Raleigh chapter leaves Alzheimer Association

Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Chicago-based Alzheimers Association and what was its Raleigh-based Eastern North Carolina chapter have parted ways, with each side saying it made the decision to separate.

Alice Watkins, executive director of Alzheimers North Carolina, says its board voted to end its affiliation with the association, effective Nov. 24, because the national group wanted too big a share of funds the former chapter raised, solicited its own funds in the region and demanded the local chapter use and pay for back-office services the national group provides.

Kimberly Brammer, Atlanta-based director of chapter support for the Alzheimer Association, says its national board initiated the disaffiliation process “after more than a year of working with the Eastern North Carolina chapter on these mutually agreed upon policies for the entire network of more than 70 chapters.”

Watkins and Brammer both say their organizations want to continue serving people in the region with Alzheimers, as well as their
families and caregivers.

“We’ve been working at services we provide in North Carolina, and more and more demands were being made by the national association,” says Watkins.

Brammer says the disaffiliation process was “based on noncompliance” by the Eastern North Carolina chapter with the association’s policies.

“This is a rare thing,” she says. “The last time the national board voted to disaffiliate dates back to 2002.”

What was the local chapter continues to operate.

And the association, which also has a Charlotte-based chapter that serves the western half of the state, will continue to maintain an office in Raleigh, Brammer says.

With a $1.2 million annual budget, a staff of seven employees and two consultants working under contract, Alzheimers North Carolina serves 51 counties.

It provides programs and services to individuals with Alzheimers disease or other dementias, and for their families and professional caregivers.

It also provides training for professional caregivers, offers a lending library with materials on the disease, sponsors conferences in communities throughout the region, and operates an 800 phone line to field questions and make referrals.

Watkins says the association, under a new policy that began in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2009, generally required the chapter to give it 40 cents for every dollar it raised, replacing a policy that had required the chapter to pay annual dues to the association.

In the previous fiscal year, the chapter’s dues, which were tied to the amount of funds it raised, had grown to just over $92,000, Watkins says.

Under that previous system, the association also advertised and targeted direct-marketing fundraising appeals in the chapter’s region, raising nearly $500,000 a year it did not share with the local chapter.

“The more we raised, the dues went up a little each year,” she says.

The association also required the chapter to pay the association for hosting the chapter’s website, to use the association’s accounting system for a fee, and to pay the association for handling its 800 phone line.

Watkins says the chapter had agreed to the requirement involving the website but had rejected the requirements involving the accounting system and 800 line, a decision that triggered the local board’s decision to disaffiliate.

“We’ve been trying to follow the rules and be professional about what we’re doing,” Watkins says.

But increasingly, she says, the Alzheimers Association “was just interfering with the oversight of the local board of directors.”

While the local group has changed its name, she said, “everything else is the same – same location, same services, same programs – and we’ve been doing that for 28 years.”

Alzheimers North Carolina, located at 400 Oberlin Rd. in Raleigh, Suite 220, can be reached at 919.832.3732 or 800.228.8738, or at www.alznc.org.

Brammer says the Alzheimers Association “operates within a well-known and respected fundraising model used by many organizations in the voluntary health field.”

With over 130,000 people with Alzheimers disease living in the state, she says, “serving those people continues to be the first priority of the Alzheimers Association.”

The association expects to establish a Raleigh office within a few weeks, she says, and already has a phone number at 919.395.5686.

It also has a website at www.alz.org/nc and operates a helpline at 800.272.3900.

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