June 28, 2011

In a down economy, individual donors keep innovative research alive

Author National Philanthropic Trust

Several years before she passed away, Marian S. Ware and her family set up a $6 million program at the University of Pennsylvania to help fund cutting-edge clinical research on drug discovery and patient care related to Alzheimer’s Disease. This program continued with a second large gift recommended by the Ware family to NPT.  And its impact is described in a recent Penn Gazette article titled “Untangling Alzheimer’s.”

The article also reveals the critical role of individual philanthropy in a down economy.  These days, scientists and doctors are struggling to find funds for the type of research being conducted in the Marian S. Ware Alzheimer’s Program.  To get a government grant, like one from the National Institute of Health for example, research must be incubated to a point where viable findings are likely.  As a result, the newest and most innovative research relies heavily on private funding from individual donors.

And in many cases, this is just the type of research needed to move science forward. 

In my experience, donating money to disease research usually involves a deeply emotional and personal connection. Therefore, due diligence is more important than ever. The good news is that I’ve found a wealth of sound and worthwhile giving opportunities while investigating research programs on behalf of our donor-advised funds.  I’ve also heard from many of the researchers themselves, who were compelled to point out that their efforts might not be possible without the help of our individual philanthropists.