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The V Foundation Fights Cancer Through the Pandemic

(The Triangle Trend) — “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up!” 

Jim Valvano’s inspirational words, gleaned from his March 4, 1993 ESPYS speech that announced the creation of the V Foundation for Cancer Research, have never been more poignant. 

While the world collectively navigates COVID-19, the important work of the V Foundation continues. You see, when your mission is the eradication of cancer, not even a pandemic can keep you down. And though Devin Gilreath, VP of Finance at the V Foundation, shared his excitement and optimism for 2021, he was careful to note that getting here was no small feat. 

A little over a year ago, with December 2019 fundraising at record levels, it’s no surprise that expectations were high for another record-breaking year. Business as usual became business unusual with staff relegated to remote work to ensure all were safe. But the expected short-term disruption quickly evolved into a long-term logistical challenge. 

On the positive side, the V Foundation didn’t have to turn to layoffs or furloughs. Due to the overwhelming generosity of donors, they have an endowment that covers ALL operating expenses. As such, no staff cuts or cost-saving measures were necessary. 

But, they knew they had to be sensitive about fundraising while the virus raged. Events were canceled and others were delayed or moved to virtual platforms. Adjustments and accommodations were made—adapt and adopt became the mantra. 

Two of their flagship events, the Dick Vitale Gala and the Wine Celebration, were re-imagined as virtual events leveraging familiar platforms like Zoom, YouTube, and Facebook. So, during the late summer of 2020, Vitale hosted his namesake gala virtually as did Coach K with the wine event. One major upside to the move to virtual events was the unlimited audience that could attend.

The move to virtual proved a mixed bag with the Wine Celebration falling short of the previous year’s fundraising totals while the Dick Vitale Gala had its greatest fundraising success ever. But, success wasn’t being measured solely in dollars. Finding a way to deliver these beloved and highly anticipated events kept the V Foundation viable during a year where nothing was normal and everything existed on a learning curve. 

And Gilreath noted as the year was coming to a close, that despite the unforeseen disruptions of 2020, holiday and year-end giving hit record levels. 

“By the time we reached the Fall of 2020, people were comfortable with their finances and were seeking some normalcy,” he noted. This normalcy included donating to worthy causes.

As the new year dawns, change abounds at the V Foundation. New CEO, Shane Jacobson, replaces Susan Braun. Braun departs the foundation after 8 years at the helm. She was instrumental in the sustained growth and success realized at the foundation during her tenure. 

Going forward, events will be customized and modified based on the constraints exacted by the pandemic. They will be live, virtual, or hybrids of both. Gilreath noted that restrictions around hosting live events have forced fundraising organizations and their associated events to the Fall. As such, it has become a very crowded space where so many are competing for the same donated dollars. This limited window of opportunity demands creative ways to stand out to donors. 

For 28 years, the V Foundation has stood out as one of the premier supporters of cutting-edge cancer research and 2021 will likely be another for the record books. So, while the pandemic’s end appears to be within reach with the distribution of multiple vaccines, there is no giving up this fight against cancer.

Visit The V Foundation’s website to learn more. 

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