Nonprofit Newswire | Charity’s Decisions Leave Some Cold

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The Nonprofit QuarterlyJanuary 25, 2010; Atlanta Journal-Constituion | For the Muscular Dystrophy Association, it might not have been wise to cut a program that provides wheelchairs for people with muscular dystrophy in the same year that you increase the salary of the CEO by almost one third. The Association points to decreasing donations combined with investment losses as its reason for cutting the $6 million wheelchair program and some of these issues seemed to precede the downturn. “Tax documents for MDA say donors gave $183 million in 2006, but that dropped to $137 million in 2007. It had a deficit near $15 million. Donations climbed to $182 million in 2008, but the MDA ended with a $42 million deficit because of increased expenses and $18 million in investment losses.” The problem with suspending or ending the wheelchair program while raising the CEO salary by $100,000 during a year of declining revenues is partly symbolic. “The MDA telethon used to tout its work by lining up shiny, new wheelchairs in view of (Jerry) Lewis and celebrity guests.” This is, of course, not the first time that MDA has landed on the front pages in a less than flattering light. Its annual Labor Day telethon has previously been targeted by the disabilities rights community for for what were felt to be exploitive, paternalistic and disempowering portrayals of people with muscular dystrophy.—Ruth McCambridge

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