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Cover Story : Cancer Survivors Pay It Forward

City of Hope layers email and direct mail for award-winning results in first patient-centric appeal

June 2014 By Heather Fletcher
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Michelle A. Gearhart-Pash beat cancer more times than there are words in her name—yet her smile still takes up half her face.

"I am a cancer survivor who is here today because of City of Hope," reads the letter she signed for the Duarte, Calif. nonprofit cancer hospital.

"Who better to tell the story about patient care than a patient?" asked Diana Keim, associate VP of annual giving at City of Hope. The six-time breast cancer survivor, Gearhart-Pash, came to mind immediately as the perfect person to tell her story for the hospital's first fundraising effort specifically sent to City of Hope patients. She became the face of the first patient campaign not only because Gearhart-Pash has been treated at the hospital for 26 years, says Keim, but because the co-founder and member of the Patient and Family Advisory Council is so involved with the hospital and understands its compassionate patient and family care.

Gearhart-Pash was the first, but not the last, patient to tell her story so City of Hope's former and current patients—who haven't been seen at the hospital more recently than three months before the campaigns—could donate to their research and treatment facility.

During the past two years, City of Hope and Arlington, Va.–based direct marketing agency Chapman Cubine Adams + Hussey (CCAH) sent email and direct mail to patients twice during the first year, then quarterly because it's been received so well. The campaign's debut during the 2012 holiday season saw an average gift of $107 from 921 donors among 60,657 direct mail recipients. On Sunday, Dec. 6, 2012, City of Hope and CCAH layered on an email campaign that began with a holiday card and followed up with two letters from Gearhart-Pash. More than 32 percent of recipients opened the emails and 0.13 percent of the patient audience responded, with an average donation of $190.48.

The email campaign, which increased City of Hope's gross revenue per thousand recipients from $69.86 to $246.29, even earned CCAH an award.

Keim says the success all stemmed from one idea.

"Patients have always been in the pipeline for major gifts and planned giving," she says, "but it's never been a written-down strategy to say, 'This is what we're going to do in direct marketing for this patient audience.' So, again, once we went with CCAH [hiring the agency in April 2011] and … implemented a new CRM system … it allowed us to sit down and say, 'OK, we have this group of people, patients, who we feel have the most reason to give to City of Hope—more so than a list that we rent out in the market. So when we're looking for people to become donors to City of Hope, we should really be going to our patients."

 

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