senior executive vice president and chief operating officer
ALSAC, the fundraising organization for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Dave McKee's first day on the job with ALSAC/St. Jude Children's Research Hospital on Dec. 5, 1977, was trial by fire. No, really — the new regional director of the Southeast Region in Atlanta drove up to his office to find the building in flames, caused by a fire in the deli next door.
Dave was undeterred, and his unflappable persistence in turning challenges into successes has been the trademark of his 33-year career with ALSAC/St. Jude. He has been an integral force behind ALSAC's growth from a fledging fundraising organization raising $11.8 million in his first year to the nation's second largest health care charity, with record revenues of $691.9 million in FY10. ALSAC has experienced an average annual growth rate of more than 13 percent during Dave's tenure.
"Dave is the rock of ALSAC," ALSAC CEO Richard C. Shadyac Jr. says. "We have been through many changes in his 33 years here, and he is the one person who's always seen us through."
He also has been the driving force behind innovative and highly successful approaches to fundraising that have set the standard for the industry. An early example is ALSAC's Volunteer Service Center (VSC), which uses part-time employees to make calls asking volunteers to do fundraisers for the hospital. As associate director of development, Dave purposed the idea for consolidating regional efforts into one call center in late 1985.
Bike-a-Thon, Math-a-Thon and Trike-a-Thon were among the new VSC events in the first year, and all continue today, involving children as young as kindergarten age in philanthropy.
"Dave believes in the telemarketing effort, and it is one of the differences we have as an organization," says John McQuaig, VP of call centers. "The VSC brings volunteers to St. Jude at a young age to become a part of the St. Jude family. Math-a-Thon and Trike-a-Thon are the first steps in the life cycle of a donor, which is so critical to the organization."
Dave was promoted to director of regional development in 1989, the first year the organization held a national radiothon. Broadcast from the lobby of the hospital, the event was a failure. But Dave persisted. He arranged for St. Jude founder Danny Thomas to ask country music star Randy Owen to get involved and endorse the idea with country music stations and entertainers. That resulted in the development of Country Cares for St. Jude Kids, one of the most successful radio fundraising events in America. Since 1989, the program has raised more than $395 million in pledges.
Dave has a history of being ahead of the curve on emerging fundraising initiatives, such as the launch of a Hispanic marketing effort, Promesa y Esperanza, in 1997. The radiothon program is now in more than 40 markets and raises more than $25 million in pledges. He also was instrumental in revamping ALSAC's approach to gift planning, "helping us take it to the next level and become proactive in our fundraising," says Brenda Abshure, senior VP of gift planning.
Dave was promoted to senior VP of field operations in 1993 and became assistant national executive director in 1996. In 2000 he was promoted to chief operating officer, and in 2009 was promoted to senior executive vice president and COO.
Perhaps Dave's greatest contribution to ALSAC is his day-to-day leadership through three decades of change, including four CEOs.
"As CEOs have come and gone, he has been the lighthouse shining and keeping us pointed in the right direction," says Chris Boysen, VP of field operations. "He has always given his blessing on new projects if staff makes the case for them. He has given us the go-ahead and provided us with the resources to do it."
"Dave 'gets it,'" says Gloria Ballard, Dave's administrative assistant for 20 years. "He understands the mission and what we have to do to continue to be successful; he simply loves St. Jude."