4K for Cancer

This past weekend I was asked to go speak to the Board of Directors of an amazing organization called 4K for Cancer.  This organization just might be cycling through your neighborhood this summer so this blog is worth reading.

4K for Cancer is a home grown organization (Baltimore, MD) and much like the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, it was started on a college campus with a vision of helping support the cancer fight.

Led by their founder, Ryan Hanley, and their Executive Director, David Conover, the 4K story and mission is one that really resonates with me personally and with our organization.  4K was initially created in 2001 by Hanley and a group of students at Johns

4K Executive Director, David Conover, showing off the bike that will ride 4K for Cancer this summer

Hopkins that wanted to marry their passion for cycling and the cancer fight by taking on a 4,000 Mile cycling journey from Baltimore to San Francisco.  Inspired by the memory of the late John Hanley, father of founder Ryan Hanley, who died in 1995 from cancer, this group set-out an ambitious goal and over time built an amazing organization and team that is raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the cancer fight.

I was asked to speak to the group about the programs of the Ulman Cancer Fund for a couple reasons:

1) 4K will be donated some of the proceeds from their rides this year to support our College  Scholarship Program and our Patient Navigation efforts – THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!

2) 4K wanted to hear about the history and growth of our organization over the past 13 years. What were our keys to success?

This second question was a fun one that forced me to think a little bit.  Before I talked I was certain to share the disclaimer that I am by no means an expert in any of this stuff, but just someone that has been learning on the job for over a decade and has been surrounded by great people.

I summed up our keys successes for the group in the following principles below.  Pretty simple stuff and some of the them borrowed from Jim Collins and his messages in his Good to Great Book for Social Sectors (great book if you’ve never read), but I believe they are the WHY and HOW we’ve been able to remain a highly functioning non-profit organization over the years and during some difficult economic times.

UCF Keys to Success:

  • People – We have a saying at our organization that “It’s about people” and this couldn’t be more true when we look at our keys to success.  Getting the right people involved (Board, Staff, Volunteers) and committed to your mission is critical.
  • Mission – Every decision you make, event you have, program you offer must be tied to your mission. Your mission is why you exist and you should always put it at the forefront.
  • Brand – Investing in your organizations brand is something that is often overlooked but critical. Your mission, your message, your values, your culture, your programs – all these things are thrown into a melting pot to create your brand which solicits an emotional response from people when they think about your organization. A great mission with a bad brand can really hurt an organization.  Create your brand and own it.
  • Figure out what you’re good at – Something we’ve gotten a lot better at the past couple of  years and are starting to see the rewards. As a non-profit, it is so easy to want to save the world in every way possible but you can only do so much. Figure out what you do really well in your space and focus in on it. For the Ulman Cancer Fund, it’s been Patient Navigation and Awareness & Engagement Through Sport. This doesn’t mean we don’t do other stuff, but we don’t let those other opportunities distract us from “what we’re good at.”
  • Say Thank You – Too many organizations spend so much time asking for help – donations, volunteers – that they forget to say thank you or don’t do it enough.  I believe we’ve done a great job (we can always do better though) of saying thank you.  This doesn’t mean slapping logos on websites and stuff.  It means recognizing people in a very personal way – picking up the phone, writing a personal note, shooting a video, scheduling time to meet them face to face – and making sure they know their time, energy and contributions are appreciated.

Thanks again to Ryan, David and the Board for having me to their Board Retreat and we look forward to working together in 2011!

Interested in joining the 4K ride this year!  They’re still looking for riders.  Visit www.4kforcancer.org or email david.conover@4kforcancer.org


About Brock Yetso

UCF Executive Director and generally a nice guy.
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