Direct Marketer of the Year: A purposeful professional journey earns Brian Cowart industry recognition

ALSAC Senior Vice President Cowart receives 'Target Marketing' magazine’s 2011 Direct Marketer of the Year award


Memphis, Tennessee (September 30, 2011)—Brian Cowart, senior vice president of the National Direct Marketing division for ALSAC, the fundraising organization of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, has been named the recipient of the 2011 Direct Marketer of the Year Award by Target Marketing magazine.

Cowart, a native of Atlanta, Georgia, began his career with ALSAC as a senior director of mail acquisition and donor retention, and served in that role for five years before being selected to lead the division in 2009. Now as the senior vice president of the organization’s largest revenue program, Cowart works directly with the executive management team and C-suite to oversee a staff of more than 50 professionals and manage a budget of approximately $90 million. During the past two fiscal years and despite an economic downturn, under his guidance the division has seen an 8 percent increase in the active donor file through direct mail fundraising strategies across various marketing programs, which contributed to the organization’s record revenues of $691.9 million in FY10.

“Brian is extremely talented,” says David L. McKee, senior executive vice president and chief operating officer for ALSAC. “His creativity and progressive thinking make him a respected and valued resource in the organization. Brian is very deserving of this award, and we are proud of his accomplishment.”

Cowart has honed his creativity and strategic fundraising skills through 16 years of direct marketing experience, which includes industry involvement and advocacy. As a member of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, last year Cowart and the board of directors of the organization met with Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del) to discuss how the proposed United States Postal Service rate hike could impact direct mail marketers. Cowart told those in attendance that the proposed rate hike was like ceasing hospital operations for several days, during which time no children would receive services.

Cowart’s advocacy and skill at being an effective communicator could be attributed to an earlier influence in his life—his father and fellow marketer, the late Arthur Cowart, whose death made Cowart want to find his purpose in life. “It’s one of those things where you have certain situations and experiences in your life that are epiphanies and you go, ‘Wow. Why am I here? What’s my purpose?” said Cowart. “I went into the nonprofit sector intentionally, because I felt unfulfilled. I felt like, while I was doing something professionally that complemented my strengths, I didn’t feel like it was providing that meaning and sense of purpose in my life.”

Finding his sense of purpose is what helped Cowart fulfill a personal request from a donor named Ira, who wrote to say that because he was dying of cancer, he wanted [St. Jude] to find someone to take his place to continue supporting the kids of St. Jude. In response, Cowart’s team sent letters to prospective donors telling them about Ira’s wish, securing 10,000 new donors in January 2010. “There was something eye-opening about that letter that made me think I could provide the vehicle to help people connect with others who share their passion for helping those in need,” said Cowart.

In addition to his professional achievements, Cowart is also committed to education and is currently pursuing his Executive MBA with the University of Memphis. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia and enjoys working with his peers to help the direct marketing industry reach out and engage more people in the important work of charitable organizations. He currently serves as the chairman of the Direct Marketing Association Nonprofit Federation’s (DMANF) Advisory Council. Other honors include being selected as one of Fundraising Success magazine’s Fundraising Professionals of the Year and selected as one of The NonProfit Times World’s Best Fundraisers.

Read Target Marketing's article.

About St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is internationally recognized for its pioneering research and treatment of children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. The hospital’s research has helped push overall survival rates for childhood cancer from less than 20 percent when the institution opened to almost 80 percent today. It is the first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children, and no family ever pays St. Jude for care. For more information, go to www.stjude.org and follow St. Jude on www.facebook.com/stjude and www.twitter.com/stjude.