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Memphis, Tennessee (February 7, 2011) – David L. McKee, senior executive vice president and chief operating officer of ALSAC, the fundraising organization of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, has been named the recipient of the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award by Fundraising Success magazine.
McKee, who has been working with ALSAC/St. Jude Children's Research Hospital for more than 33 years, has seen three decades of changes. He helped lead the organization to double-digit average annual growth rates and the introduction of innovative programs and fundraising strategies that have increased fundraising from $11.8 million in his first year to record revenues of $691.9 million in FY10. He also helped stabilize the organization through cataclysmic events such as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and most recently an economy many have called the worst since the Great Depression.
Through it all, McKee has played a critical role in transforming a fledgling fundraising organization into the nation's second largest healthcare charity as reported in The Chronicle of Philanthropy's Philanthropy 400 list.
McKee's first day on the job with ALSAC/St. Jude on December 5, 1977, was trial by fire: the new regional director of the Southeast Region in Atlanta drove up to his office to find the building in flames, caused by a fire in the deli next door. He was undeterred, and his unflappable persistence in turning challenges into successes has been the trademark of his career with ALSAC/St. Jude.
"Dave is the rock of ALSAC," says Richard C. Shadyac Jr., chief executive officer for ALSAC. "We have been through many changes in his 33 years here and he is the one person who's always seen us through. We are so proud of Dave for this well-deserved accomplishment."
During McKee's tenure, ALSAC has experienced an average annual growth rate of more than 13 percent, and fundraising revenue has grown every year except two—the year of the stock market crash in 1987 and following the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001.
He also has been a driving force behind innovative and highly successful approaches to fundraising that have set the standard for the industry. Over the years, McKee helped oversee pioneering programs such as Math-A-Thon and Trike-A-Thon. Trike-A-Thon, which takes place in pre-schools nationwide, went from raising $205,000 its first year to becoming a $9 million program;
Math-A-Thon, which involves school children nationwide, raised $94,000 its first year and now raises $16 million.
His pursuit of a successful radiothon has resulted in the development of Country Cares for St. Jude Kids®, one of the most successful radio fundraising events in America. Since 1989, the program has involved more than 200 radio stations and raised more than $380 million in pledges. Also under his leadership, ALSAC introduced its new Hispanic marketing effort, Promesa y Esperanza, in 1997, which is now in more than 40 markets and raises more than $25 million in pledges.
Still, perhaps McKee's greatest contribution to ASLAC is his day-to-day leadership through three decades of change, including four CEOs.
"For many years, he has been a lighthouse shining and keeping us pointed in the right direction," says Chris Boysen, vice president, Field Operations.
Marilyn Elledge, who worked with McKee for 30 years before retiring last year as senior vice president, Volunteer and Donor Care, recalls how McKee's leadership kept ALSAC on course following 9/11, and as a result, the organization's donations remained stronger than other organizations that took a break from fundraising. "He reminded us that children were admitted to
St. Jude the day the planes hit the World Trade Center, and we had to continue doing what we could to help stop that tragedy."
Gloria Ballard, McKee's administrative assistant for the last 20 years, remembers how he guided the organization through the devastating shock of losing founder and champion Danny Thomas to a heart attack in 1991. "He and Mr. Shadyac (Richard Shadyac Sr., the current CEO's late father) let us know the board would not let Danny's dream go away. He motivated us to go on and let us know everything would be OK."
When Shadyac was considering the offer to become ALSAC's CEO, he discussed the job with his father, who served in that capacity from 1992-2005. "He told me 'Rely on Dave McKee and he will take care of you. He will be the most reliable soldier in your army, and you can depend on him'—and I do every day."
About St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is internationally recognized for its pioneering work in finding cures and saving children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases. St. Jude is the first and only pediatric cancer center to be designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute. Founded by late entertainer Danny Thomas and based in Memphis, Tennessee, St. Jude freely shares its discoveries with scientific and medical communities around the world.
St. Jude is the only pediatric cancer research center where families never pay for treatment not covered by insurance. No child is ever denied treatment because of the family's inability to pay.
St. Jude is financially supported by ALSAC, its fundraising organization. St. Jude was named the nation's top children's cancer hospital in the 2010-11 Best Children's Hospitals rankings published by U.S. News & World Report. For more information, go to www.stjude.org and follow St. Jude on www.facebook.com/stjude and www.twitter.com/stjude.