmaceutical companies and those funds were used to support research and service programs to improve the lives of people living with MS.