Fundraising – A Tradition of Personal Commitment, Community Support

When Danny Thomas opened the doors to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in 1962, it was the result of many individuals who were so inspired by his dream that it became their own. That was the brilliance of Danny’s leadership.

City leaders were appointed to organize a variety of fundraisers, including dinners, golf tournaments and the hallmark “Danny Thomas Teenage March.” In this event, teenagers in cities across America marched door to door to raise funds for St. Jude. Cities became friendly competitors and couldn’t wait to announce their results at their annual fundraising convention.

Today, ALSAC, the fundraising organization of St. Jude, continues to launch programs nationally that have been successful locally as a result of inspired individuals. Every year, more than a million volunteers in communities all over the country support some 34,000 events that raise funds on behalf of St. Jude—from Math-A-Thons and Trike-A-Thons to radiothons and celebrity-filled galas.

And thanks to the efforts of millions of donors from virtually every community across America, St. Jude has gone uninterrupted in its mission of finding cures and saving children.

From an annual operating budget of approximately $1 million in 1962 to an operating cost of more than $1.9 million per day, ALSAC relies on its volunteers and donors to continue to meet the needs of St. Jude scientists and doctors to conduct the groundbreaking research and develop the lifesaving treatments that help children battling cancer and other catastrophic diseases.

The fundraising programs for St. Jude offer countless opportunities for volunteers, donors and partners to participate in a unique mission while also associating with one of the most respected charities in the world. A description of a few key fundraising programs follows:


Thanks and Giving®
In the fall of 2004, St. Jude kicked off a new national campaign to help put meaning and true giving back into the holidays. Marlo Thomas, national outreach director of St. Jude and daughter of founder Danny Thomas—along with her siblings Terre Thomas and Tony Thomas—created an unprecedented union of celebrities, media, and retail partners called Thanks and Giving. This unique national program asks consumers to “Give thanks for the healthy kids in your life and give to those who are not.”

Thanks and Giving has a two-fold mission: to raise awareness and to raise funds. The campaign enables St. Jude to reach families who have been unable to find answers elsewhere and allows St. Jude to continue the cutting-edge research that helps to save children around the world.

During the months of November and December, consumers are asked to help raise funds at participating retailers by adding a donation at check out or by purchasing specialty items to benefit St. Jude. Marlo kicks off the campaign with priceless exposure for five straight days on the TODAY show, highlighting patients and St. Jude’s groundbreaking research. The campaign has featured celebrity television spots with Marlo, Robin Williams, Jennifer Aniston, Antonio Banderas, Ray Romano, Morgan Freeman, Sarah Jessica Parker and Jason Taylor, which air nationwide on network and cable television and as a movie trailer on movie screens across the country. In addition, our family of celebrities include country music stars Keith Urban, Brad Paisley and Toby Keith, who donated their time and talents in radio spots that run throughout the campaign on more than 200 partner stations across the nation. The Thanks and Giving campaign enables St. Jude to introduce its lifesaving mission to millions of potential new donors and volunteers.

Direct Mail
Direct mail has traditionally been one of St. Jude’s most effective fundraising tools. More than 100 million mail pieces are sent to donors and prospective donors each year. As a result, St. Jude acquires more than 1 million new donors each year. Direct mail is also used to reach our 5 million active donors who make an average direct mail gift of $30. This includes more than 400,000 Partner in Hope® donors who make monthly gifts to St. Jude and receive monthly patient and hospital updates. The direct mail program raises approximately $280 million annually.

National Television Marketing
The St. Jude story is brought to millions of households each year through national television marketing and a one-hour reality television special, A Place of Hope. The show, hosted by Marlo Thomas, gives viewers an in-depth look into the lives of St. Jude patients and their families during their care and treatment at St. Jude. The special airs 1,500 times in more than 150 markets nationwide.

Radio Marketing
More than 300 radio stations nationwide raise more than $50 million annually for St. Jude through “radiothons” in their respective markets. Our Country Cares for St. Jude Kids®, co-founded by Country Music Hall of Famer Randy Owen, is one of the largest radiothon programs in the nation and receives the support of many top country music artists. Since the program began in 1989, country music fans have pledged more than $345 million to St. Jude. In 1997, we launched a Hispanic marketing effort with a radiothon program called Promesa y Esperanza®. The program now involves more than 75 Spanish-format stations in more than 40 radio markets across the country, raising more than $25 million in pledges. In addition, hundreds of radio stations, with formats ranging from gospel and urban to adult contemporary and classic rock, participate in the Radio Cares for St. Jude Kids program.

St. Jude Math-A-Thon®
Created in 1979, Math-A-Thon, a “fun math” program for kindergarten through eighth grade, has raised more than $268 million for St. Jude. This free, supplemental program helps students improve their mathematical skills as they try to solve more than 200 math problems—all while obtaining pledges for St. Jude for each correct answer. Each year, 10,000 schools from all 50 states raise almost $20 million for the hospital. In the spring of 2009, St. Jude announced that Scholastic Inc. has teamed with the St. Jude Math-A-Thon to bring the educational and fundraising program to a new level for the 2009 – 2010 school year.

St. Jude Up ‘til Dawn®
Catering to the collegiate age group, Up ‘til Dawn is a student-led, student-run program hosted by colleges and universities across the country. The program unites faculty, staff and students behind the cause of supporting St. Jude. Students learn about the mission of St. Jude and hold various fundraising events throughout the year. The program culminates with a fun, all-night finale event at which students stay “up ‘til dawn” in honor of St. Jude patients. Since Up ‘til Dawn was created in 1998, students at more than 250 participating schools have raised $20.6 million.

St. Jude Dream Home ® Giveaway
The St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway involves selling $100 chances to win a new, single-family “dream home” in a local community. Most of the construction materials and labor are donated. Other high-end prizes are also donated and raffled during a live television special at the conclusion of the event. Since it began in 1991, more than 200 houses have been given away. To date the Dream Home program has raised more than $145 million for St. Jude. The Dream Home program is now one of the largest single-event fundraisers for St. Jude nationwide.

Corporate Programs
Corporations partner with St. Jude to create effective programs that involve their employees and customers through purchase-with-purchase and percentage-of-sale campaigns and event and program sponsorships. Our national grassroots events offer outstanding sponsorship opportunities, while our corporate partner program increases brand awareness, drives store traffic or product/service interest, and ultimately, increases sales. Our goal is to create a win-win-win situation—a win for our corporate partners, a win for the customers and a win for our St. Jude children. Additional initiatives include employee giving and matching gifts.

Dinners, Galas, Local Events
Thanks to the generosity of St. Jude advocates across the country, hundreds of dinners, galas, sporting events and special events are hosted each year and generate both tremendous dollars and exposure for St. Jude. A few examples: For 19 years, Wall Street executives have organized and hosted the annual Taste of New York each November, raising more than $28 million for St. Jude. In Chicago, executives from the banking, advertising, insurance, law, medical and home building industries have attended The Four Stars of Chicago Restaurant Extravaganza since 1994, raising more than $4.5 million. And in Miami, actress and supermodel Daisy Fuentes helped launch the high-profile Angels and Stars Gala. The list of events is extensive, as is the generosity of the hosts and participants. It is this foundation of community support that reinforces St. Jude as a place of hope, which impacts children across the country and around the world.

Gift Planning
The St. Jude Gift Planning staff works closely with donors who wish to make a major commitment to support St. Jude whether it be today, over time or as a gift through their estate. Each year, these efforts result in significant gifts of securities and other properties of value, whether outright or in a form that helps preserve income and other financial benefits on a temporary basis for donors and their loved ones. St. Jude makes a full range of gift planning vehicles available to its supporters and is assisted in these efforts by the nation’s leading fund custodians and asset managers.

Our staff works to facilitate donor wishes in directing gifts to specific areas of interest such as research, patient care, physical facilities and equipment needs. These gifts may be designated in the name of loved ones a donor wishes to honor in this special way.

In addition, an increasing number of family, corporate and community foundations across the country are supporting the St. Jude mission in their grant-making decisions. Gift Planning staff work to help facilitate the philanthropy of these vital sources of St. Jude support, and each year the hospital is awarded a variety of grants—whether they be restricted to a specific program, an endowment, or unrestricted for general research and treatment.

As a special service, those donors who have made significant gifts to fund St. Jude’s major priorities now and in the future are invited to participate with donor relations officers in regional information/update events and at an annual gathering at the national headquarters in Memphis. Those who have included St. Jude in their estate plans are invited to join the Danny Thomas-St. Jude Society and participate in selected activities related to that organization.


The Right Words at the Right Time
Marlo Thomas published an inspiring book that draws on the life experiences of more than 100 remarkable people. The Right Words at the Right Time features the wit and wisdom of Al Pacino, Paul McCartney, Gwyneth Paltrow, Walter Cronkite, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cal Ripken Jr., Steven Spielberg, Itzahk Perlman, Venus Williams, Rudolph Giuliani, Muhammad Ali, Katie Couric and many others, including St. Jude Nobel Laureate Dr. Peter Doherty. The contributors recount how they reached crucial turning points by hearing the right words at the right time. The book, which topped the New York Times bestseller list, has sold more than 400,000 copies. All royalties benefit St. Jude.


Thanks & Giving All Year Long—book and CD
Marlo Thomas, creator of the best-selling classic Free to Be …You and Me, produced a joyful volume for children and the grown-ups in their lives. An original collection from some of today's most acclaimed writers, artists, and performers, Thanks & Giving All Year Long includes stories, songs and poems that celebrate the ups and downs of living in a give-and-take world. This sparkling anthology includes original contributions from Maurice Sendak, Kate DiCamillo, Eric Carle, Hilary Duff, Avi, Tom Chapin, Arthur creator Marc Brown, Matt Groening, Deepak Chopra, Ray Romano, Tiger Woods, Frankie Muniz, Walter Dean Myers, Paul Newman, Sumner Redstone, Jerry Pinkney, Whoopi Goldberg, Sonia Manzano, the Sesame Street Muppets, Julianne Moore, Ed Koren, Donald Trump, Wendy Wasserstein and Paul O. Zelinsky.

The publication of the book coincided with the first Thanks and Giving campaign. Its accompanying CD won a Grammy® Award. All royalties benefit St. Jude.


The Right Words at the Right Time, Volume 2: Your Turn!
Marlo Thomas revisited the highly inspirational theme that made The Right Words at the Right Time a bestseller with a second collection of inspiring stories, The Right Words at the Right Time, Volume 2: Your Turn!

Marlo collected 101 all-new stories from everyday people who recall that pivotal moment in their lives when words made all the difference. As this astonishing anthology proves, the "right words" can come from anywhere—the pages of a dusty old songbook, the pulpit of a neighborhood church, the echoes from a battlefield, a hand-stitched sampler hanging on a wall, and even a child's simple expression of love. As she did with the previous two books described here, Marlo donates all royalties to St. Jude.


Last update: May 2009