UPDATE 10/22/2012: Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life from cycling, the International Cycling Union said on Monday, Reuters reports.
Happy 15th birthday, Livestrong. Or not?
As the foundation celebrates its major milestone days after Lance Armstrong stepped down as chairman, and sponsors Nike, RadioShack, Trek, and Anheuser-Busch parted ways with the cyclist, the question remains: What will happen to the Livestrong Foundation?
Philanthropy experts say the charity has a strong future -- that Armstrong's resignation is a blessing of sorts. "People remain aligned to the cause and the mission without being solely aligned to Lance Armstrong," Marian Stern, a philanthropy consultant and head of Projects in Philanthropy, told the Daily Beast.
The charity, founded after Armstrong's battle with testicular cancer, has raised $500 million. In 2010, when doping allegations began, the charity felt a dip in donations to $30 million. In recent months, ESPN reported that year-to-date revenues for the charity through Sept. 30, were up 2.1 percent to $33.8 million.
Separating Lance from Livestrong will be the charity's saving grace. Armstrong's resignation is a step in the right direction along with proper damage control from the charity's PR, according to the Daily Beast.
But, Richard Marker, a philanthropy expert and founder of New York University's Academy for Grantmaking and Funder Education, told the Daily Beast that he thinks Armstrong should "sever ties completely"with the charity rather than remaining on the Board of Directors.
On the plus side, Marker said he doesn't think the charity will suffer branding issues like the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Though Nancy Brinker stepped down as CEO of Susan G. Komen Foundation like Armstrong has, experts say Livestrong won't suffer the same fate because unlike Komen, its scandal wasn't directly linked to its cause.
Livestrong has taken precautions to distinguish itself from its famous founder. "Livestrong has institutionalized itself so that it will be protected from Mr. Armstrong's problems," Leslie Lenkowsky, a clinical professor of public affairs and philanthropic studies at Indiana University, told Businessweek, citing how the charity has diversified its sources of income, partnerships and programs.
"The Livestrong brand was more about the foundation and fighting cancer than it ever was about Lance Armstrong," Matt Powell, an analyst at consultancy SportsOneSource told the Wall Street Journal.
Still, in a philantropy.com article, Lenkowsky points out that unlike the case with many other celebrity charities, Armstrong embodies Livestrong's mission: he is a cancer survivor.
Kevin Gallivan, a 47-year-old cancer survivor, says that he, for one, is able to compartmentalize the scandal and the cause. "He can be a liar, and he is, but it's not going to affect my life in any way other than cancer," Gallivan told Businessweek. "I wear a Livestrong band on my wrist, and I will until the day I die."