Every two years, leaders from across the global cancer community come together at the World Cancer Congress. Held this year in Paris, and opened by François Hollande, the President of France, the event united cancer societies, hospitals, and research institutes to help encourage collaboration and accelerate the fight against cancer. With over 2,700 delegates across over 100 countries, the Congress provides a truly unique opportunity for forward-thinking individuals to learn from peers from around the globe.

As part of the Congress, CCS was privileged to help lead a special private session that gathered 50 Chief Executives of cancer-fighting organisations to discuss an important topic for leaders from across the not-for-profit community: how to secure the vital flexible, core funding. With rising public scrutiny of fundraising and foundations and institutional funders reducing their contributions to overheads, this remains one of the most pressing issues for the sector.

The session was facilitated by Sir Harpal Kumar, CEO of Cancer Research UK, and enabled Chief Executives to share their experiences – good and bad – and gather insights from their peers. Alongside Charlie Michaud, Principal and Managing Director of CCS, and Lynda Thomas, CEO of Macmillan, leaders of cancer societies and cancer hospitals from Egypt, Brazil, Cyprus, the Netherlands, the US, and elsewhere shared their insights and advice. Here are the top three takeaways:

1. A ‘worthy’ cause and a strong brand are important, but they are not enough: people still need to be asked. With one in three people affected by cancer, the disease affects more people’s lives in a very direct way. However, despite this strong connection to the cause, leaders from across the world agreed that asking donors – in the right way and regularly – is vital. The CEO of an organisation in the UK shared how they analysed their giving patterns against their peers and decided to increase how regularly they asked their donors for support, with impressive results.

2. Be smart about how you ‘package’ your request. Forward-thinking organisations have successfully identified activities from within their existing operating budget and packaged them for investment from private philanthropy, providing a vital support towards their regular operating expenses. Leaders at the session were encouraged to spend time reviewing their existing expenditure and identifying areas that could be presented to philanthropists. Building on this, the group also discussed how simple mechanisms like ‘challenge grants’ and ‘giving circles’ can be helpful for creating a compelling proposition.

3. A technique doesn’t need to be ‘new and fancy’ to be successful. In sharing examples of the approaches that had worked for their organisations, several leaders underscored that at the heart of their most successful programmes were very simple ideas. From Cancer Research UK’s successful Catalyst Club, which invites donors to make six-figure commitments to support personalised medicine, to St Jude’s ‘thanks and giving’ campaign, leaders encouraged their peers to focus on developing intuitive ideas and then spending time, effort, and energy implementing them effectively.

Securing core funding is a challenge that many organisations face – within and beyond the cancer community. Reviewing your organisation’s strategy will pay dividends in the long run and ensure the funds you raise through private philanthropy can be used for maximum impact.

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