The Michael J. Fox Foundation has been on a tear, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Bankrolled in part by Google cofounder Sergey Brin, the MJFF seems to be getting involved in as many things as possible, pledging $2 million to test Alzheimer’s drug SYN120 on Parkinson’s patients suffering from dementia, and collaborating with the Weston Brain Institute.
In a continuation of that trend, the foundation has announced a partnership with the Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia and Parkinson Foundation. And it's not your average collaboration. This is basically the Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia and Parkinson Foundation packing up shop and moving to MJFF headquarters.
Sounds to us like it’s losing itself, merging with MJFF, and choosing now to focus its full philanthropic complement—and all of its funds—on administering a single gift each year. It’ll be called the Bachmann-Strauss Prize for Excellence in Dystonia Research, a $100,000 sum to be used for raising awareness of the disease, commending scientific discoveries, and providing increased incentives for researchers. The first Bachmann-Strauss Prize will be awarded in May, 2015.
Naturally, the MJFF and the BSDPF have traveled in similar circles over the years. “Bachmann-Strauss has been a valued partner to us for many years,” says Todd Sherer, MJFF CEO. “In creating this alliance, MJFF’s drive to accelerate Parkinson’s drug development continues to move forward. Partnering with BSDPF allows us to deepen our work together in support of high-impact scientific findings that will benefit both dystonia and Parkinson’s patients.”
It seems like a mutually beneficial move, but still, we’re curious. What’s behind BSDPF’s decision to merge?
Well, there’s a good chance it comes down to fundraising. With its incredible connections and celebrity name recognition, the MJFF has a huge edge in that department. A full 94.5 percent of MJFF’s contributions come from grants, gifts, and other big-sum contributions—and those avenues alone netted the organization over $82 million in 2013. Only 5.5% of its money comes from crowd-type fundraising.
By contrast, the BSDPF is almost the complete opposite. Over eighty percent of its contributions come from such fundraising—and as a result, it has to spend more of its time and money courting that kind of revenue. Even though the MJFF is much bigger, it spends proportionately less of its budget on administration and fundraising. In short, it’s a leaner, meaner machine and it’s benefiting tremendously from its partnership with Brin. It seems a savvy move, in the BSDPF’s case, to put itself in a position where it can benefit from those connections, too.