I have volunteered for ACS for seven years as a committee member for Relay For Life and a Road to Recovery driver. Our county raises over $400K every year for Relay For Life. We have (had) an amazing committee and a phenomenal event chair for the past seven years. Now ACS has asked our chairperson to step down with no one in the wings to take over. This event chair has dedicated her life to Relay For Life and has been treated with no respect from ACS. The whole committee is quitting and ACS doesn't seem to care. They have to follow their "best practices" which say that no volunteer should serve on the committee for more than 2 years. The staff partners at ACS are paid very little so they really don't care about the "cause". It's just a job to them. And they certainly don't care about their volunteers. All I have to say is that there are many non profit organizations out there where more of the money they raise is spent on research and programs. Our community will find another organization to give our $400K to....one that appreciates it's volunteers. And one where the CEO doesn't make $628K per year salary. To think that our year of fundraising doesn't even pay the CEO's salary... Wow. Check out The Cancer Research Institute or Livestrong on the charitynavigator.org. They are much better organizations!
I am a volunteer and a 16 year employee of the American Cancer Society. I volunteer for Road to Recovery, have a Relay for Life Team and have helped at many of our community events. This organization provides cancer patients with information 24/7, 365 days a year via the phone and web. They help cancer patients in every community, every day with every type of cancer. That is a daunting task. We have been at this work for 100 years and we always striving to be better and save more lives and find a cure. Our eyes are always on the prize - the cure for all cancers. We never stop! Providing access to care is a prime goals and providing resources to patients when they need something that we can't provide. Our research program funds brillant young researchers starting their careers and 46 of them have gone on to win the Nobel Prize. What an accomplishment. Every person has been touched by our work in some way. There is no way to compare charities because we all work differently. When looking at the impact of our work at the American Cancer Society, there is no compariston. We aren't perfect, but we aren't giving up and we will see this to the end of cancer and I hope you will be able to say that you helped. Thanks to all who do. I am passionate of my work, my pride and my commitment.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
To Whom It May Concern,
I have been a VOLUNTEER for the American Cancer Society for 17 years. I have never felt like my services for ACS was not appreciated until this Relay Season began for 2012. I was chosen in 2009/2010 to be a Hero Of Hope Speaker. I have spent many hours working for your organization not just doing my own Relay but for traveling to 43 different events sharing My Story of Hope. I even traveled to New Orleans to speak at their Relay Event. I spoke at the Life Inspiration Award Ceremony at The Club in 2010. I was asked by Ashley to speak at Clanton's Survivor Breakfast at 7:00 am. I got up at 3:00 am to prepare myself for the trip. When I arrived I asked Ashley how long do you want me to speak? She said 5 minutes. I drove all this way at this time of the morning and this is all you have time for me?
As my friends and I entered into the Methodist Church we were behind a few other people who are cancer survivors. My mouth dropped open as I heard these ladies saying your name is not on our list, "Did you register to come?", they replied they were not for sure. After several minutes they finally gave them a Survivor t-shirt. We were shocked because never in my life have I heard such grilling about a breakfast. Most of all the two ladies who were with me could not believe what they were hearing.
We have a new staff partner, Malinda. She was so nice and although she had never worked for ACS in the past I was willing to be patient and go with the flow. I hosted the meeting at my home with our Chair Brenda, Martha and Malinda on four occasions.
We were planning for our Relay Event. When Malinda asked us what dates did we want to meet we told her we could just meet or do a phone meeting. She said okay be ready for four hour meetings each month. We said what on earth do we have to say that will take four hours?
Malinda stated that she wanted us to know where the money was going and just how much the expense for our t-shirts was for 2011. She said they spent $40,000.00 on shirts alone last year. I said where did the shirts go because I know for a fact that we have never spent that on shirts. It became apparent that we needed to know just where the money is going and how much the expense for 2012 was.
We went to the local businesses to try and get support for our Relay Event. On one occasion we met with our logistics chair( Jim, I am using an alias name) at the Agri-Business Center to discuss the layout for our Event. Malinda was more than happy to jump up and down in his face laughing and carrying on like a teenage girl in high school. I finally got in the car because it was raining a fine mist and she got in a few minutes later. Just as we were leaving the parking lot she asked me if Jim was married. I said yes, he has two sons and a grandson. I said Jim is like a father to me and my husband. She then asked where does he work, I told her.
When preparing for our Kick-off Malinda typed a script for us—word for word- that she expected us to say. She was supposed to bring a DVD for part of it and did not. On the night of our kick-off event January 12, 2012 things were going great. After everyone but one cancer survivor left we were in the kitchen cleaning up. We all stopped at the island and were talking about how things went. Jim said I had a gut feeling that tonight we would not have a big crowd. Malinda (staff partner) came to stand with us next to Jim. She rolled her head up to face him and said Jim what does your gut tell you about me? The room was filled with silence, I began to laugh and so did my husband and then we all went about doing our work. When I carried the cancer patient home she wanted to know if these Staff members are trained on how to speak to men. I told her that I did not know but I would find out.
Brenda was the Chair for our Event this year and I was the Co-Chair. She and I talked about how to handle the issue with Malinda. We both felt like we needed to have Ashley help us with this problem. After all, we are only volunteers and have no authority to tell a staff member of ACS how to act. Of all the years I have served this issue has never came up before. Ashley called me after she received an email from Brenda asking her if we could have a meeting with her. She wanted to know what she was up against. After her pleading for me to go ahead and let her know what was going on I finally told her the issue. She stated that she did not want to get too involved with this. I said so what do you want us to do? She finally stated that we could meet and discuss this issue.
We all four sat down, Ashley, Malinda, Brenda and myself. Ashley let us know from the beginning of the meeting that we should have handled all of this the night it occurred on and not involve her in it. She said we should have been her mentor and guide her. First of all I am a volunteer and she should have been trained on how to be a professional staff member of ACS by a professional staff member of ACS. (Brenda did not meet any this year)We let Malinda know that she was not to make any of the committee members feel uneasy about how she talked or treated them. We wanted her to act professional and to dress decent. During this meeting Malinda began to cry in a public restaurant. She said I was just trying to get to know the committee members. I let my guard down because I came to your house for some of our meetings. She thought she could joke and cut up with us. You can take joking too far and this crossed the line. Ashley asked us if we could continue to work with Malinda. Brenda and I both said sure we could, we just wanted our Event to be the best as always.
We were instructed, not asked, to attend training, call in on the lunch calls, go to Montgomery for the advocacy meeting. TOLD that we were expected to do and be at these things. I have the e-mails if you want to see them where Malinda treated us in this manner. Brenda requested the information to hear calls later and never received it.
Over the next few months things went from sour to bitter. If we asked for team yard signs and sponsorship signs we were told they were being ordered. Something about the labels had been printed incorrectly. Come to find out those were the signs we use on the night of Relay to give to teams who raised x amount of dollars. WHY was she not told which signs we should have at that point? Stars and Moons, banners and everything else we asked for was a hassle to get from Malinda. We were told at every request, that the items would be a cost to our event and would have to be ordered (even yard signs). Evidently, “it takes money to raise money” theory had not been taught to Malinda. Also, on several occasions, Malinda would tell us what the other communities were doing (or not doing). One did not have a Kick off location, one had told her to not even come to the Relay; to which, her response was “as long as they have $120,000 on the table for me, I told them I would stay away”. I asked her a few days later on how it was going in the other County and she said oh it is going to be okay the big dogs are going in to straighten them out.
Others had extensive training for their chairs etc. It was a never ending comparison that we did not measure up to.
Brenda and I tried to have a meeting with Ashley and Kimberly to solve the issues of being told that we could not get items we asked for without having to involve them in our needs for Blount County. One day they would set a date and it would not work out. Brenda works in Albertville so that meant to have a lunch with her we would need to meet in that area on her lunch hour. Every time it got cancelled. Kimberly asked if Brenda could come with me to the breakfast where I would be speaking and Brenda let her know that she could not come. The night before I received another email from Kimberly who said she would see us at the breakfast. I told her Brenda could not come and she said at least they wanted to offer that.
At no time during all this drama did Malinda, Ashley or Kimberley call to talk with Brenda and ask if she was going to Chair next year. They all three kept asking me questions that they should have asked her. I find this offensive and not professional. When things are going great they will pat us on the back and when they do something out of the ordinary we are cast to the side.
The relationship got even worse when I talked with them that morning. Kimberly said is Brenda going to be Chair next year? I said no as a matter of fact she may not even serve on the committee. Kimberly looked at Ashley and said oh well we don't need to talk with her then..Ashley said you need to start getting people lined up for the Chair and Co-Chair. I was dumb founded. Not only has Brenda served hard with all that she could she started 3 teams who has raised over $30,000.00 in three years time.
Relay night we were given a total of money raised by Ashley. When asked two weeks later for the up to date total, Malinda gave another, lesser total. It ended up that Ashley had told us a total that counted money they had NOT received. Brenda had to again request a total for the county a month after the Relay to tell the county. Our county committee and team captains did not receive a single “thank you, congrats, you are above goal” or anything after our Relay from any American Cancer Society staff member. That is so disheartening.
Also, the day of Relay, Malinda spoke only when spoken to. When asked by Brenda if she needed help it was “no”. Yet when another member of the committee arrived, she had Greg hanging banners, signs etc. The cold shoulder was very evident. Relay night Brenda talked to Ashley, told her that it all had to be worked out. Ashley said ‘it will be”. Ashley has not made any attempt to work on anything. Brenda reached out to her concerning the wrap up party and she replied that Malinda had to be there. There was no regard for our committee’s feelings at all. At wrap up, there were two tables of people. Malinda only spoke to anyone at our table when she had to hand out thank you gifts. Professionalism is not shown that way.
I have email's that has been sent back and forth over this Relay time span you can have full view of them at anytime.
When I began Relay my passion was to help find a cure, help those in need, and to be able to remember my parents who both passed away at 55 years old. I am a 2 time cancer survivor, lost my brother at the age of 39.
My passion turned into a fire pit to seek and kill this disease with all my might. When my son Daniel was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2005 the drive for a cure was intense. I spent many sleepless nights sitting by his bed making the best of a terrible situation. I was the Chair person of our Relay Event and I still found time to do my part to help ACS. In fact April 2008 as my son lay in bed who could no longer walk insisted that I go to the Relay Event to show people that we were there with them. That we had not given up and would never. Sadly I lost the ULTIMATE my 22 year old son on May 18, 2008.
My heart breaks to know that I gave all of you more of myself than any mother I know of under the circumstances. I have given my time, money and efforts to help this organization. I feel that you no longer need me or my sponsors to help you in this great endeavor. I hope that you understand that VOLUNTEERS ARE SIMPLY MORE THAN YOU THINK.
I have had to fight cancer to survive; I do not have to fight you to raise money for you when you do not care about cancer survivors anymore. I understand that we the cancer survivors are a cost to your organization.
Just so you know that word gets around and I have talked to Chair-People of other events around the state about their Relay. I know one who had to drive to the ACS office and get her yard signs, banners and prizes to give out on her Relay night. Yes I do know that I was lied to more times than I can count about the supplies. There were banners and yard signs in the closet at the ACS office. When I asked Malinda if she could get me a banner so I could put it out in town four weeks prior to our event, she said oh yea I can, as a matter of Ashley just tried to give me a banner and I told her that I did not need it. She said she would get that one for us. After 2 weeks had gone by I called Malinda and asked her if she got the banner for me, she said umm no as a matter of fact Ashley took that banner to another city. I said so there is not another one and she said no. I called Kimberly Williams and asked her if she could get me a banner and she said yes. I told her about the conversation with Malinda. Kimberly said I know there is a banner in that office. She stated there has to be some forgiveness and reckoning. I said Oh really, after all Ashley and Kimberly both stated that they had not talked to Malinda about these issues. Sounds like to me someone talked about issues
I did get the banner that I needed when I went to speak at Leeds/Moody Relay event one week prior to my event. Malinda brought it to me from the ACS Building, the same building Malinda the staff partner for our county works in. In all essences the banner was put out the Sunday before our event. You cannot ask people to raise money for you if trust has been compromised and that is what happened.
I ask Kimberly how did the banners and publicity items needed was handled after I seen in one town of Alabama all the advertising of yard signs and banners were lined up along the main street. She told me it was according to what your Relay Event raised and of course they are a $187,000.00 dollar Event so they could get more. I am so upset about the fact that my County went above goal and we do not count.
I hope you never let the staff members run off good people from any community. It is a concern to me that ACS has changed the policy of Relay Events without even telling the volunteer's. My heart is broken and I have to remember that all the years I did serve was for a good cause.
What about the giant overhead that goes towards high salaries? How come that generally, only 16% of profits goes directly towards cancer patients? And why are some of the board's trustee's are corporate executives of pharmaceutical, investment, banking and media industries? Sounds like this organization doesn't have their best interests at heart!!!!!!
Long tim community volunteer in my community , the american cancer society is the best run non profit organization . There signature fundraiser Relay For Life is an all volunteer run 24 hour event held in every community , allowing each community to make a differnce by Celebrating Survivors , Remembering those we have lost to the horrid disease. asking volunteer and the community to fight back through education and dollars donated for research. The American has clear goals and the most aggressive vision to fund ground breaking research. Hope is on the way. Your donation are used wisely. please look up the Relay For Life in your community attend ,volunteer join the movement A CURE.
Review from Guidestar
ACS collects millions of dollars per year what do they do with it? How much is given for research or helping cancer patients. I was an oncology RN and sought help for patients from ACS they declined. I want to hear from them how they spend their money and how they help us the cancer patient. Yes Oncolgy nurse and Cancer patient.