A cause for hope
by Stephen White
United Stationers is about to go over the $2 million barrier for funds raised for the City of Hope, a treatment centre for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. President/CEO Dick Gochnauer explains that there is still work to be done, however.
United Stationers’ Associate Fundraiser was born in 1999 with the Summer of Hope Bricks campaign. The goal was to sell 30 sponsored bricks over the summer, but associates ended up more than tripling that number, buying 123 bricks which now grace the front patio of the City of Hope’s Center for Biomedicine and Genetics, a building largely funded by the office products industry.
And fundraisers are very excited to have the opportunity to add to that number with the final 80 bricks recently released for purchase to complete the patio.
City of Hope is a leading research and treatment centre for life-threatening diseases. In 2000, United’s then President and CEO, Randy Larrimore, was named its Spirit of Life Honoree. That year, United’s employees threw themselves into the campaign raising a total of $380,000. Over the course of the next seven years, they have raised nearly $1.1 million, much of it from grassroots events such as jeans days, garage sales, bake sales, silent auctions, raffles, bowlathons, car washes and numerous others.
As Jamie Ruggles, the Associate Fundraiser’s ‘campaign manager’ since 1999, explains: "We find that we are only limited by our imagination and our creativity – and we have proven to be a very creative, dedicated, resourceful and passionate group of people." Ruggles also points out that the Associate Fundraiser has never raised less than $114,000 in any given year – even those years when the campaign took a little step back to give associates a bit of a "breather".
However, they have set their sights very high again in 2008 with the ‘Cause for Hope’ campaign honouring United’s present President and CEO, Dick Gochnauer, who will be representing all the associates of United Stationers as the Spirit of Life Honoree at the Gala Dinner in Chicago on 25 September. This time they have committed to raising $500,000. As Ruggles says: "When we achieve that goal, we will surpass the $2 million mark – and I have absolutely no doubt that we will reach our goal. We are well on our way."
"Yes, it is a tough target, but ultimately worthwhile," adds Gochnauer.
Gochnauer has a long history of working with non-profit organisations including Opportunity International, Saint Joseph Ballet, Orangewood Children’s Foundation, Rising Tide Transitional Housing, Foundation for Christian Fellowship, and various YMCAs. But the City of Hope is especially close to his heart.
"I’ve had good friends who have been treated there," he says. "It is a peaceful place that is conducive not just to treatment but also to research.
"One of the things you find is that City of Hope has a philosophy that there is no profit in treating the body if in the process you destroy the soul. And you can just feel it there – people just feel good about the respect and care they are given."
City of Hope is a fully integrated research centre and hospital. Gochnauer feels it is unique in its vision and in what it has been able to accomplish through funding and fundraising. "All of that has enabled it to attract the most capable doctors and scientists. I’ve spent time walking the wards and you truly believe people have the best chance there," he says.
One reason why United has been so successful in its fundraising is through initiating a payroll deduction programme in 2000 accounting for 20 percent of the total raised by the company’s associates.
In 2007, that percentage rose to 71 percent and in 2008, the company raised the stakes significantly by announcing that it would match all payroll deductions and outright donations dollar for dollar. This has proven to be a great incentive as the number of associates participating in the programme company-wide has risen from 3 percent to nearly 25 percent.
"People can sign up to donate a percentage but we also provide paid time for them to participate in fundraising; we’re teaching stewardship and the joy of giving something back. You could call it enlightened self-interest – but that is a benefit of doing something worthwhile," says Gochnauer.
United has a dedicated group of associates at its corporate headquarters that comprises the City of Hope Team. This group meets on a regular basis to brainstorm and implement fundraising events throughout the year. Some events are tried and tested winners, such as the annual Officers Car Wash when associates enjoy watching their managers wash their cars while "consuming an ice cream cone and offering sage advice," according to Ruggles.
Others are new events, such as this year’s Family Cookbook that includes favourite recipes compiled by associates. They also teach cooking. "It’s amazing what the team comes up with!" laughs Gochnauer.
United’s distribution centres around the country have also been involved in the fundraising activities over the years. Each location has a City of Hope coordinator who puts together a team to plan and supervise its own events. The Los Angeles facility, for example, hosts a bowlathon that gets suppliers, customers as well as associates involved and raises thousands of dollars.
With such enthusiasm a continuing strong relationship between the cause and the office products industry is assured.
"I’m proud to be part of this cause and it’s a tribute to the industry that it is supporting something like this. I think people have found that not only is it good to get behind something, but it also provides a vehicle for the industry to get together and collaborate.
Gochnauer adds: "The past ten years have set the stage. We have no doubt that we will continue our charitable tradition established back in 1999 with just a few bricks and mortar."
About City of Hope
City of Hope is a leading research and treatment centre for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center, the highest honour bestowed by the National Cancer Institute, and a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, City of Hope’s research and treatment protocols advance care throughout the nation. City of Hope is located in Duarte (CA), just north-east of Los Angeles, and is ranked as one of "America’s Best Hospitals" in cancer and urology by US News & World Report. Founded in 1913, City of Hope is a pioneer in the fields of bone marrow transplantation and genetics.