In 2017, Boar’s Head Brand lost one of its own when its head of cybersecurity, Jay Koopman, died from brain cancer. Jay had a larger-than-life personality, and his absence was felt throughout the company.
Employees were moved by Jay’s unwavering humor and strength throughout his cancer battle. They wanted to do something to pay tribute to him while helping other cancer patients. Recalling the remarkable care Jay had received at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, a group of Boar’s Head Brand team members came together to launch a campaign to benefit the hospital’s Cancer Institute. They named the fundraiser Circle of Friends.
When deciding where to designate the funds raised, the Boar’s Head Brand team turned to Jay’s wife, Cindy, and Cancer Institute Director Kelly Batista for advice. Based on Cindy and Kelly’s feedback, the company decided the money would do the most good if it focused on comfort needs for cancer patients and the staff caring for them.
Once they identified a goal, Boar’s Head Brand developed a comprehensive campaign combining fundraising, volunteer service and personal wellness. In order to make it happen, they needed to get as many employees as possible on board. That didn’t seem a difficult task, given the impact Jay had made on them and their history of rallying together for a cause. In the past, they’ve given money, donated vacation days, and offered any other assistance employees needed during difficult times.
Getting it Done
Boar’s Head Brand chose February—National Cancer Prevention Month—to launch its Circle of Friends campaign. The company selected a group of employees from various departments to form a Champion Team, which brainstormed ways to increase participation. One of the team’s suggestions was to offer payroll deductions to make it easier for employees to donate.
With input from the Champion Team, the company held a kickoff meeting to share the campaign’s purpose and goals, and to explain all the ways employees could get involved. Within two hours of the meeting, every one of the 75 volunteer spots had been filled, and several employees had already made sizable financial gifts.
To raise money, the team held a variety of fundraisers, including a silent auction, bake sale, trivia contest, online art auction, step challenge and ice cream social. The company kept employees involved and focused on their goals by sharing updates each Monday and Friday, as well as by circulating information through emails, events, posters and word of mouth. “The ongoing communication kept us informed about what events were taking place and how much money was being raised in donations,” says Debra Robertson, Category Manager for the Business Insights Team.
Leading by Example
Throughout the campaign, Boar’s Head Brand leadership demonstrated its commitment to the cause. Company executives were among the first to volunteer their time and money. They acted as cheerleaders throughout the process, encouraging their teams to keep pushing forward until they had reached the campaign’s fundraising goals. Going all in, the company also committed to match every dollar its employees donated.
“It is important for people to know that their company cares about their community,” Robertson says. “While the business pays the bills, the passion from the employees comes from working for a company that stands behind their community and their employees.”
Nearly 100 percent of employees contributed their time or money to the campaign—far surpassing the original goal. They did it not just for Jay, but also to honor their own friends and family members who had been diagnosed with cancer.
“Our people gave their heart and soul to this campaign. They played guitar, they painted masterpieces, they served 100 meals to the Sarasota Memorial Hospital’s oncology staff, they donated their vacation days,” says fifth-generation Boar’s Head Brand Owner Robert P. Martin.
Circle of Friends was an unparalleled success, raising more money than any other outside employee giving campaign in the Healthcare Foundation’s history. “The best part was that moment of truth at the wrap party, when we finally got to see the results of our combined efforts,” says Alvin Cunningham, IT service support manager. “I was ecstatic to learn that we met every goal for the campaign.”
Circle of Friends was also a big success among Boar’s Head Brand employees who saw the direct impact of their generosity on cancer care in the community. “The most inspiring part of the campaign wasn’t the money raised – it was our intent. Sarasota Memorial Hospital is our hospital. It’s where we go…where our loved ones go,” says Travis Cartwright, senior manager of business development.
“I hope that when our people see the new Cancer Institute buildings being constructed they remember the very real impact they’ve had on our community,” Martin said. “I know I will.”