Who Really Funds Ronald McDonald Houses?

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The numbers may surprise you

By Colleen Steppa

If you’ve been in a McDonald’s in the past 25 years, you’ve probably seen one of those little cardboard houses for pop tab recycling that funds Ronald McDonald Houses. Many people assume that McDonald’s is a main contributor to Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), but the mega-corporation’s annual budget shows otherwise. Since 1974, McDonald’s restaurants have been partner to Ronald McDonald House Charities, a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation.

Ronald McDonald houses are places where families can live close to their hospitalized children for the duration of their stay. Every house provides meals, a playroom for children, and private bedrooms for parents and siblings. Some houses also include special suites for children with suppressed immune systems, recreational activities, education programs, and sibling support services.

imagesThe houses are run by volunteers and families may stay at no cost or make a non-compulsory donation of up to $25 per day. Family Rooms located inside hospitals feature such accommodations as sleeping facilities, showers, laundry, functional kitchens and internet access to give family members a similar experience to a Ronald McDonald house without leaving the hospital building.

Local McDonald’s restaurant owners and operators fund portions of the yearly operational costs of the Houses, but the majority of funding comes from individual and corporate donors. The Charities only receive about 20% of their total revenue from McDonald’s, about $34 million in 2011 which amounted to around .32% (or about 1/3 of a 1 percent) of McDonald’s total profits that year. By contrast, in 2012, McDonald’s customers donated about $50 million in 2011, far surpassing McDonald’s own contributions. These figures are even more surprising given the average American household donates about 4.7% of their total income to some charity, almost 15 times what McDonald’s donates to its own not-for-profit.

image.pullquoteAccording to Charity Navigator’s figures from Fiscal Year 2013, RMHC uses 67.9% of program expenses towards programs and services delivered, with 22.3% allocated towards fundraising. The Charities do not actively pursue or use government grant funding and pay for the bulk of their funding (totalling $3733,810 in FY 2013) with contributions, gifts, and grants ($2,833,392 in FY 2013).

Ronald McDonald House Charities also provides other programs such as Care Mobile, which provides mobile health screening in areas where children are medically underserved, and college scholarships for students with high community involvement, and grants for 501(c)(3) organizations focusing on children.

A Minneapolis Ronald McDonald House featured in Minnesota Monthly began operating in 1979 and was renovated from an old U of M fraternity house located on  621 Oak Street. This house has 48 private rooms with bathrooms, provides home-cooked dinners nightly, and has an on-site accredited K-12 school. Other RMHC locations in the Twin Cities include a House inside Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, Minneapolis and a Family Room inside Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.

Ronald McDonald House Charities

630.623.7048, info@rmhc.orgrmhtwincities.org

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