Ribbons and bake sales and walk-a-thons, oh my!

How to maintain a commitment to disease education without creating “fundraising fatigue”

Disease awareness is a trending phenomenon that has its benefits. It educates the public, encourages early detection (when available) and raises money for a number of organizations which use the money to help patients and advance research. However, it seems that almost every month is awareness month for a particular disease, and that every color of the rainbow has been used to make a ribbon commemorating one disease or another. To support these causes, there are fundraisers, company matches, bike rides, walk-a-thons, raffles…even dumping ice on one’s head for a viral video. These causes tug at our heartstrings because likely everybody has lost a loved one to a terrible disease, and we want to be supportive and giving and sensitive to these causes, but when there are so many of them, how do we balance being charitable without drowning in one fundraiser after another to a point where we lose track of the causes we support? Why are those causes are important in the first place?

At Celgene, we try to strike a fine balance between delivering truly innovative and life-changing drugs for those in need while maintaining a sensitivity to the patient. This is reflected in our values with regards to always putting the patient first. We want to work hard to continue our bold pursuit of novel therapies, but we also want to be engaged with our patients and the organizations that provide support for the disease areas we work in. So how does Celgene strike the balance between our commitment to fundraising without it detracting from the bigger picture?

While there are several worthy causes to choose from, it is simply not feasible to support every one of them. Therefore Celgene carefully selects organizations that are aligned with Celgene’s mission and the work we are doing. These include the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN), the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF)/Team Continuum, and the Arthritis Foundation. Celgene also supports charities dealing with social issues such as hunger; Stop Hunger Now and Feed America.

A huge component of fundraising is financial of course, however at Celgene, we don’t want to ask employees to pull out their checkbook for every cause we support. Awareness and employee engagement can come in many forms. While raising funds for organizations is important, we want our employees to have some fun and show support in other ways.

One of our largest fundraising efforts is for the LLS Light the Night Walk. In addition to asking employees to raise funds, Celgene is also offering a company match to employees. The capstone event is the walk which is a great way to get employees to actively participate and interact with people directly affected by blood cancers. Celgene sub-teams also organize several activities building up to the walk such as raffles, bake sales and even an opportunity to win your own parking spot to really encourage employee engagement whether people are participating in the walk or not.

PanCan is another organization of which Celgene is a national sponsor. Celgene is encouraging employees to form teams and get involved in a local PurpleStrides event. On the fun side, Celgene is having a “Purple Pride” Challenge in which employees are encouraged to create a 15-second video showcasing as much purple as possible, stating their purple pride for pancreatic cancer, then daring 2 employees to also make a video. Celgene is also a supporter of the MMRF endurance programs and New York Marathon, and the Arthritis Foundation’s Arthritis Walk.

While Celgene does not have a fundraiser for breast cancer, it does play a major role in raising disease awareness. Celgene’s Twitter feed was exploding with facts and information about breast cancer in October, and even made a video for triple negative breast cancer awareness. Celgene also provides mammograms on site. Even though these actions are not raising money for breast cancer, Celgene is demonstrating its support via social media and making the screening tool conveniently available to its employees.

For those employees who may not have the time to walk or run and would prefer to simply donate, Celgene has even made that easy by partnering with United Way and Community Health Charities to create an online donation site. Employees can choose where to donate to, and even have the option to use a credit card or even easier, payroll deduction.

Celgene’s commitment is further demonstrated in its creation of a Corporate Social Responsibility department, led by Zeba Kahn, VP. Zeba says, “At Celgene, our mission is to improve the lives of patients around the world. With that in mind, Celgene strives to support and have a positive impact on the global communities where we have a presence. Working together with our employees and others, Celgene is making a difference.”

Dmitri Siegel, a director in the government relations department, is an active participant in Celgene fundraisers. Dmitri says, “I am proud to be with a company where the people I work with are so involved in helping others. We are all patients. We all face challenges in life. Those of us that work for Celgene know that we are helping patients overcome challenges and that is very fulfilling. Being actively involved in charities like the MMRF Empire State Building Run Up with other Celgene employees has been so meaningful for me. I am very grateful.”

At Celgene, we try to strike a fine balance between delivering truly innovative and life-changing drugs for those in need while maintaining a sensitivity to the patient.

Jackie Fouse, President Hem/Onc is not only one of Celgene’s leaders, but also leads by example with regards to charitable giving and participation. Given her position in both Celgene and the fundraising world, Jackie’s perspectives on charitable giving were inspiring and impactful. Jackie noted that while working at Celgene presents its employees with the opportunities and raises awareness, the willingness and desire to give has to be on a personal level. The desire to volunteer and give back then becomes a vehicle for generating advocacy and becomes a personal commitment that becomes synergistic with the job. The more we do, the closer we get to our patients, adding another dimension to our jobs. Jackie says, “We live the ‘patients come first’ mission. Because of that and the unmet medical needs we serve, we can see and feel the impact and it gives a greater connectivity to the purpose and people we serve. Celgene is good and creative at encouraging all forms of participation so by providing employees with a broad choice they will find something to pursue.”

Jackie noted that there is a lot of appetite to volunteer so we see the employees helping out not just through Celgene-sponsored initiatives but on their own as well. A cancer survivor herself, Jackie said “If we can leverage what we do at Celgene to raise funds and awareness, it’s a wonderful unique opportunity, and when you are a survivor it becomes even more personal.”

Celgene’s commitment to improving the lives of patients worldwide is not only reflected in its mission to deliver innovative and life-changing drugs, but is also evidenced in its corporate social responsibility to the organizations which support the patients we wish to help. Not only does Celgene as an organization support these causes, but this commitment is evidenced in the actions of the employees as well. Celgene has done a fantastic job of raising disease awareness in a way which engages employees without creating fundraising fatigue.