Students’ research uncovers developing fundraising tactics

By Marissa Wetterau, Kyle Taylor, Peyton Neely, Rick Tyler

Fundraising is the process of soliciting and gathering voluntary contributions of money or other resources by requesting donations from individuals, businesses, charitable foundations, or governmental agencies. Although fundraising typically refers to efforts to gather money for non-profit organizations, it is sometimes used to refer to the identification and solicitation of investors or other sources of capital for-profit enterprises.

            Traditionally, fundraising consisted mostly of asking for donations on the street or at people’s doors, and this is experiencing very strong growth in the form of face-to-face fundraising, but new forms of fundraising on the internet have emerged in recent years, though these are often based on older methods such as grassroots fundraising.

            Fundraising is a significant way that non-profit organizations may obtain the money for their operations. These operations can involve a very broad array of concerns such as religious or philanthropic groups such as research organizations, public broadcasters, political campaigns and environmental issues.

            Many non-profit organizations need help with the different aspects of the fundraising process, so they take advantage of the services of professional fundraisers. These fundraisers may be paid for their services either through fees unrelated to the amounts of money to be raised, or by retaining a percentage of raised funds. The latter approach is expressly forbidden under the Code of Ethics of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, a professional membership body.

            However, by far the most common practice of American non-profits is to employ a staff person whose main responsibility is fundraising. This person is paid a salary like any other employee, and is usually a part of the top management staff of the organization.

            Fundraising teams of a particular organization are tasked with gaining as much money as possible for the sake of the organizations they are members of. So, when we give someone our money in good faith, it would be beneficial if we could figure out where that money is actually being spent. This isn’t the case most of the time. Sometimes people have to search for how their money is being spent.

            There is one organization that has had increased support and donations for their cause over the past year and a half, and that organization is the ALS Association. Established in 1985, the ALS Association is the only national non-profit organization fighting Lou Gehrig’s disease at every angle. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), which is often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s disease,” is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles that are throughout the body.

            The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually results in death of the people that have this disease. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. Patients with ALS deal with progressive voluntary muscle action loss, and in later stages of the disease, patients may become totally paralyzed.

            The ALS Foundation calls upon the aid of countless numbers of volunteers, some of which themselves have ALS. This leads to a viral phenomenon that swept the world through the various forms of social media. That phenomenon is known as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The Ice Bucket Challenge, sometimes called the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, is an activity involving dumping a bucket of ice water on someone’s head to promote awareness of the disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and to boost donations to research.

            This challenge went viral on the various forms of social media like Facebook and Twitter and roughly began in June of 2014. According to, “There were 28 million mentions of the Ice Bucket Challenge on Facebook between June 1 and Aug. 13. People mentioned the phenomenon more than 15 million times on Twitter since the beginning of June and 6.2 million videos were uploaded to YouTube.”

            West Liberty’s very own Pix Hellenic Eborn has taken part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge as well. Watch Pix Hellenic Eborn take the challenge. This challenge encourages nominated participants to be filmed having a bucket or container of ice water poured on their heads and also nominating others to do the same. There is also a list of rules associated with this challenge that a large majority of the participants have not recognized. The rules for the Ice Bucket challenge are as follows.

            First, in one version of the rules, the participant is expected to donate ten dollars if they have poured ice water over their head or donate one hundred dollars if they choose not to participate in dumping ice water over their head. However, in another version of the rules for this challenge, dumping a bucket or container of ice water over one’s head is done in lieu of any sort of donation. This has led to some criticism of the challenge by calling it a form of slacktivism, which is a combination of the words slacker and activism.

            Many clubs, organizations, and sports teams on West Liberty’s campus have already participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. However, there are also a few West Liberty University students that have participated in the challenge by themselves.

            “I did not actually do the challenge, but I have a few family members that have. I personally just donated the money without actually dumping ice water over my head,” said Melanie McFadden, a senior and social work major.

            West Liberty Greek organization Phi Delta Theta raised around 300 dollars for donations that were sent directly to the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the ALS Association. XN participated in one as well as Panhellenic Council and Greek Council representatives. Other teams, specifically the cheerleaders and the cross country team, participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge with teams from other schools.
            “The school always strives to help in whichever way possible. As far as ALS fundraising, Phi Delta Theta contributed but many of our students here at West Liberty participated in the Ice Bucket Challenged and that helps spread awareness,” said Evan Newman, president of the Student Government Association (SGA) and member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity here at West Liberty University.

            According to the ALS Foundation, about 115 million dollars was raised by the Ice Bucket challenge and the Board of Trustees of the ALS Association approved an initial expenditure of 22 million dollars out of the 115 million dollars that came from the Ice Bucket Challenge. Over 18 million of which they’ve said will be spent on research.

            The ALS Foundation has four new research programs that this money will be spent on to find a cure. ALS Accelerated Therapeutics, The New York Genome Center, the Neuro Collaborative and Project Mine. Project Mine, from World ALS day is an international genome project that has made an effort to sequence the genomes of 15,000 people that have ALS and genomes of over 20,000 people in a controlled group.

            This project is also “based on the fact that genes are thought to contribute, directly or indirectly, to most cases of ALS”. There have been several important genes that have been identified, but some researchers suspect that there may be more, and much rarer variants that have a strong impact on the risk for ALS, that are waiting to be discovered.

            Researchers are also finding ways that may be beneficial in treating and possibly curing ALS. Stem cell research and usage has been discussed when it comes to possibly treating and or curing the effects that ALS has on the body. Stem cells can occur naturally or they can be created in a lab from other kinds of cells. Stem cells often come from embryonic stem cells.

            They are also present in many different tissues throughout the body in small numbers. Stem cells that are retrieved from those different tissues are called endogenous adult stem cells. Researchers also found that stem cells can be created from skin cells, which is the most significant information so far in treatment research. Stem cells are being used in various research laboratories today.

            The stem cells that are retrieved from people’s skin, iPS cells, are usually converted into motor neurons. These particular motor neurons grow in a dish and are studied by scientists to determine how ALS develops. These iPS cells can be used to screen for drugs that can hopefully alter the disease process.

            The large number of identical neurons that have been made available by the iPS cells, have dramatically expanded the ability for scientists to search for new treatments. Because iPS cells can be made from various skin samples of different people, researchers have started to make “individual cell lines derived from dozens of individuals with ALS.”

            Stem cells may also end up playing a role in treating the disease. The application of stem cells that makes the most sense, may be to use the stem cells to transfer growth factors or protective molecules to the motor neurons that are present in the spinal cord. There are clinical trials of stem cell transplants, but they are in the early stages and so far they appear to be safe. The only risk is that the cultured stem cells that are used in transplantation medicine could face the body’s immune system rejecting it. These examples of medical breakthroughs that the ALS Association and others have made recently set them apart from other organizations/agencies out there.

            One of the few things different about the ALS Foundation compared to other agencies of its kind is the fact that their panel of advisers is made up of individuals who themselves are living with ALS. These individuals make sure that ALS Association is spending their money with the goal of a cure of ALS as their primary goal. These people are a kind of check and balance to make sure the profits are being spent wisely.

            There are more factors to remember when thinking about an organization’s money than just the cure. Sometimes, money does in fact need to go other places to make sure that the organization can still maintain itself. For example, an organization needs administrative costs, such as employee salaries and advertising, and putting money back into the fundraisers so that these organizations can make back even more money.

            In 2013, every five cents of every dollar of money donated to the American Red Cross went to fundraising, every four cents went to administrative costs, and the last 91 cents (91%) went to aiding those who couldn’t aid themselves. The problem with giving money to charities is people do not know where that money is truly going. According to Time, the Salvation Army raised over 42 million, but only 26 million was used for charity. The final 16 million was given to Kettering Textiles Limited, and four directors of the business became multi-millionaires.

From Jan. 31, 2013 to Jan. 31, 2014 the ALS Foundation expenses were broken up into the administration having 1.9 million, the research department obtaining 7.2 million, patient and community services received 5.1 million, fundraising gained 3.6 million, and public and professional education totaled 8.5 million.

            According to Jeff Knierim, the executive director of the United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley, stated that the administrative cost was a very low percentage, and is very admirable. United Way at any given time spent one tenth of its earned money on administrative costs.

            For a fundraiser to go over well, the organization needs a lot of people to help make sure they earn enough money. According to Richard Barrows, Manager of Foundation Operations, their team employs more than 40 members to take care of everything fundraising based, and has approximately 5,000 volunteers that work with them to raise money for their cause. The Salvation Army has 3.4 million volunteers around the world, ringing bells in front of stores and collecting clothes to give to the needy. The ALS Foundation calls upon the aid of countless numbers of volunteers, some of which themselves have ALS.

                  While fundraising may not always be perfect (like with some of the money not going where it should), the act of donating is still a sign of good will and helps support what fundraising is truly about. Not all fundraisers and non-profit organizations misuse the money that is donated to them. A few bad eggs should not ruin the entire idea behind fundraising, nor should they discourage people from helping out a good cause.