Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

The “Imagine a World Without Cancer” $150 million campaign engages donors and tells compelling stories by focusing on what a world without cancer would be like for patients, for survivors and for families! 

Challenge: A new world-class Cancer Center, housed in a leading academic medical center, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, had been awarded the prestigious “NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center” designation by the National Cancer Institute.  With fundamental research and clinical care programs in place, the Center was positioned for unparalleled growth that would build on strengths and shore up any deficits. Critical new basic and clinical research programs were identified that would further position the Center to lead in the development of innovative targeted therapies. The Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center sorely required outright and endowed funds to propel this already leading program from great to pre-eminent with the recruitment of the “best and the brightest” cancer scientists and physicians. Located in an already dense medical center footprint, the Center set out to expand its facility while growing and sustaining novel programs. Our Board chairman challenged us with a unique opportunity: “If money were no object, how would you envision and create a world without cancer?” 

Approach:  What an opportunity, and what a responsibility! As the Executive Director of Development, Susan led a small team of Cancer Center development officers that worked hand in glove with Cancer Center leadership and faculty. Engaging the passion and leadership of the Board chair and our many donors and friends, the Cancer Center leadership and the development office created a two phase $150 million strategic plan that was the basis for the strategic fundraising plan and comprehensive campaign.  The funding objectives included a mix of endowment and current use funds.  Phase I of the plan focused on infrastructure to support research program growth, clinical trials, community outreach programs and seed funds for pilot projects. Other outright and endowed funds targeted faculty retention and recruitment as well as establishment of novel research programs.  Phase II supported the creative expansion of an existing building to provide office and research space for new faculty and expanded outpatient services.  New programs in compassionate and supportive care, epidemiology and prevention, research in targeted therapies and molecular diagnostics, as well as enhanced high-tech research technologies and continued faculty recruitment was also targeted in Phase II.

The “Imagine Campaign” engaged the imagination and work of a national network of volunteers recruited from the ranks of donors and foundation and corporate representatives to the music industry and to friends and patients.  By creating the strategic plan in two phases, it enabled us to communicate with donors and prospects about accomplishments achieved, while leveraging new gifts by telling the story of urgent and compelling needs.  Most importantly, the story was always personal and told through the eyes of patients, survivors and family members who were truly invested in the cause, the mission and the outcomes. It constantly differentiated our unique strengths and capabilities from the many other fine programs in the country and the world. 

The Philanthropy Outcome: The “Imagine Campaign” was launched in 1998, with a lead gift of $56 million that named the Center, and concluded in 2004 with over $180 million in outright and planned gifts and pledges. To support desperately needed funds to seed pilot projects, the campaign established a mechanism known as “Discovery Grants”. These donor centric “grants” linked the donor’s interests to innovative research projects that required seeding.  The Discovery Grants introduced donors to scientists and provided a platform for discussions about research outcomes and the return on philanthropic investments. The campaign leveraged and engaged new relationships that have been sustained for the Center’s long-term benefit. The Imagine a World Without Cancer Case Statement won a CASE silver award for collaterals. 

The Impact: Innovative new research programs were established, a new epidemiology program was forged, a program for patient support and palliative care founded, laboratories endowed, and attractive new space, the Frances Williams Preston Building supported by the T.J. Martell Foundation, was funded and built to house new faculty and research programs: 

New programs in targeted therapies are being developed and compassionate care is being delivered in a world-class setting!