For a while, St. Jude’s only fundraisers were volunteers across the country who held small events in their local communities — mainly fans inspired by the celebrities they saw supporting the organization. As it grew, the hospital began to add professional fundraising staff, but it never stopped relying on volunteers.
“It would be very costly to have a fundraising staff that does what our volunteers do,” says Marilyn Elledge, senior vice president of donor care for ALSAC/St. Jude. “They enable us to raise far greater sums than we would otherwise raise; they extend our brand and our name throughout the communities. They’re just irreplaceable. I’m so proud of the model Danny started with us.”
ALSAC/St. Jude has more than 30,000 fundraising events a year put on by what Moses calls its “volunteer army” — more than 1 million volunteers around the country, whose regional events accounted for 26 percent of the organization’s net fundraising in FY 2006.
The institution considers a volunteer anyone who works to raise money and is not compensated in any way, which includes its celebrity army.
Volunteers from kindergarten to adult hold fundraising events that include math-a-thons, marches, dinners and golf tournaments.
Volunteers most often are recruited through phone calls in which ALSAC/St. Jude staff explain the hospital’s mission and its need for donations, and ask people to help by organizing an event in their community. Volunteers then organize the events and recruit people to participate.
“One of the things I love to tell my staff is they’re friend-raising as well as fundraising, and people are more likely to give their time to a cause they’re passionate about,” Elledge says. “So we very strongly try to nurture their relationship with St. Jude and help them to love being a part of St. Jude.”