Despite an article in this morning’s Chronicle of Philanthropy claiming a rise in fundraising, Lance Armstrong resigned last week from his namesake foundation’s board of directors. According to USA Today, the foundation has experienced a 7% increase in donations since accusations of doping stripped Armstrong of his titles and only 8 donors requested a return of funds.
Two key questions remain on the foundation’s horizon, which depends on corporate partnerships for a bulk of their revenue models: What will Armstrong’s role be, and will this affect services and fundraising long-term?
Let’s not forget athletes have continued successfully amid scandal and personal strife (ie: Tiger Woods). Despite taking a respite from golf and dealing with a public divorce, the Tiger Woods Foundation served its 65,000th student this past year. More impressively, the nonprofit maintained affiliations with a wide array of traditionally conservative corporate donors, including: AT&T, Boeing, Northwestern Mutual, and UPS.
My take on the Lance Armstrong debate is that everyone should breathe and count to ten. Armstrong’s athletic and philanthropic career couldn’t be more disparate; regardless of his alleged doping or substance usage, his charity created a national network for cancer patients and families unrivaled at the time of inception. Few healthcare-oriented nonprofits can tout such an integration of technology and efficiency of awareness campaigns, and I can’t think of a fundraising campaign in my lifetime that has been as recognizable as LiveSTRONG. Most people seem to have forgiven Tiger's indiscretions, and I'm sure Lance isn't too far from that moment.
Until the dust settles, the Lance Armstrong Foundation board move forward with an empty chair at the table.