The Alzheimer’s Association has some big challenges and major changes ahead, though its plan for consolidation has raised questions from some local chapters.
One thing is for certain: In the absence of a cure, more and more Americans will be affected by Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, according to a recent study by the Alzheimer’s Association, 14.5 million people in the United States will have the disease, and it’s projected that their care will account for 31 percent of all Medicare dollars spent. Overall, the report estimates that total costs could hit $1.1 trillion by 2050.
In the face of such numbers, many within the association are pushing for a reorganization of how national and local chapters, long-term objectives, and efforts to raise funds are handled.
Dubbed Mission Forward, the 10-year plan is built around five strategic goals laid out by the association:
- increasing concern and awareness
- advancing public policy
- enhancing care and support
- accelerating research
- growing revenue support of the mission
None of those goals is likely to draw controversy, but the manner in which the association plans to achieve them has raised some concern. A central component of Mission Forward involves expanding fundraising to meet a goal of $450 million in revenue by 2019, twice the association’s current intake.
That’s a lot of money, and the group hopes to achieve that goal by improving its corporate relationships and giving initiatives, creating another tentpole event beyond the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, and consolidating its organizational practices.
“There’s nothing about this that moves away from the robust chapter network we have,” Stewart Putnam, national board chairman of the Alzheimer’s Association, told The Nonprofit Times. “This was all about how we can do more to execute around the strategic plan of our five pillars. A big part of that is increasing revenue.”
What Comes Next
Some chapters have complained that communication about consolidation, and how it will help the association address the growing needs of Alzheimer patients, has been less than optimal.
“At no time did they give us any indication about how this transition would take place or any indication of a plan to effect that consolidation,” Greg Tigani, Delaware Valley chapter board chairman, told The Chronicle of Philanthropy. “In the absence of any kind of plan, we felt that we couldn’t support it.”
But Putnam, in an interview with Associations Now, challenged those claims.
“We didn’t do this just to mimic another organization. We believe we can work more effectively as a unified organization,” he said.
“This is all about the people with the disease and their caregivers and less about the association,” Putnam added, stressing that the group’s priorities aren’t being changed as much as they’re being enhanced.
As for the internal communication about Mission Forward, Putnam said there has been a “high degree of visibility” since the proposal’s debut late last year.
Citing multiple task forces, a series of sessions and webinars during the association’s leadership summits and advocacy forum, roundtables between chapter board leaders and CEO Harry Johns, Putnam said he is confident the current consolidation framework takes a wide array of member concerns into consideration.
“Many of the elements of the plan were attentive to and responsive to that feedback we got in the field,” he said.
The Alzheimer’s Association currently comprises 81 chapters, 54 of which are traditional chapters. The traditional groups will send representatives to the chapter delegate assembly on October 3 to vote on a recommendation that will be sent to the organization’s board, which will make a final decision on October 17.
If the new plan is adopted, individual chapters can choose whether to consolidate within the national structure or splinter off as separate entities.