Despite great success with increasing survival rates, detection rates for breast cancer keep climbing and mortality rates stay stubbornly high. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in Australia and every day 8 Australian women die from breast cancer 1.
As part of its goal to have zero breast cancer deaths by 2030, the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) has developed a novel approach to increase its profile, influence and philanthropic donations.
Working together to beat breast cancer
NBCF CEO Professor Sarah Hosking, Circle of 10 Founding member Sanchia Brahimi and NBCF Ambassador Jane Fleming.
The approach is called ‘Circle of 10’. The idea is to create small groups of philanthropists who commit to personally and financially backing the research projects of individual scientific researchers.
It started in Sydney five years ago with Sanchia Brahimi and NBCF Board Director Deeta Colvin. Together they formed the first Circle from 10 women in their personal networks of influential women. To be a part of the Circle each member had to contribute $10,000 and commit to meeting regularly for two years in order to fund a research project from one of Australia’s leading cancer researchers.
Professor Sarah Hosking, CEO at NBCF says that research has always relied on the power and passion of individuals who make a committed decision to invest in the vision of researchers.
“This Circle of 10 is instrumental to helping achieve our mission of zero deaths by 2030. Our target is possible but only if we continue to receive direct investment for the world-class research we fund.
In attending the Circle of 10 events, I have heard the stories of Circle members who have lost loved ones and who have been affected by breast cancer, who believe in the power of research. The Circles’ growth and national presence is truly a testament to the women who have committed to this initiative.”
An approach with mutual benefit
NBCF Circle of 10 chosen researcher Dr Stacey Edwards, Circle of 10 Brisbane member Alesia De Luca, and NBCF CEO Professor Sarah Hosking.
Kay Schubach, Head of Philanthropy at NBCF says that the format has proved successful, both for NBCF and for the Circle members. There are now two Circles in Sydney and one each in Melbourne and Brisbane and they are benefitting NBCF as well as the Circle members:
“The women love the close connection to research. To be able to visit the lab and talk to a leading researcher and be a part of a breakthrough that can really have an impact on society and beyond. They also love the social aspect of connecting with like-minded women of influence.
It is a unique experience which they’re proud to share with their community. They’re proud of what they’re doing for society by contributing to the mission of NBCF — it’s really exciting.”
As for what the Circles bring to NBCF, it is the five cutting-edge research projects which have received funding from the Circles (two complete and three still underway). The projects are very varied and tackle everything from developing early, non-invasive cancer detection techniques to new methods for treating metastatic breast cancer (cancer which has spread to other parts of the body) through immunotherapy, which stimulates the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.
As well as the direct financial impact of the Circles, there are other benefits which NBCF receives. Having a high-profile group of people so closely involved in NBCF research gives them a network of influential champions who talk freely, knowledgeably and passionately about its work. There is also the possibility of further collaboration with Circle members in other ways, whether through broader fundraising initiatives, marketing and PR, or introductions to wealthy and powerful people within their own networks.
“You need a champion to get it off the ground with the same vision as you, who is committed to the mission. That champion would work closely with you to get it started and look within their networks first to see if there’s an appetite for it…and then grow it from there.”
What can other NFPs learn from this?
With the gradual decline in mass giving in Australia and government funding unreliable, competition has intensified among charities and NFPs. In this environment many organisations are looking for new ways to increase their profile and diversify their funding sources. Kay offers this advice for any NFPs that might want to adopt a similar strategy:
“You need to have organisational buy-in to make it work. Your organisation needs to understand the importance of fundraising and how this would fit into your major gift strategy. Identifying champions within the community is key.”
What’s next for the Circle and NBCF?
NBCF has an ambitious goal of zero breast cancer deaths by 2030. While five-year survival rates have increased from 76% to 91% since NBCF started in 1994, it is expecting this last 9% to be very stubborn and difficult to shift. The Circle of 10 is an important part of this work and Kay is hoping to expand the concept and increase the benefit to both NBCF and Circle members in future years.
“We’d like to expand to our Circle members’ networks as well, to uplift them from funding a single two-year project, to longer-term, or larger projects and we have examples where this has happened already. My wish is to have all the Circles working together towards a national goal. We see 2020-2030 as a crucial time for having impact and getting great progress towards our mission of zero deaths.”
If you would like to find out more about the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the Circle of 10 visit the website or contact Philanthropy Manager Charney Rooza 0481 995 432
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