Giving hope

 

Few people today haven’t been affected by cancer in one way or another, through personal experience or through friends or family. According to the World Cancer Report, published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (part of the World Health Organisation), malignant tumours were responsible for a staggering 12 percent of the nearly 56 million deaths worldwide from all causes in 2000.
Lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, accounting for 1.2 million new cases annually, followed by breast cancer with just over one million cases.
In view of these sobering statistics, it is no surprise that cancer research has become so important globally – in developed as well a emerging countries.
Based in Duarte, California, City of Hope Cancer Center is one of the preeminent biomedical research and treatment centres in the US dedicated to the prevention, treatment and cure of cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
Record-setting science
City of Hope was created in 1913 and since then it has been involved in numerous scientific breakthroughs:
• A growing number of important cancer therapies are based on research pioneered by City of Hope scientists, including the drugs Herceptin, Rituxan and Avastin.
• Millions of people with diabetes worldwide benefit from synthetic human insulin developed through research conducted at City of Hope.
• City of Hope is the first institution in the world to perform a clinical study using genetically engineered T-cells to recognise and attack glioma, a form of brain cancer that is almost always fatal.
At any given time, City of Hope is conducting more than 300 clinical studies, involving 30-40 percent of its eligible patients. The US average is five percent.
To always be at the cutting edge of medical science, City of Hope relies heavily on financial support. In FY 2005, the institute was awarded more than $55.6 million in research grants and received nearly $73.9 million in revenues from patented technologies. But that’s nowhere near enough to fund the research that is being undertaken at the centre. Local and national fundraising campaigns from individuals as well as several industries further supplement these sources of income.
The office products industry has been an avid supporter of City of Hope for 25 years – and is now its biggest industry fundraiser. It all started in 1983 when the late Aaron Hull from office furniture company Aaron’s Office Furniture had the vision to start an industry event to raise money for cancer research. He approached Jack Miller, at the time president of Quill Corporation, and in the same year the Spirit of Life Gala Dinner was born, a small industry gathering in Chicago where Hull become the first Spirit of Life honouree. The event raised about $25,000.
And the office products industry and everybody involved in the Spirit of Life campaign have never looked back from these humble beginnings, having embraced City of Hope as a major charity.
Matt Dodd is senior director of development for the National Office Products Industry (NOPI) at City of Hope. He puts the 1983 figure into context: "The Spirit of Life campaign, which in 1983 consisted of the gala dinner only and raised about $25,000, now enjoys the support of nearly 300 office products companies each year. In 2006, it raised a total of $6.2 million. And the campaign consists of much more than just the dinner – last year, we had nearly a dozen corporately hosted golf outings (raising $2.5 million), 15 employee giving campaigns ($500,000), and eight cause-related marketing and special promotions ($2 million). There’s also a personal giving club called Friends for Hope that contributed."
Research fund
Over the last 25 years, NOPI and the Spirit of Life campaign have raised $46 million for City of Hope, $27 million of it in the last five years. The statistics vary slightly from year to year, but Dodd estimates that 85 cents out of every dollar raised from the campaign goes towards research, treatment and education programmes ongoing at City of Hope, while only 15 cents cover the expense of financing the campaigns.
Most of the money raised by the OP industry goes into a general research pot and is allocated as appropriate by the City of Hope. But there have also been a number of occasions when funds were earmarked for specific projects. The Center for Biomedicine and Genetics (CBG) is one such example.
One of the largest academic research-based facilities of its kind in the US, the two-storey, 20,000 sq ft CBG was opened in 2001 – and OP companies were the main fundraisers. Previously, when breakthroughs occurred in the laboratory, City of Hope researchers had to rely on outside sources to translate the discoveries into therapeutic compounds suitable for patients. With the CBG, new patient therapies can now be developed on site at City of Hope and quickly delivered to the patient’s bedside.
The centre is also able to offer innovative therapies such as genetically engineered viruses that deliver treatments directly to diseased cells, antibodies developed from patients’ own tumour cells, and genetically modified immune system T-cells.
The OP industry is recognised for its contribution towards the building via a plaque above the main entrance. In addition, campaigners came up with a unique idea on how to raise more money and be even more ‘visible’. Jess Beim, senior VP at Avery Dennison US and this year’s Spirit of Life honouree, was in charge of the initiative.
He says: "Outside the main entrance of the CBG is a courtyard made out of bricks. We sold all those bricks for $300 a piece and we made thousands and thousands of dollars. People who bought one got their name or that of their company or grandchildren etched into that brick and it’ll be there for ever. That’s just an example of how we’re constantly thinking of programmes that we run within the entire Spirit of Life campaign.
Having a goal to work towards is certainly a bonus for fundraisers, as Beim admits, adding that a proportion of monies raised over the next three years will be used for a facility about to be built, the Center for Cancer Immunotherapeutics and Tumor Immunology.
It would be hard to overestimate the importance that the US OP industry attributes to its support of City of Hope. Ron Shaw from Pilot Pen Corporation has been involved in the Spirit of Life campaign almost from the beginning. Having been a member of the National Office Products Council (NOPC) – the body that set up the original fundraising guidelines, selects the honourees and liaises closely with City of Hope – since 1990, he became NOPC chairman earlier this year when his predecessor Bob Parker passed away.
Shaw says: "I don’t know anybody who hasn’t been affected in some way by cancer and I hold my position as chairman of the NOPC with great pride. When we raised this record amount of $6.2 million last year, you can image how proud I was to have been part of this for so many years. And there’s no such thing as raising too much money for cancer research. We have to keep doing this."
For Shaw, as well as for many of his fellow Spirit of Life supporters, it’s a corporate as well as a personal effort. And beyond attending the key industry events in aid of City of Hope, such as the annual tour of the institute’s facilities or the Spirit of Life dinner, companies are coming up with ever more inventive ideas on how to raise money. From employee giving campaigns such as car washes or blue jeans days to entire corporate fundraising events like golf tournaments, the list of support activities is long and varied.
According to Dodd, cause-related marketing is the fastest growing component of the Spirit of Life campaign. He explains: "More and more, companies are using a partnership with City of Hope to help separate their products from others on the shelves and in the process raise invaluable funding for City of Hope. All things being equal, customers are more inclined to purchase products that support humanitarian causes that are important to them."
But while Dodd alludes to the competitive advantage of teaming up with a much respected charity, by the same token it’s interesting to see how companies – even direct competitors – band together as one for the cause they are supporting.
It’s always been like that, says James Fellowes, chairman/CEO of Fellowes. An active supporter of City of Hope for many years, Spirit of Life honouree in 1997 and a member of the NOPC, Fellowes explains: "Our fundraising work for City of Hope has taken on a higher calling than our everyday industry activity. The work resides above the competitive fray. It is our tradition that competitors support one another because the City of Hope work is important enough to set above our competitive instincts."
Networking opportunity
And, of course, many of the Spirit of Life events also make for great networking opportunities. Take the annual City of Hope tour, says Beim. "The tour has several benefits. Firstly, it’s interesting seeing the site and what City of Hope does, and meeting some of the scientists and the doctors. Secondly, this is a great opportunity to meet with 75 to 100 senior executives of our industry in a very nice environment."
Fellowes agrees. He says that companies not currently involved stand to gain much by joining the support for City of Hope cancer research. "From industry golf outings and the tour of the facilities to the Spirit of Life dinner, all these events are designed to combine the benefits of an industry gathering with the satisfaction one gains by being involved in important philanthropic work.
"Speaking for myself, the days in which we have toured the facilities in Duarte, California, or attended the Spirit of Life dinner in Chicago are arguably the two most uplifting experiences of my business calendar each year."
What could be more rewarding than that?