It's Not Just the "Ice Bucket Challenge" That Is Pumping Up This Outfit

Recently, we were telling a good news/bad news story about the ALS Association. The good news is that the organization does a great job as a transparent grantmaker underwriting important brain research. The bad news is that it's hard for them to mobilize big money for ALS, a disorder which is similar to Parkinson's but affects fewer people.

Related: ALS Association Plugging Away in a Neglected Grantspace

Well, now we're back with more to add to the good news part of the story. 

First, some background: The ALS Association is modest. In 2013, it spent about $26.3 million, total, and that money was split up between operating expenses, public education and advocacy, fundraising, patient services, and, of course, research. It gave $6.6 million in research grants, funding 98 different projects that were characteristically far-flung (the ALS Association does not shy away from funding international projects).

On the surface, it seems like a slow-and-steady charity-based outfit, but we think the ALS Association may be headed for a bit of a Golden Age.

Why? Well, the signs are all there. For one thing, they’re starting to catch some serious buzz. Have videos of friends doing the Ice Bucket Challenge shown up in your Facebook feed yet? I saw my first one just this week—coincidentally, as I was taking a break between reporting stories on the foundation that originated the idea. Turns out the concept, which is simple enough—just get tagged by a friend, and make a video of yourself pledging to donate to the ALS Association and dumping a bucket of ice on your head—has been live for less than a month, and in that time, it had raised $15.6 million (as of August 18).

I read that, and I thought, ALS has finally hit the big time. 

And poking around the organization’s financial documents, I found even more evidence to suggest it’s riding high. Last December, an anonymous donor fronted $5.75 million to support a ten-year endowment for the ALS Association.

Both the income, which will be around $280,000 a year, and the corpus of the endowment, to be spent when its term is up, can only be used for research. And meanwhile, the organization anticipates it may be on the receiving end of additional contributions from the same estate, which “are not currently able to be estimated.” This is good news for anyone out there interested in working on ALS.

It remains to be seen whether or not the ALS Association will funnel this new funding into grants or use it to build their education, patient support, or fundraising platforms. But last week, the organization announced $3.5 million in new grants, so maybe that’s a hint.