A handful of chapters prefer to launch out on their own rather than accept consolidation into larger units as part of a strategic plan to encourage larger donations.
Achieving consensus on a new strategic direction has eluded the American Lung Association (headquarters EIN 13-1632524 Form 990). The Chronicle of Philanthropy (Elizabeth Schwinn) reports on the flight of seven affiliates from the national association rather than agree to mergers into larger regional organizations.
- Five of the units are in California, which have agreed to call themselves Breathe California (Los Angeles chapter EIN 95-1641451 Form 990) after a settlement with the ALA in January of 2006 in which they agreed not to include a reference to lungs in their name.
- The New Hampshire unit (EIN 02-0222170 Form 990) has just recently gone to court to supervise its split with the national group. According to the AP story, this unit had gotten into a dispute with the national headquarters over a decade ago over the disposition of a $13 million bequest. Its Form 990 shows that the unit raises well under a million dollars a year, but has investments of $15 million.
- The Chicago affiliate (EIN 36-2222687 Form 990) has also declared its intention to go solo rather than join a group stretching to Minneapolis and the Dakotas (Chicago Tribune, Charles Storch). Joel Africk, CEO of the Chicago group, was a trial attorney until he joined the chapter in 2002 because he wanted a job that would enable him to spend more time with his family, according to an article in Crane's Chicago Business (Brian McCormick)(subscription only, sorry). (I have no way of knowing whether that was a consideration in the decision, but it does happen that personal considerations like this can have an impact.)
These high-profile dissents shouldn't completely overshadow the achievement in this reorganization. I found this Power Point presentation from a few years ago that set out the strategic challege facing the American Lung Association. Its donations through the 1990s were not keeping pace with those of similar organizations (what I call disease and disorder groups). Even more telling was a slide that showed that the ALA is viewed as favorably by the public as the American Heart Association or the American Diabetes Association, but they had only about a third as many donors as the Heart Association and half as many as the Diabetes Association. The diagnosis was that they simply weren't asking people to give.
Buried in other articles was the observation that the ALA relied too heavily on direct mail. (Of course the ALA is known particularly for the Christmas Seals direct marketing campaign which it introduced in 1907 at the suggestion of social worker Jacob Riis, who was familiar with a similar campaign in his native Denmark.) As successful as that campaign has been over the last century, it has not produced much in the way of large donations that are the backbone of present-day fundraising efforts.
The new regional structure is intended to enable the local chapters to afford a larger fund raising staff to call on prospects for large donations and bequests.