No Labor Day Telethon: MDA, $23 Million in the Red, 60% Down in Contributions, Lost without Jerry Lewis
Once upon a time, Labor Day weekend was all about the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon and Jerry’s Kids, thanks to Jerry Lewis. That went on for nearly half a century.
But in 2011, the scourges at MDA dumped Jerry unceremoniously and the charity went into a nosedive from which they’ve never recovered.
Lewis died in 2017 at age 91 but the MDA fundraising had been dead for six years.
For a while MDA tried having smaller telethons without Lewis. They were disasters. Now they have nothing at all.
Last year’s Form 990 — for the year 2020– paints a very sad picture for MDA. They finished the year with MINUS $23 million in net assets or fund balances. MINUS.
In 2019, MDA listed total revenue at just shy of $100 million (that includes mostly corporate donations).
In 2020, revenue was at $51 million.
The most serious MDA numbers are in donations and grants they make to organizations and people in need. In 2019, like 2018, that number hovered around $26 million. In 2020, it was down to $15 million.
Even salaries, which once soared, are in the toilet. In 2020, total salaries were $31.2 million, down from $47.8 million. But that number reflects people out in the field. MDA still listed a dozen execs making between $169K and $435K. The staff has not suffered.
Say what you will about Jerry Lewis, a tremendously talented performer and filmmaker. He was rough on his family and worse on his friends. He made a lot of people miserable. He also made them laugh. And he loved MDA and those kids. He would be sorely disappointed about the failure of MDA to maintain itself.