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Women's Business Boston: The Power of High Finance in the Fight Against Cancer

Women's Business Boston: The Power of High Finance in the Fight Against Cancer

Q&A with CHRISTINA THIRKELL

 

Christina Thirkell is the executive director of Mutual Funds Against Cancer (MFAC), a leading advocate in the fight against cancer within the mutual fund and financial services industries. The nonprofit began with the goal of raising $4 million for cancer research. While most small charities are struggling in a difficult economy, MFAC is more than doubling its annual growth rate.

 

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Q. What prompted you to join MFAC?

 

A. I have been with Mutual Funds Against Cancer since 2004. I met Frank Strauss, MFAC’s founder and chairman, earlier that year while I was director of public relations at then Giga Information Group.

 

While there, I led the firm’s first global charitable initiative with Save the Children. This initiative spearheaded my desire to take my experience and passion into philanthropy.

 

Upon my introduction to Strauss, I learned that MFAC at the time had no staff, marketing or organizational structure.

 

On his own, Strauss was hosting a golf event attended by family and peers in the financial industry.

 

Several financial firms were sponsors, including State Street Corp., JPMorgan Chase, Ernst & Young, Interactive Data Corp., John Hancock and Eaton Vance, and there was strong industry representation on the board of directors.

 

I saw an enormous potential for MFAC, and I shared the vision with the founder.

 

Q. Why focus fundraising around financial services?

 

A. The financial community has incredible power and, by uniting together, we could make a tremendous impact on the war against cancer.

 

With a full-time focus, we could ramp up MFAC and build brand awareness of our mission. In 2006, MFAC had gained such momentum that we were honored as Charity of Choice at the Institutional Investors’ Mutual Funds Award Gala.

 

Since then, MFAC has had an annual growth rate of 60 percent. We now host more than 500 financial and C-level executives at our cornerstone annual events, which include the Expect Miracles Golf Classic and the Wine Extravaganza.

 

Both events have drawn the interest of more than 100 top financial sponsors nationwide, including our 2008-2009 foundation sponsor, Interactive Data Corp.

 

Q. How do you describe your role and responsibilities?

 

A. Since MFAC is still a small organization, my responsibilities encompass growth strategy setting and development, new business development, donor relations, fund development, event management and close collaboration with our board members.

 

Q. What accounts for MFAC’s success?

 

A. We have been very fortunate. Wordof-mouth and a stellar board of directors have aided in spreading MFAC’s mission to numerous firms, peers, constituents and competitors in the financial community.

 

Mutual Funds Against Cancer has become a quasi-industry/charitable organization. Due to our growth, we plan on expanding our events to the West Coast in 2009. Currently, all MFAC proceeds benefit the Center for Applied Cancer Science (CACS) at Dana-Faber Cancer Institute.

 

Q. When you reach the $4 million goal, what then?

 

A. Believe it or not, we plan on hitting the $4 million goal by early 2010 and are poised to raise $1 million this year alone.

 

There’s a lot more to tackle in the world of cancer and cancer patient care, so we may add a community-based program to support our mission. As our founder says, and I totally agree – the ultimate goal is to be out of business in the next 10 years because we’ve won the war on cancer.

 

Until then, MFAC will continue the fight and build on our successes.

Miracle Makers Leadership Council | Winter 2012
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