Allow me to tell you by what I believe is one of the most successful charities of all time. It is definitely an organization that’s a household name, a signature event and has over time re-invented itself many times…helping countless children, including my youngest daughter. It’s the March of Dimes.
Polio was one of the most dreaded illnesses of the 20th century, and killed or paralyzed tens of thousands of Americans during the initial 50% of the 20th century. President Franklin D. Roosevelt founded the March of Dimes since the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis on January 3, 1938. Roosevelt himself was paralyzed with the thing that was considered to be polio. The first purpose of the Foundation was to improve money for polio research and to care for those struggling with the disease. It began with a radio appeal, asking everyone in the nation to contribute a dollar (10 cents) to fight polio.
“March of Dimes” was originally the name of the annual fundraising event held in January by the Foundation and was coined by entertainer Eddie Cantor as a play on the most popular newsreel feature of the day, The March of Time. Over time, the name “March of Dimes” became synonymous with that of the charity and was officially adopted in 1979.
For pretty much 2 full decades, the March of Dimes provided support for the work of several innovative and practical polio researchers and virologists. Then, on April 12, 1955 the Poliomyelitis Vaccine Evaluation Center at the University of Michigan announced to the planet that the polio vaccine produced by Dr. Jonas Salk was safe and effective.
The corporation, as opposed to going out of business, decided in 1958 to make use of its charitable infrastructure to serve mothers and babies with a fresh mission: to prevent premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality. And it has served them well. Its decade long campaign to educate women of child-bearing years about folic acid has reduced spinal tube defects by seventy-five percent teach to one. Now it has looked to the problem of pre-maturity; which my own, personal youngest child suffered. I am sure they will be just as successful as they have been with polio and birth defects.
Their success has a whole lot to instruct small charities concerning the importance of brand/reputation and mission. They’ve re-invented themselves; just as small charities must often do. A broader mission enables you to successfully do that.
With over a fraction of a century of leadership and fundraising experience, Terri is passionate about helping small charities (those with significantly less than 250K income) achieve big results. She is currently completing an e-course on leadership, management and fundraising for charities. By completing the course, charities will acquire all the essential tools and skills to improve their fundraising capacities, including trusts, major donors and corporate partnerships. To find out more about this e-course or to get monthly newsletters, visit her blog BLISS-Charities.