ALSAC Embraces Digital Innovation and Drives Fundraising Efforts
“Our next 11 million donors will look completely different from our current 11 million donors, ” says Richard Shadyac, CEO of the American-Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC), the fundraising and public engagement arm of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. It’s a forward-thinking statement from the leader of an organization that’s been looking ahead since its founding in 1957.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was founded to provide pediatric cancer care, regardless of children’s race, religion, nationality, or socioeconomic standing. The childhood cancer survival rate is one of their key metrics for success. Since their founding, St. Jude has helped raise the survival rate for the most common childhood cancer to 90%, and has raised the survival rate of one specific type of pediatric leukemia to 94%, the bet worldwide outcome for that disease. In 2018, they announced a goal (in partnership with the World Health Organization) to raise the childhood cancer survival rate to 60% by the year 2030.
Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food – so they can focus on helping their child live. This core promise – that families should only have to focus on their children’s health and well-being while under the care of St. Jude – begets an urgent need for fundraising.
A Focus on Innovation Drives Fundraising
And ALSAC has met that need. They’re currently one of the top four fundraisers in the country, raising close to $2 billion annually, which accounts for about 80% of the hospital’s expenses. They accomplish this with a diverse portfolio of fundraising tactics – everything from their “dream house” raffle to workplace giving programs and roughly 30,000 in-person events annually. With fundraising efforts yielding 150% higher returns over the course of the last decade, ALSAC CEO Shadyac points to their culture of innovation that has helped them scale and optimize their efforts.
“We fundamentally believe that innovation needs to be at the core of what we do,” says Shadyac. “You don’t innovate, you’re going to die. We live in a time where things are extremely accelerated. We need to be agile and…adapt to these times,” he says, “and it requires an innovative mind.”
The organization uses Nonprofit Success Pack for a single source of truth in their CRM, Service Cloud for the tech behind their call center; Commerce Cloud to sell both physical and virtual items that donors can purchase or “sponsor;” and Marketing Cloud for some external communications. These tools help them deliver powerful narratives across the various channels and engagements where they can reach donors.
Leaning into a Digital Focus During the Pandemic
And because they’ve long embraced digital innovation, ALSAC was well positioned to adapt their fundraising strategies when the Covid-19 pandemic hit last year. Their team was energized, says Shadyac, by the possibilities they were being forced to consider to keep donors engaged in the mission.
ALSAC leaned way into a digital focus, resulting in a record year of fundraising. They brought in $3 million in a 10-hour livestream using TikTok, Twitch, and Strava, and $2 million in a second livestream. “We raised more money in 2020 than we had in previous years by bringing patient families and stories to the forefront in a new way,” Shadyac says. And with Salesforce tools and technology, he says, they were able to measure the impact of everything they did.
But back to those 11 million donors. Part of having innovation and transformation as core values means always looking ahead to forecast changes so that the organization will be better poised to adapt. And that’s what ALSAC has always done, says Shadyac. By embracing high-tech tools for ongoing transformation, he says, they can continue to scale while staying true to their mission.
Leveraging Technology to Adapt to New Audiences
“Our goal is to become an audience-led organization,” he says. “We want to meet people where they are. We are keenly focused on the idea that in the next 8-10 years, there will be generational shifts.” How ALSAC reaches new audiences and donors will be completely different from how they reach their current ones, he says.
At the same time, the vision at St. Jude and ALSAC hasn’t changed, says Shadyac. “We’re all about finding cures and saving children,” he says. “We made a bold promise to ourselves and the world” when they announced their goal to raise the childhood cancer survival rate to 60% in this decade, he says. “And we’re gonna make it happen.”