How do DM beneficiaries spend our donations?

    The allocation of Dance Marathon funds from 2006-2009. Graph by Taylor Soppe / North by Northwestern.

    Months of preparation go into Dance Marathon: From fundraising to planning the event, hundreds of students dedicate their time to making the philanthropy a success. The amount of money raised is kept secret until the last block of the event, when the grand total is revealed and celebrated. But does anyone really know how much of that total goes to the organization they’ve strived to help? Or what happens when the check is handed over?

    “When Dance Marathon reveals the final fundraising total, the number shown includes two main components: the cash total and the product/in-kind total,” says Communication senior Rucha Mehta, Dance Marathon Public Relations Co-Chair. The product and in-kind donations are products and services that companies provide, such as the food given to dancers or advertising assistance. These contributions are only included in the total if they are deemed necessary for DM’s success. The event itself, of course, incurs expenses as well. “Our overhead is about ten percent,” Mehta explains.

    The rest of the money is divided between the primary beneficiary, which receives roughly ninety percent, and the Evanston Community Foundation (ECF), which gets about ten percent. The ECF uses funds to staff and run its endeavors and gives grants to community organizations in Evanston.

    In 2009, Dance Marathon raised $917,834, and Project Kindle received $576,470 of this. The previous year, Bear Necessities was given $593,739.97 of the $933,855 grand total. And in 2007, Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE) received $423,027, according to Megan Morrow, Program Associate for CURE. That year, the DM fundraising total was $708,711.

    In recent years, the primary beneficiaries have focused on medical causes. Dance Marathon initiates no formal contact with the organization after the donation is made, leaving it up to the beneficiary to spend the money responsibly. They do however, review proposed uses for the funds prior to selecting a cause to sponsor. In recent years, most organizations have suggested using the donation to fund research. And so they have.

    Last year’s recipient, Project Kindle, could not be reached. However, the 2008 beneficiary, Bear Necessities, says the endowment allowed them to fund more research than ever before. “That was the largest donation we’ve received ever from anybody so it made a very big impact on our organization,” says President and Founder Kathleen A. Casey. “It heightened the public awareness of our organization. It has helped us grow our mission.”

    Bear Necessities funded a symposium grant and five medical grants that ranged from investigation of the biology and genetics of metastatic osteosarcoma to trials utilizing focal radiotherapy. Some of the funds are still in the bank, earning money in interest.

    In 2007, CURE benefited from the largess. This organization also directed the money towards research. According to Kathy Bodd, a CURE representative who worked as the DM liaison, they named grants in honor of DM “so the organization Dance Marathon itself would feel like it made a lasting effect.”

    The donation doubled CURE’s budget that year, as described in a study done by Kelly Kirkpatrick, a student who interned for ECF. The study, “The Impact of Northwestern University Dance Marathon on Primary Beneficiary Organizations 1998-2008,” explains that the money allowed the organization to up its funding for both research and awareness advertising. With the DM donation, CURE was able to offer two new grants and contribute to a third. According to Kirkpatrick, there was a 22 percent increase in applications for the seed money as a result of these funds and some restructuring. The projects funded included “The Role of CREB in Epileptogenesis,” “Prevention of Neocortical Post-traumatic Epileptogenesis” and “Predictors of Cardiac Risk and Beneficial Effects of Pharmacotherapy in Epilepsy.”

    “It’s just really incredible to see such a large group of people organize and dance on behalf of your cause,” says Bodd. “It was incredible, very touching, very moving, very energizing.”

    The 2006 recipient, Pediatric AIDS Chicago Prevention Initiative, was on the brink of closing due to lack of funding. The Dance Marathon endowment allowed them to continue operations and start new services for directly observed therapy and co-located housing, according to Kirkpatrick.

    This year’s organization, StandUp for Kids, proposed that the donation “will strengthen and expand their existing coverage with some concentration in the Midwest,” says Mehta.

    All of the organizations interviewed expressed sincere gratitude for the donation, saying the students they worked with were highly professional and the committees were well run. One of the most important benefits was the publicity for both the organization and its cause.

    “It’s just an incredible amount of money that’s being raised for a single charity that it really does make an impact,” says Kathleen A. Casey of Bear Necessities. “Hopefully the people donating know that.”


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