Denver Frederick

Derek Rapp, President and CEO of JDRF, Joins Denver Frederick

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The following is a conversation between Derek Rapp, President and CEO of JDRF, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.


Derek Rapp

Derek Rapp

Denver: Anyone who knows a person with type 1 diabetes knows only too well how difficult it is to manage this disease. It requires attention every minute of every day. JDRF is working to lessen that impact on people’s lives, and ultimately, to find a cure. And here to tell us about that work is the President and CEO of JDRF, as well as a parent of a son who has type 1 diabetes, Derek Rapp. Good evening, Derek, and welcome to The Business of Giving.


Derek Rapp: Good evening, Denver. Thanks very much. I’m glad to be here.

Denver: Tell us about JDRF, the history of the organization, and of your mission.

Derek: Sure. JDRF was founded in 1970 by a couple of parents of children with type 1 diabetes– sons. One in the New York City area, one in Philadelphia. These were people who were determined to help their kids with type 1 diabetes to one day be able to learn what it’s like to live a life again without type 1 diabetes.

Denver: Yes. And speaking of type 1 diabetes, what’s the difference between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes?

Derek: Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, where a person’s body stops producing the insulin that is required to help a person convert sugar to energy. With type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, a person continues to produce that insulin, but the person’s body becomes resistant or isn’t able to work with the insulin as effectively.

Denver: Good distinction. How many people in the US are afflicted by type 1 diabetes?

Derek: We don’t know for sure, but our guess is between 1.25 million and 1.5 million probably.

Denver: I know type 1 diabetes can strike both kids and adults, and it can come on very suddenly. Do we know what the triggers are that instigate this?

Derek: We know some. We’re pretty confident we know some. We certainly know that genetics are a significant factor, but they’re not sufficient. I’ll be sharing an interesting statistic. About 50% of the time that identical twins– where one has type 1 diabetes, so does the other– which also of course means 50% of the time, the other one doesn’t. That’s how the genetics are important because that’s far higher than it would be for other siblings who aren’t identical twins. But at the same time, obviously, there are some factors that trigger the onset in those 50% who do get it.

Denver: Yes. I’d be curious what that is because I know that type 1 diabetes has been on the rise a little bit.

Derek: It sure has.

Denver: Yes. Any explanation that you can even put forth?

Derek: Well, we know that certain viruses are significant. Viruses such as hand, foot, and mouth disease or coxsackie virus, enteroviruses. Respiratory infections in the very young are believed to be significant in triggering an immune system in a person that amps up in order to fight that infection… just like it’s supposed to.  But then for some people, unfortunately, that immune system doesn’t calm back down like it’s supposed to. Instead, it looks for another target – something else to do, if you will. And unfortunately for people with type 1 diabetes, that something else to do is to go target and kill the beta cells that produce the insulin in the body.

Denver: Your son, Turner, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes back in 2004, and I would guess that no matter how much you may think you know this disease, you really don’t fully understand it until a loved one has it. What is it like to live with type 1 diabetes?

Derek: That’s right. In fact, I had some good friends in college, and my wife had four relatives who had type 1 diabetes before Turner was diagnosed.  And so certainly, the disease was around us. And yet when it became part of our immediate family, only then did we start to understand the insidiousness of this, just the never-ending impact, of this disease.

Imagine a disease that requires a person to constantly be vigilant about what he or she eats and how much exercise that person is getting. Whether that person is stressed out by some factor. Whether a person has hormonal activity due to puberty, or whatever it might be. All those factors can cause a person to process insulin very, very differently. So we know that a person with type 1 diabetes has to have a variable dose of insulin every day, different times of day, and yet can still get it wrong.

With too much insulin, perhaps causing a person to have a catastrophic event that can even include seizures or death, and too little insulin that will cause a person to have high blood sugar, both making that person perhaps concerned about the longer term complications, but also even immediately about the possibility of diabetic ketoacidosis, which again, can be catastrophic. So it’s an extremely complicated, demanding disease.

Denver: So, what’s his life like? What does he have do every day in terms of trying to manage this successfully?

Derek: I’ll first say, as Turner’s dad, that I think he’s doing fantastically. I’m relieved and proud and grateful. Turner wears a pump, an insulin pump, and many people think that that pump has the intelligence always to know when a person needs insulin.  Well, truthfully, no! That’s a pre-programmed device that will give insulin when it’s told to, and that’s going to happen whether or not the person needs insulin. I’ll get to that some more in a second because I’m glad to say we’re changing that.

Turner also wears a continuous glucose monitor which is a device which is constantly reading… and giving a new reading every five minutes… his glucose levels in his body. And therefore, it allows him to know how he’s doing, provided he is vigilant. So then, he has meals through the day, and he has to tell that pump that he’s had a certain level of carbohydrates in that particular meal, or he watches his numbers, and if he’s higher, he slowly needs to adjust accordingly.

Turner’s a very active guy. He has run four marathons. He recently did the New Jersey State Olympic Distance Triathlon. He’s doing a lot. In fact, a week from Saturday, he’ll be riding 100 miles with me in Colorado, and therefore, he needs to know how his body is doing all through that time, and adjust his insulin levels and his sugar intake accordingly.

Denver: What are the implications of a high glucose level, and on the other hand, when it’s low? What are the impacts of those?

Derek: Type 1 diabetes– and diabetes in general– is the leading cause of adult-onset blindness, of extremity amputations; second leading cause of heart disease; leading cause of kidney failure, and a lot of other issues as well. So when a person has poor control over time– or even variability of blood sugar level– that puts a lot of strain on the body, and it can lead to those different complications. So that’s a big concern always.

I mentioned earlier the possibility of diabetic ketoacidosis, which is when a person’s electrolytes get so out of whack that the organs then start to do some strange things, and even perhaps to shut down. That, as you might imagine, can lead to terrible consequences. So, that’s the discussion of the high blood sugar.

On the low blood sugar side, when a person has too much insulin– versus the amount of carbohydrates that he or she has brought in…For the rest of us who don’t have type 1 diabetes, our bodies have all these different regulators in us that can allow us to constantly adjust. But the person with type 1 diabetes doesn’t have the ability to regulate that way. So with low blood sugar, a person can go into seizure and to coma and into death. It can happen very quickly. But unfortunately, the ketoacidosis can happen quickly too. I hear too many frightening stories, and the fact is many people die of ketoacidosis as do of low blood sugar with type 1 diabetes.

Denver: Well, let’s talk about some of the work that you do in research. It was about a decade or so, Derek, that JDRF launched the Artificial Pancreas Project, and this was a tremendous collaboration to accelerate progress in an effort that has really transformed the field. Where do we stand right now with the development of the artificial pancreas?

Derek: You’re right. This is one of our prouder accomplishments over the last decade plus. At this point, the first hybrid closed-loop artificial pancreas system has been commercialized. Let me explain that long term I just used.

Hybrid closed-loop means that it’s not a perfectly automatic system. I described earlier that the pump wants to keep producing and expressing insulin, so what we want to do is we now want to have a system that will know when to turn off if a person has too much insulin… not enough sugar in his or her body… or will automatically administer insulin when a person has high blood sugar. Now we have a system that will do that.

Now, a person is still telling the system when that person’s having a meal in order to try to help that system catch up with the load of carbohydrates that will be coming in through a meal, but it’s allowing the person to have much tighter control than otherwise would be the case. We have several systems like that that will be commercially available in the next few years, and they’ll keep getting smaller, easier to wear, more accurate, et cetera. So, great progress in that area.

I want to also mention about this that it’s not just about the research, it’s also about the advocacy work that we do. In fact, we work with, for example, the Food and Drug Administration here in the U.S. to help the regulators know the importance of bringing these therapies along.  And as part of that, to providing a road map that will allow the companies that make these devices to know what they need to do in order to have a regulatory approval.

Back some years ago, when we knew that the different companies in this space had their continuous glucose monitors… and they had their pumps and the systems that might put it all together, but they weren’t producing the full systems, it was because they were seeing a lot of uncertainty at the FDA in terms of what would be required in order for them to be able to get a product approved. So we started a very public campaign to impress upon the FDA the importance of laying out that road map. Eventually, after our insistence, the FDA did just that, and that’s why we now have one of these products already available, and others that are coming along. Again, our work and advocacy is very, very important.

Denver: Yes. Well, it just seems like that’s a by-product of the time you spent in the private sector, and knowing how important it is that companies know what the rules of the game are in order to get them to get on board.

Derek: There’s nothing that a business person hates more than uncertainty. You can handle bad news.. and maybe adjust  the valuation or whatever else, but that uncertainty paralyzes people.

Denver: It sure does. Another area that has received a lot of attention recently is encapsulation. What is encapsulation?


Richard Tofel, President of ProPublica, Joins Denver Frederick

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The following is a conversation between Richard Tofel, President of ProPublica, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

Richard Tofel

Richard Tofel ©

Denver: There have been few industries that have been disrupted more in recent years than have newspapers and magazines. And as they fight to survive by cutting costs, one of the areas that many have jettisoned has been investigative reporting. And that’s not good for any of us. So what was needed was a new business model — a nonprofit one — to help carry on this work. And this is how ProPublica came into existence back in 2007. And with us this evening is the president of ProPublica, Richard Tofel.

Good evening, Dick, and welcome to The Business of Giving.

Dick: Denver, thank you so much for having me.

Denver: Tell us about ProPublica and the mission and goals of the organization.

Dick: ProPublica, as you suggested, is a nonprofit investigative journalism newsroom. We print, publish everything on our own website at but we also work with leading journalism organizations in partnership. And as you say, we’ve been publishing now for a little bit more than nine years.  We focus on investigative journalism in the hopes that it is a critical part of democratic governance in our society, revealing to people things that people in power don’t want them to know… that we hope that will make them more effective citizens.

Denver: Well, you have had a really sensational first decade of existence. How has your audience grown?  And how has the organization been recognized for some of its outstanding work?

Dick: We’ve been very fortunate. We’re now reaching directly on our site somewhere between two– we’re recording somewhere between– two and three million people visiting us in an average month.

Denver: That’s impressive.

Dick: Between four and five million pages of our material is read on our own site. And then, of course, there’s the material being read when the stories are published by our partners. We’ve had 149 journalistic partners, pretty much every leading news organization in the country. And in terms of recognition, thank you for asking, we’ve been fortunate enough to win four Pulitzer prizes… I think literally, half of the Pulitzer prizes awarded to digital journalism organizations so far.

Denver: Congratulations. Well, since the presidential campaign, Dick, last year, I know more people dialed in, and I’m following the news more than I ever have in my life. What has the impact of the Trump presidency been on your operations?

Dick: It’s been very, very significant. Traffic is up 40%, 50%, 60% one or two months… over 70% this year over the previous year. Funding has been up enormously. So, without drowning people in numbers, we had 3,400 donors in total in 2015. We had 26,000 in 2016. And so far this year, although most of that kind of activity occurs, or much of it occurs, at the end of the year…

Denver: True.

Dick: So far, in 2017, we’ve had more than 21,000 donors.

Denver: That’s fantastic. Let’s talk about trusting the media a little bit. Something that the president talks a lot about… actually, not trusting the media. It’s at an all-time low, but I would say that trust for almost all of our institutions are at an all-time low. You have said that many people very well may not trust the media, but they believe it. Share with us what you mean by that.

Dick: So, here’s what I mean about that. I certainly wouldn’t dispute the surveys about low trust in the media, and as you say, I think that extends across almost all of our institutions. My favorite example of this is the president’s approval ratings. The president’s approval ratings, as folks probably know, are the worst of any new president in our history. Already after just 200 days, the president’s low point in approval is lower than 7 of his 10 predecessors ever were across 42 years between them… of occupying the presidency.

So the question is: where are they getting the basis of the conclusion? So many people, a very substantial majority of the American people don’t approve of the president’s performance in office. And I think the answer is: they’re getting it from what’s being reported in the news media. I think frankly, that’s why the president is so frustrated. He is frustrated because he’s not getting a lot done. He’s not delivering on his promises, and the press is telling the American people that that is the case.

Denver: So, whereas people may say, “I don’t trust the media,” somehow it is having an impact in the responses to how is the president doing.


Dan Cardinali, President and CEO of Independent Sector, Joins Denver Frederick

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The following is a conversation between Dan Cardinali, President and CEO of Independent Sector, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.


Dan Cardinali © Independent Sector

Denver: It is always so interesting to hear from the leaders of nonprofit organizations about the work they do around a particular issue and the lives that are being transformed as a result. But it is also essential to take a step back now and again to understand the dynamics of the sector in which this work is going on and the issues that impact all of these organizations. We cannot find a better person to do that with than my next guest. He is Dan Cardinali, the President and CEO of the Independent Sector. Good evening, Dan, and welcome to The Business of Giving.

Dan Cardinali: Denver, it’s a pleasure to be with you.

Denver: Give our listeners some of the history of the Independent Sector and of the organization’s mission and goals.

Dan: Independent Sector was founded 37 years ago by a social entrepreneur, John Gardner, who was really a public intellectual. He had been in the for-profit, nonprofit, academia, a chronic social entrepreneur who founded many organizations. He realized that there was this very important role for the founding of the Independent Sector to be an organization that brought philanthropy and nonprofits together into a vital meeting ground where it was non-transactional. It was about understanding where the world was and how civil society can come together and solve problems, build culture, preserve the natural environment, and then to translate that activity into good public policy… So the sector could be a real force for good, but partnering with government and with business in transforming the world.

Denver: Most people, I don’t think, fully appreciate the scope and breadth of this sector in the United States. Why don’t you describe it to us?

Dan: Sure. The name goes — you hear social sector, you hear charitable sector, you hear nonprofit, they’re all basically the same. There are about 1.6 million nonprofit and philanthropic organizations in the United States. They range from the zoos to museums, to the food banks, to churches, to synagogues, to all sorts of wonderful think tanks that produce incredibly important ideas. These 1.6 million organizations make up the nonprofit sector.

I don’t think most folks know that 1 in 10 Americans are actually employed by the social sector. If you think about the 63 million volunteers every year this country has, 1 in 4 Americans is actively involved in this sector. So we generate about $ ½  trillion dollars of economic activity, and if you look at that volunteer time alone, it’s worth almost $200 billion of value. So it is in a robust, dynamic part of American life and American economy.

Nonprofits, small as they may be, provide a really important opportunity for citizens to continually engage with each other, solve problems, and improve the community.

Denver: You just mentioned there are about 1.6 million nonprofits, and I think we have about 320 million people in the country right now – so doing some quick math, that’s about one nonprofit for every 200 people. Do you think the sector would benefit, be more efficient and effective, with a little bit of consolidation?

Dan: I think that is kind of a nonprofit-by-nonprofit reflective question. One thing that you can see is, efficiency does matter when you’re using and stewarding resources on behalf of community. So in so far as you can create efficiencies, and if consolidation enables you to do that, that’s terrific. An organization I used to work with– Communities in Schools– we saw some consolidation over the years when you had a number of very small rural affiliates unable to get the kind of critical mass that an economy of scale by consolidation promoted. And they were able to hire even better staff, build the kinds of technology systems that enabled them to be much more analytical, and then therefore, better services to kids.

However, there’s something in America that’s incredibly important. This notion of association– Individual citizens making decisions about coming together and solving problems or promoting culture or preserving the environment.

Nonprofits, small as they may be, provide a really important opportunity for citizens to continually engage with each other, solve problems, and improve the community. So you want to be careful with a blanket statement, like, “We need to consolidate!” as much as: “What are we trying to get accomplished?  And how do we get an organizational structure strong enough to help us really achieve that vision?”

Denver: So taking the entirety of this vast and multi-faceted and fascinating sector, what is the unique role that the Independent Sector plays and the distinct contribution that you make, Dan?


Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club Joins Denver Frederick

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The following is a conversation between Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer.

Michael Brune

Michael Brune © Sierra Club

Denver: Since the election of President Donald Trump this past November, some organizations have found themselves, well, a little bit more in the spotlight. That would be true of environmental organizations, not the least of which would be the Sierra Club— the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots organization, with some 3 million members and supporters. And I am delighted to have with us this evening, their Executive Director, Michael Brune. Good evening, Michael, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Michael Brune: Thank you for having me on the show.

Denver: The Sierra Club is now 125 years old. Give us some of the history of the organization and a few of a key milestone along the way.

Michael: Sure. Many folks say that we don’t look a day over 80. We have been around for 125 years. Sierra Club was founded by John Muir, really almost like an adventure travel company circa 1892. The purpose was to take people from the San Francisco Bay Area out to Yosemite in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, simply to experience the wonder of such a beautiful area, and then hopefully to engage people in protecting these places. Over the years, we continue to lead trips — tens of thousands of trips actually over the years — and we engage in exploring, enjoying, and protecting the environment… working to help to make sure we’re protecting forest, parks, and wilderness areas, and fighting climate change and other forms of pollution.

…our whole ethos is that we work to support Americans who want to make a difference in their own backyards. So, whether that’s taking folks on a trip, a hike in an afternoon, cleaning up a local river, or retiring a coal plant and replacing it with clean energy, we very much believe in the power of individuals to affect great change.

Denver: You know, Michael, if you are to take a look at the environmental organizations in this country — The Nature Conservancy, the Environmental Defense Fund, the World Wildlife Fund — where would you put the Sierra Club along that continuum?  And what specific or unique contribution do you make to this enterprise?

Michael: What separates Sierra Club is that we are old, very large… we have a strong grassroots presence. We have a volunteer chapter in every state with some staff as well; volunteer groups in almost every major city in the country, on college campuses. And our whole ethos is that we work to support Americans who want to make a difference in their own backyards. So whether that’s taking folks on a trip, a hike in an afternoon, cleaning up a local river, or retiring a coal plant and replacing it with clean energy, we very much believe in the power of individuals to affect great change.

Denver: Are there a few specific achievements that you have gotten over the last couple years that you’re exceptionally proud of?

Michael: Certainly, certainly. For the whole Sierra Club, what we are proud of throughout our history is: you probably can’t find a national park or state park where a Sierra Club volunteer wasn’t instrumental in helping to make sure that that place is protected. More recently, the work that we’ve been doing to accelerate the retirement of coal plants across the country. More than 250 coal plants– which is close to half of the fleet of coal plants in this country– either has been retired or will soon be retired and replaced with clean renewable energy. It is one of our biggest achievements… as well as much more recently, compelling US cities to make commitments to go to 100% clean energy as a solution to climate change.

Denver: Well, for an environmental group like the Sierra Club, there is before Trump and there is after Trump. So as a result of his election as President, has there been any essential change in your strategy, your approach, your tactics?

Michael: Yes, and no, actually. Certainly, we are a lot busier. We are working a lot harder. We are facing attacks on almost every issue that we care about; whether it’s cleaning up air pollution in this country, water pollution, climate pollution, endangered species, wildlife, public lands, our national monuments, international climate agreements, toxics issues, ocean issues. You name it. Pick an environmental issue, and we’re now facing rollbacks, or attempted rollbacks, or attacks, or lack of enforcement of laws, or the gutting of the agencies responsible for protecting them. So our approach is bifurcated. In one sense, we are fighting hard. We’ve hired lawyers, many lawyers who are challenging each of these attempts to roll back the safeguards that we’ve enjoyed, in many cases, for many decades. Working with Congress to help support those champions in Congress working to uphold strong environmental laws.

On the other hand, we don’t want to be all consumed by this President and Congress. We don’t simply want to play defense for the next two or four or eight years. The other half of our work is solutions-oriented. It is much more local. It’s an area where we are making dramatic progress, not just in retiring coal plants and replacing them with clean energy; not just getting cities to commit to 100% clean energy… But looking throughout the economy to figure out how can we take advantage of market forces and public will to really advance solutions at a much more aggressive pace than we currently are.

Denver: Scott Pruitt, the director of the EPA, he does seem to be a bit more organized and focused than a lot of the other cabinet members. I think he’s got about 30 environmental regulations that he is trying to roll back right now? Is that right?


Dayle Haddon, the Founder and CEO of WomenOne Joins Denver Frederick

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The following is a conversation between Dayle Haddon, the Founder and CEO of WomenOne, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in NYC.



Dayle Haddon © IMDb

Denver: When your first act was that of a supermodel, gracing the covers of over 100 magazines, and being the only person to have ever had contracts with the four major beauty companies: Max Factor, Revlon, L’Oreal, and Estee Lauder, it’s a little hard to imagine that your second act could be as successful. But for my next guest, it has been… and, may I dare say, more meaningful as well. She was recently the recipient of the Philanthropy Award by the UN Women for Peace Association and was nominated as one of the Top 50 Philanthropists by Town & Country Magazine. She is Dayle Haddon, the founder and CEO of WomenOne. Good evening, Dayle, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Dayle: Thank you so much. I’m so happy to be here, Denver.

Denver: Tell us about WomenOne and the mission and goals of the organization.

Dayle: WomenOne is a non-profit that I founded when I saw that there was an opportunity to make a difference for girls. I had been with a larger organization, and I just felt that girls education was a game changer. At WomenOne, that’s what we do. We find girls most at risk,  and we get them into school and get them educated so that they have their place, their chance, their voice in the world.

Denver: Let me pick up on what you just said there. There is no shortage of challenges out there, Dayle, and you could have picked any one of them. But you just said, educating girls was a game changer. Why do you believe this is the one that can have the greatest impact?

Dayle: Being privileged to have been a UNICEF Ambassador for so many years, I had wonderful opportunities — fascinating opportunities to travel the globe, especially Africa, but also South America — to really witness the works that they do. And what they do is really important.  And it is very hard to pick, whether it’s clean water or food or vaccinations, or a myriad of other things. But I felt that education– the studies that I did– education changed the other ones. It had the biggest impact. And educating a girl– The UN says that when you educate a girl, it’s like educating seven people because her impact on her family and the community is so huge. As a matter of fact, Muhammad Yunus said that he focuses on women because he says in his book, Banker to the Poor, that when he gives to a poor man, the first thing he does is spend it on himself.

Denver: Right.

Dayle: But he finds that when women have their first earnings, first it’s spent on her children, then her home, and then the community.

Denver: I think that women plow back 90% of what they earn into the family, while men only do about 40%.

Dayle: It’s interesting, isn’t it? I think it’s that nurturing quality as well. But a new thing that I just found out from the book, Drawdown.  It’s extraordinary about the environment that educating a girl has a number six positive impact on the environment. When a girl is educated, she positively affects the environment.

Denver: What does it mean when a girl gets educated? What does it mean to her children… or the number of children she has… or when she gets married?  What are some of the ramifications of getting a girl an education?

Dayle: An educated girl usually will have less children, and they will be healthier. She is the first teacher in a way, so her children will probably be educated. That’s just some of the positive effects. Her choices will be better. There are less occurrences of HIV-AIDS, when a girl is educated. Less occurrences of violence when a girl is educated. As a matter of fact, when I was in Turkey, I was in a room that was educating women over 60– the first time that they were learning to read. And one woman came in late and was so excited,  and we were saying, “What happened? What happened?” She said, “Because I can read now, it’s the first time I could get myself to the hospital by myself because I could read the signs on the bus.” You don’t really think about that.

Denver: Yeah. But it is very, very sweet and very important. As you said, you were a UNICEF Ambassador. You did that for about 12 years, and you traveled the globe, and you really got involved. You were not staying in the cushy hotels, but you were out there getting your hands dirty right on the front lines.  Where along that journey, Dayle, were you moved to start up a nonprofit and to launch what was to become WomenOne?

Dayle: Well, I thought about it a lot, but I wanted to get a lot of experience under my belt. I couldn’t pick a better organization than UNICEF to learn and to be in that UNICEF family. Some of them are saints on the ground that are working there. But it was in a trip in Angola, and I was in a rural clinic with a group of people. And women had walked all night with babies strapped to their backs to get medical attention because it was the only place for medical attention for miles around. And one of the doctors pulled me aside and said, “Wow! Could you help us?” and I went, “Yeah, sure!” And he said, “We are missing two microscopes. So if you could just help us get those two microscopes.” I said, “Yeah, yeah, no problem!” So I went up to the organization, I said “Could you give them two microscopes so they can do their job better?” And they looked at me and they went, “Dayle, that is way too small for us.” So at that point, I just thought: Oh my gosh, it’s not too small for those women that walked all night! So there is room for a smaller organization to work alongside the larger organization that is dealing with  bigger problems… and to work together.

Denver: Very smart.

Dayle: And that’s when the idea of WomenOne was born.

Denver: There you go. Well, quality education and gender equality. Now, those are two of the United Nations 17 sustainable goals. How is the world doing in seeing that girls are getting a quality education and are being provided the same educational opportunities as boys?

Dayle: The numbers differ a little bit, but it’s about 65 million girls out of school globally still. So it’s still a problem, as is quality education. Basically, the tendency — traditionally in many of the homes, especially in the developing countries — the finances that they have will go to a boy, not to a girl. And a girl that turns age 12 or 13 is where we approach the girl and we try to keep that girl in school. For every year that we can keep her in school, her earning power will go up. The GDP will go up for the country… Generally, a girl that age will be either brought back into the family to work; she will be married off, or she will be sold off.  We try to stop that as best we can, or we support and work with the community to help them realize why the community will benefit and how it will benefit if they keep their girls in school.

Denver: We’re doing pretty well, I guess, across the globe with primary education, but as you suggest, when they get to the secondary education, that’s where the fall off really occurs.

Dayle: The government, a lot of times, pays for primary but not secondary. So that comes out of the family pocket, and that is the challenge. So you need organizations like WomenOne that are around. And there are a few of us, quite a few of us, that really supplement that. It’s coming from the private sector to help support that because sometimes you think: Why am I going to help a girl so far away? I live in America or whatever. But actually the world is getting smaller and smaller, and it is extremely important. It is essential, as a matter of fact, that we create pockets of sanity, pockets of calm all over the globe because eventually we will be affected by that lack if it doesn’t happen.

Denver: Yeah, you are so right. It was really striking to see how many of these girls, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, get pregnant or give birth between the ages of 15 to 19. And then to compound that situation, the school often stigmatizes them and doesn’t let them go back to school. Correct?


Gary Reedy, President and CEO of American Cancer Society Joins Denver Frederick

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The following is a conversation between Gary Reedy, President and CEO of American Cancer Society, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer.

Gary Reedy.jpeg

Gary M. Reedy ©

Denver: Nearly 40% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetimes, and I dare say that not a single person listening has not been personally impacted by this disease. Leading the fight against cancer in the United States for over a century now has been the American Cancer Society, but it is also an organization that has reinvented and reimagined itself for the modern era. And with us this evening is a key architect of that transformation. He is Gary Reedy, the President and CEO of the American Cancer Society. Good evening, Gary, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Gary: Good evening! Thank you.

Denver: Let me start with a question I think is probably on most everyone’s mind, and that is: Where are we in the fight to end cancer?

Gary: We’re making great progress, and I think that’s something that everyone needs to know. Since 1991, the mortality rate for cancer has dropped 25%. As a result of that, there’s about 2.1 million lives that had been saved during that time. Today, there’s about 15.5 million survivors that have actually beat the disease. So the good news is, today, there’s more people actually surviving the disease than are dying from it.

Today, there’s about 15.5 million survivors that have actually beat the disease. So the good news is, today, there’s more people actually surviving the disease than are dying from it.

Denver: Let me ask you a little bit about the American Cancer Society. As I’ve said, it’s over a hundred years old, founded in 1913 right here in New York City. Tell us a little bit about its history and some of the major milestones along the way.

Gary: Well, the first thing you said which is really important, it was founded here in New York in 1913, and I think it’s important to understand how it was founded. It was a group of physicians and a group of lay people that got together because they wanted to do something about raising the awareness of this disease that was just then really being recognized as cancer. So that was the foundation of the Society as far as volunteers working with medical physicians to do something about this disease.

So we started out in 1913 trying to go around educating about cancer and raising the awareness of it. A couple of big milestones: In 1930s, the Women’s Field Army was formed. At that point in time, we had about 15,000 volunteers. This was actually a group of women that got together, actually had them put on uniforms, and they decided to band together and go door-to-door to educate about cancer and to help raise money to fight cancer. During that time, we went from about 15,000 volunteers to over 700,000 volunteers through the efforts of the Women’s Field Army.

In 1946, at that time, Mary Lasker got involved with the American Cancer Society.

Denver: Great woman.

Gary: A phenomenal woman, phenomenal leader, phenomenal volunteer. Another important thing to remember: when we were founded, we were not the American Cancer Society; we were the American Society for the Control of Cancer. And when Mary got involved in 1946, she did a few things that really changed the course for the rest of the century with the Society. “First of all,” she said, “we need to change the name. We really need to make it something that’s easier to say and easier to remember.” So the name was changed to the American Cancer Society. She also said, “Look,” at that point in time, we were only spending about a million dollars a year for research, she said, “We really need to be putting more money into research and doing more, too. If you really wanted to cure this disease, it’s going to be through research.”

So, as a result of Mary’s efforts since the late ‘40s, we have funded over $4.6 billion worth of research. We have been involved in just about every major breakthrough that’s occurred in cancer. We fund mainly basic research, which is on the front end of the research. Of the researchers that we funded, 47 of them have gone on to win a Nobel Prize in Medicine. So Mary had a huge impact on the society.

And then another significant thing that occurred in the late ‘50s, based upon work that the American Cancer Society had done, is we shared the definitive link between smoking and lung cancer. And up to that point in time, people didn’t really know. If you remember back then…

Denver: I do remember! Four out of five doctors recommend Viceroy cigarettes.

Gary: Oh, there you go! It’s funny. We have pictures in the archives of even our board of directors sitting around, smoking. But we published a paper that the Surgeon General  used in 1964 when we came out with the warning that’s on cigarette packages today… about the link between smoking and lung cancer and other health issues. So that was huge.

And then we also have done a lot of studies, mega studies, of just enrolling people that want to participate… average citizens that want to have their health tracked. The first couple of studies, the first one had over a million patients enrolled. The next one, about a million. The one we just completed is around 300,000 patients. But out of tracking those patients over a period of 20-25 years, we’ve also found that we discovered the link between obesity and different types of cancer – a definitive link. We discovered that aspirin can actually help reduce your risk of colon cancer. So there’s a lot of research that’s been done along the way by the Society that has really led to some major breakthroughs– as far as the things that we do, the things that we eat, the things we shouldn’t eat.

Denver: That’s right! Let me ask you one other thing about your history. You know, I think most of our listeners are well aware of that now iconic sword on the left-hand side of your logo. What is its significance?

Gary: Great question. Once again, the society has a terrific history with New York. In 1928, we had a poster contest to come up with what should be the logo for the American Cancer Society or at that time, the American Society for the Control of Cancer. The poster contest was actually won by a gentleman here in Brooklyn. He came up with a sword, and the sword is to represent the crusading spirit of the cancer control movement. And then you’ll notice at the bottom of the sword, there are two serpents that were to represent both the medical and scientific work of the Society. So since 1928, that’s been our logo.

Denver: I have always wondered about that.

Gary: Well, there you go!

Denver: Thank you for the answer. Well, as I mentioned in the opening, you have recently emerged from a transformation process. First of all, I want to congratulate you, Gary, for undertaking it because there are so many legacy organizations that really need to do so, but just don’t have the fortitude to face it. One of the things you did was reorganize American Cancer Society, which had been very decentralized, into a single corporate entity, which is quite an engineering feat, I might say. Why did you do this? And what were the keys that actually made it happen?

Gary: Well, I’ll tell you, this actually started back when I was a volunteer with the Society. I was a volunteer with the Society for 15 years and became CEO two years ago. So my predecessor, Dr. John Seffrin, he and I were like partners in crime from the staff and volunteer standpoint, because we saw a need to really bring the society together. At that time, we had a federated model. So we had 13 different groups around the country that had their own board of directors, their own governing structure. And if you’re looking at it holistically, you’re saying, “Okay. If we really want to have the greatest impact possible of fighting cancer, then we all need to be working together and going in the same direction.”

We were making progress back then, but we were also somewhat constrained. I’ll give you a great example. If we wanted to do a partnership with a major corporation on a nationwide basis, at that point in time, we could only do that if each individual governing board agreed to do it. By the time you went through that process—

Denver: The company had moved on to some other effort!

Gary: The company had moved on, and they’d gone out of business! So we needed to take all the resources and all the efforts and bring them together and say, “Okay. We can have greater impact. We can have greater relevance. We can be more nimble as a Society. We can make decisions quicker—

Denver: The world’s getting faster; you better keep up.

Gary:–if we’re a single enterprise.” And we went through—it was a very deliberate process because we’re a volunteer-led organization, so all the volunteers had to agree that this was the best way to move forward with the society. We cannot make that decision as staff and say: “This is what we’re going to do.”

Denver: People always say you’re never really a great manager until you’ve managed volunteers.

Gary: Well, I would actually agree with that.

Denver: It’s a skill.

Gary: Thank goodness for our volunteers because we wouldn’t get anything done without them. But the volunteers are very vested in the Society, so they want the Society to be as successful as possible. So we went through the process, and the volunteers all agreed over a period of time that this is the best thing to do.  So we became a single enterprise.

Today, we have one board of directors; we have one CEO. We’re still not as quick and nimble as I would like for us to be, but we’re working hard to get there, to where we can move much quicker.

Denver: Well, as part of this transformation, you had three overarching themes, and I’m going to ask you to say a word about each of them: mission, relevance, and revenue.

Let’s start with mission. How was your mission changed?

So our mission is very simple. We’re here to save lives, celebrate lives, and to lead the fight for a world without cancer.

Gary: First and foremost, when I first volunteered with the Society, I was automatically drawn to the mission, just being out there, trying to have an impact against cancer and to fight from a volunteer perspective, but also now from a staff perspective. So to me, mission is first and foremost.

Denver: It sure is.

Gary: We have to be clear on what our mission is, what our purpose is, and why we’re here. So I’ve said from day one as a volunteer– and now as CEO– we can never forget why we’re here and what we’re trying to do.

So our mission has not changed per se, but we did change our mission statement. Our mission statement—it’s funny. I looked at our mission statement the whole time I was a volunteer, and it’s like 40-some words. Even after 15 years, I couldn’t repeat it back to you. But we just recently said, “You know what? We’re not changing our mission, but we’re going to change our mission statement. Make it short and something that people can remember.” Because one of the problems we have is everyone knows the American Cancer Society, but they’re really not clear on all the great work that the American Cancer Society does.

Denver: You’re absolutely right.

Gary: So our mission is very simple. We’re here to save lives, celebrate lives, and to lead the fight for a world without cancer.

Denver: Nice and tight.

Gary: Nice and tight. And I’ve got to tell you, Denver, we made that change in January this year, and people love it. Anytime I go out and talk, people will automatically repeat it back to me. So what’s happening now is people are saying, “Okay. Yeah, American Cancer Society – save lives, celebrate lives, and lead the fight for a world without cancer.”

And now what we’re really trying to do from a mission standpoint, which gets into the second part about relevance, is: I believe in today’s environment, especially as a nonprofit, you really have to be seen as being relevant in what you’re doing. So my question has been, from all the great mission-work we’re doing: Is it relevant today in the 21st century? It may have been relevant 50 years ago, but is it relevant now? What type of impact are we having?

So we’ve decided to go back and look at our mission and all the work that we’re doing and… excited about some of the things we’ve come up with. The first thing we decided to do, and I talked earlier about research… Right now, we are the largest, private, not-for-profit funder of cancer research in the United States. We fund about $125 million worth of research per year. We made a decision last year that we’re going to double that amount. So by 2021, we’re going to be funding at least a quarter of a billion dollars worth of research.

Denver: Big time commitment.

Gary: Yes. We’re excited about that. We’re energized about it, and we see that this is one way that we can help accelerate the elimination of this disease.

We also are in the process of developing a cancer control blueprint, which is basically putting to paper everything we know about cancer and what we don’t know.  And then, what are we going to do, as the American Cancer Society, to get the answers to those questions?  Now, this is going to be a blueprint that we’re going to share with the country because we can’t do this by ourselves. We have to all be in this together, working together towards the goal.

Denver: Well, that sounds actually like a nice change of pace, sharing your blueprint with the country.

Gary: Yes! Exactly.

Denver: From some people we know.

Gary: Well, now you know. So we’re going to publish that at the end of this year, and it’s actually pretty much based upon specific cancers, not just cancer in general. So we’re excited about that.

And then from all the great work that we do with patient services and around screening and education and prevention, just making sure that what we’re doing today really resonates with the public at large. And really make it in such a way that people can grasp it and can understand it. A great fact about cancer is:  you can reduce your risk of getting cancer by over 50% just by individual choices that you make.  And we really want to get that word out there. So if people don’t use tobacco, they can reduce their risk of getting cancer by about 30%… just by not using tobacco. If you add on top of that:  eating properly, exercising, getting your screenings, then you can add another 20%; so you’re already up to 50%, a little over 50% chance.

So we’re trying to do everything we can to make sure that everyone understands that they can take control of this to an extent and help reduce the risk of getting cancer.

Denver: Well, speaking of relevance then, and particularly doubling of your research budget from $120 million to $250 million or so…that leads us to revenue. Now, your signature program for a number of years has been Relay For Life, but I know how difficult it has been to grow these programs after the last couple of years. Tell us what your plans are, as well as some of your corporate partnerships, and others with entertainment and sports.

Gary: I definitely will.  So it’s all about mission, and then it’s all about relevance. Because I believe that if you are clear on your mission and you’re doing things that are relevant, then that gives you the opportunity to raise revenue or increase your revenue.

Denver: I know when you started, you actually had it:  mission, revenue, relevance. Then you said, “You know what? Relevance has to precede our revenue.”

Gary: I did! And I said to the organization, “I messed up. I got the Rs in the wrong order.” I said, “It’s got to be mission, relevance and revenue.”

Denver: But you pivoted!

Gary: We have. And I tell you, talking about Relay For Life, that is an incredible community event. We’ve been doing it for 32 years. It’s our source of revenue right now. But over the last seven or eight years, the revenues have declined from Relay

Denver: With everybody, in every one of these activities, no matter what the organization.

Gary: I think that’s what’s happening now, and we are pivoting. Because back in the day when Relay was started, people’s lives were not as complicated as they are. There were not as many competing priorities, especially for themselves and for their children. So people would go out for a day, for 12 hours, 24 hours, and they’d walk the track. It was a huge community event, and the community was coming together to make a difference in cancer.

And that’s what we’re doing now. We’re trying to work with communities and say, “Look. If Relay is still important to your community, then that’s awesome, and let’s do it. BUT, let’s do it your way. You do it. It doesn’t have to be 24 hours. It can be as many hours as you want it to be. It can be two hours. It can be three hours. It can be six hours…whatever the community wants.” In other areas where relay is kind of like dying a slow death or a quick death, we’re saying to the communities, “Look. We know you want to fight cancer. We know you want to help us fight cancer. So what would you like to do in your community? How would your community like to come together to help fight this disease?”

So, we’re still going to be very active in the communities to bring the communities together, but then we are working now at a different level where we haven’t worked for a long time. Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, we had a lot of celebrities that would do cancer educational material for us. But then, their agents got involved, and they wanted to start charging. Obviously, being a nonprofit, we couldn’t pay those fees. But we are now branching out into the entertainment industry and have had some entertainers come to us and say, “Hey. We want to be part of this movement. We want to use our platform to make a difference for cancer.”

One of our major ambassadors right now is Taboo, and people are going like, “I don’t know who Taboo is.” Well, he is one of the singers from the Black Eyed Peas. So he actually had a cancer scare himself. So he now is committed to working with us, to do everything he can to raise the awareness on cancer, and he’s bringing some of his other friends in to work with us.


Denver Frederick and Gary Reedy at AM970 The Answer Studio

Denver: Wonderful!

Gary: In the sports world, we have a great partnership with the National Football League that we’re expanding. We have a partnership now with US Track & Field. We have some other sports partnerships that we’re working on.

And what I’m seeing is, as we are changing and have changed and said, “Look. It’s all about relevance, and it’s all about eliminating this disease,” then we are seeing that a lot of people who in the past had been on the sidelines are actually coming to us and saying “We’d like to be involved. We’d like to be engaged.”

Denver: And also, as you said before, as a single entity now, a corporate entity, you can engage them much more easily than you could in the past.

Gary: That’s exactly right because, to your point, I don’t know a person that has not been impacted by cancer, either directly or indirectly. And I don’t know a person that doesn’t want to fight, to eliminate this disease. So it’s just a matter of us, first of all, showing what it is that we’re doing and how we’re relevant to that fight, and then inviting people to help us.

Denver: Let me ask you about a few specific cancers, if I may. One statistic that really shocked me was that if lung cancer in nonsmokers had its own separate category, it would rank among the top 10 fatal cancers in the United States. Wow! Tell us about some of your public health initiatives around lung cancer.

Gary: Lung cancer today is the deadliest cancer out there. Literally, we lose more people on an annual basis– men and women– to lung cancer than any other cancer. So we have made great progress through a lot of the work that we’ve done with our anti-tobacco efforts. The lung cancer rates have continued to drop, have dropped pretty significantly for men, but due mainly to men not smoking the way they used to. They’re starting to drop now…the same with women, but women started smoking later, but they also stopped smoking later…but at least we’re seeing the rates come down.

We think there’s more that can be done there, and one of the platforms that we’re looking at now is really trying to bring groups together and put a stake in the ground, if you will, and say, “Over the next 10 years, let’s try to reduce the mortality rate in lung cancer by 50%.” And that’s going to be by continuing to fight, to get people not to use tobacco.  Never use it!  Or stop using it!  To get smokers who have been smoking for some time to get screened to see if they do have lung cancer, because lung cancer, like any other cancer, the sooner you can catch it, the higher the probability of success. So we’re putting and building a whole campaign right now just on, to say, “Okay. Let’s go after this deadly cancer and see how much of an impact we can have working with others to really reduce the mortality.”

Denver: You know, despite some of the remarkable advances that had been made against cancer, a study that your research has led showed that there was an increase in colon and rectal cancer among young and middle-aged adults. Tell us more about this and what needs to be done to reverse this trend.

Gary: I think we were all surprised. The Society, we spend about $25 million a year doing internal research. We publish all the statistics on cancer facts and figures, and we’re looking at all the cancers and what progress is being made. And this finding surprised us…that colon cancer is appearing at a much younger age now.

So one of the platforms that we have been working on since 2014 is to have everyone that is age-appropriate to be screened for colon cancer by 2018. So we call the campaign 80 by 18, so we have at least 80% of the eligible population to be screened. The process we’re in right now with this new finding is, let’s say, “Okay, let’s make sure that everyone who is 50 years of age and older is being screened for colon cancer… and that does not mean a colonoscopy per se. We just want people to be screened. So even if they just have the stool test, which is very simple, very easy to do, that will suffice. So it’s not like I want everybody to say, “Oh, we all need to get colonoscopies now. Just get screened.”

As far as the data we just found with the incidence occurring in younger patients, we’re in the process now of really looking at that data and working with our guidelines committee to say, “Do we need to change the guidelines? Do we need to say that people need to be screened at an earlier age so we can catch it earlier?” So this has just happened, but we are laser-focused on it. Because the public depends on the American Cancer Society to weigh in on these issues and say, “Okay. What should we do?” or “What should be done?”       

Denver: Provide some direction. That’s what they want. That’s what they’re looking to you for.

Gary: That’s exactly right.

Denver: Well, as you know, we’re in the heart of the summer season, Gary, and I know you folks have also designated July as UV Safety Month. So what is the latest research? And what are some of the things that we should be keeping in mind when we’re working in the garden or heading out to the beach this summer?

Gary: Real simple. Just use your sunscreen. First of all, stay out of the sun.  But if you’re going to be in the sun, make sure you have on sunscreen.

Denver: What number sunscreen do you guys recommend?

Gary: At least 30 or above. And depending on how long you’re going to be in the sun, but at least make sure you have a good sunscreen with 30 level protection or above. Wear your sunglasses; wear hats…just do everything you can to protect your skin. And do not go to tanning salons. Do not use tanning beds. Because it’s unfortunate that so many of us who grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s…I can remember my sisters, they used to lay out in the sun and they would put iodine baby oil all over their bodies and just lay there and fry like a piece of bacon.

Denver: Speed it up.

Gary: So now all of us are actually seeing the implications of that with the greater rise in skin cancer. On a personal basis, I went in in January this year for my annual skin screening. The dermatologist found a couple of places on me that she was a little worried about but not too worried. And I said, “Well, let’s just go and take them off.” And actually, as it turned out, the one on my forehead was melanoma, which is the most deadly form of skin cancer. And fortunately, it was in situ, which means it did not spread. It’s contained right there at that one spot, but I had to have surgery to have it cut out and make sure the margins were clean.

Denver: Good call, Dr. Reedy!

Gary: I want to share that! I want to share that with everybody because we all need to get our annual screenings of our skin, get our skin checks just to see. And if you see anything suspicious on your skin – a mole, a spot, or whatever – make sure you go to your doctor and have it checked out. Because, as I said before, fortunately, in my own personal situation, if I had said, “We’ll just leave that there. Don’t worry about it,” in three or four years, it could’ve been a totally different story.

Denver: I had the same thing happen to me last year.  So I know exactly what you’re talking about. And I think another thing about suntan lotion is that it’s not a panacea. And that’s what some of these people think. They think if they put it on, they’re protected, and they can stay out in the sun as long as they want.  And that probably is not a smart thing to do, correct?

Gary: That’s absolutely correct. Another point on using sunscreens is a lot of times, people put them on in the morning and think, “Okay. That’s great. I’m good for the day.” And that’s really not great. They really need to be applied fairly frequently throughout the day when you’re out in the sun. So every couple of hours would be terrific as far as making sure that you, whether you spray it on or rub it on, about every couple hours that you’re reapplying it so that you really are protecting your skin.

Denver: Got you. Let’s move on to something else. Health care reform is Topic A these days…an issue that every American is deeply concerned about. How would some of the possible reforms impact cancer patients? What is the role that  the American Cancer Society is playing here?

Gary: Going back to the mission – we do research, we do patient services, we do education and screening, and the last part of our mission initiative is around advocacy. So we advocate on behalf of cancer patients, both at the federal and at the state level. We like to say we’re totally non-partisan. And what I like to say is that we are advocating through the lens of a cancer patient. So we’re out there fighting to make sure that all cancer patients have access to good care and to affordable care.

So what’s going on with health care reform right now? We are actively engaged in that initiative.  We are being very, very vocal, very visible. We are enlisting all of our volunteers to talk to their congressperson, to their senators. Because what we want to make sure happens is: whatever happens in terms of health care reform, we want to make sure it’s better than what we currently have. So things that are really important to the American Cancer Society and to cancer patients, and actually to all people, are making sure that there is coverage of pre-existing conditions. Because you can imagine if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and then you can’t get insurance… if you lose your job and have to get insurance someplace else… and you can’t because you have a cancer diagnosis, that’s not good.

So, make sure that the coverage of pre-existing conditions stays in there. We want to make sure that the essential health benefits stay in. There’s a lot of debate right now about trying to reduce Medicaid expenses.  And all we’re saying is there are a lot of cancer patients right now who have access to treatment through Medicaid. So if Medicaid is reduced, let’s make sure that we have something there that’s not going to leave those patients out in the cold.

But I can assure you that we’re fighting every day, and we’re being very vocal, very visible.

Denver: Very intentional.

Gary: Very intentional. I just can’t stress enough that it’s totally non-partisan, and we don’t take sides. We don’t take sides–whether it’s a democrat, a republican, or whatever.

Denver: The only side you’re taking is the cancer patient.

Gary: That’s exactly right. We’re on the side of the cancer patient. So we don’t even look at whose bill is introduced, or by whom, or by which party. We look at: what does that bill say? And how does this look through the lens of a cancer patient? And that’s what we’re fighting for.

Denver: You know, there’s been a lot of energy in the cancer community around the Cancer Moonshot project that is being spearheaded by former Vice President Joe Biden. Tell us a little bit about it, its objective, and some of the recommendations that have come out of its blue ribbon panel.

Gary: I tell people all the time when President Obama, I guess in 2016, announced “the Moonshot” and that Vice President Biden was going to be in charge of it. I was elated that that happened because ever since Nixon signed the War on Cancer back in 1971, there’s been a lot of progress that’s been made. But we were on the edge now of just making exponential progress, and I thought what the Moonshot did… I think it did a couple of things. It really raised the awareness in the public again that we can end cancer as we know it if we focus on it as a country. So that was number one, raising the awareness.

The other thing that was terrific was it became very obvious to everyone that to do that, we all have to work together. And to me, that’s one of the biggest things that came out of Moonshot, is former Vice President Biden was in charge of all the government departments that have anything to do with cancer. When he was there, he made it really clear that all of you are going to be working together now to help end this disease.

Denver: That’s great.

Gary: And then in the cancer centers, it’s been made very clear that we all need to work together. We need to work together, and we’d get there much quicker. So is it happening? It’s happening like anything else. It’s happening in spots. It’s not happening consistently, but at least the message is there. And I know at the American Cancer Society, we are doing everything to can to support the Moonshot, to support the recommendations coming out of the Moonshot, and we’re saying to anyone that we will be glad to collaborate and to work with you if by so doing, we can have 2x, 3x, 4x the impact than if we did it, each by ourselves.

So we’re trying to take that movement towards collaboration and really make sure that it continues to move forward. We’re trying to “walk the walk” as well.

Denver: Well, that’s really encouraging to hear because collaboration has been something that’s been missing from our entire sector, not just in the cancer community, but everywhere. We have a common enemy, but we very rarely work together and speed it up. I think a lot of the hope comes from these exponential technologies, and I don’t think that people understand that sometimes this exponential growth starts very, very slowly. But now, you’re beginning to see that doubling and doubling and doubling, so this could be a very exciting period that’s coming up.

You’re the American Cancer Society, but I also know that the World Health Organization estimates that more than 500,000 people will die of cancer in sub-Saharan Africa… more than malaria as a matter of fact.  And the cancer burden is projected to just mushroom in the next 15 years. You recently announced an initiative in this regard. Tell us about it and how global work fits into the mission of the American Cancer Society.

Gary: We’re very excited about this. We are partnering with the Clinton Health Access Initiative to really work in six countries in sub-Saharan Africa to bring chemotherapeutic agents to these countries. In the US, the cancer burden is bad enough, but as you mentioned, outside the US, it’s exponential. And in sub-Saharan Africa, we found out that a lot of times, patients are dying because they don’t have treatment.  We’ve been working for years to try to get pain medications for these patients because they were dying, and they were dying in pain. Now, working with the Clinton Health Access Initiative, we’ve actually worked with them and with two other companies – with Pfizer and with Cipla – to expand access to 16 essential cancer treatment medications in these countries: Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.

So this is a start, but we’re excited about this. And what we’re wanting to do is find partners outside the US that we can work with to take our knowledge for the last 104 years… and some of our resources and our talents and our efforts, and work together to start addressing the cancer burden outside of the US.

Denver: Great! Let me ask you a little bit about the corporate culture of the American Cancer Society. That’s one of our favorite topics on this show, and we’re always talking about how you keep your people motivated and engaged. I just would like to have you speak about that a little bit and also how this recent transformation has impacted that culture.

Gary: The great thing about the American Cancer Society and the culture is everybody that is working there wants to be there, and most of them have a personal connection. They’re there for a very personal reason…in some way, cancer has impacted them. So we’re very fortunate that people really want to work at the American Cancer Society.

But to your point, over the last four or five years, there have been some major transformations and transitions going around, which has resulted in quite a few reorganizations and some positions being eliminated, and unfortunately, some associates losing their job. So we’re right now very focused on the culture, and we’re very focused on—going back to what to I said earlier—“Let’s all remember why we’re here. Let’s remember what our purpose is, and let’s all work together as a team. We’re all on the same team here. So let’s go forward, and let’s get there as soon as we can.”

What I say to people all the time is: when I first started out in my career on the business side, in the corporate world, I used to say: “ Let’s work hard and play hard.”  And then I realized that that was wrong because you can work hard and not really accomplish anything. So now what I say is: “ Let’s work smart,and let’s have fun.”  So what we’re trying to do now is, as we work our way through the end of this transformation and transition is really start focusing on how we’re working together and creating a new culture that’s very proactive, very inclusive, very nimble. I tell folks all the time, I say, “We have to take risks. We have to be aggressive because we’re here to help eliminate cancer. So we have to change  things up and do things differently and constantly change.” I’ve told the entire staff and volunteers that as long as I’m in this position, we will constantly be changing because the world is changing. So we have to keep on changing and trying to improve ourselves.

Denver: If you’re standing still, you’re falling behind…

Let me pick up on what you said about being in the corporate world. I think most recently, your job was as North American President of J&J’s Ortho Biotech division. What’s it’s been like to go from the corporate world to the nonprofit world?

Gary: I get that question a lot because I’ve spent 37 years in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, and most of that was with Johnson & Johnson, which is a terrific company. But people ask me that question all the time, and my answer is always the same. For me, it’s been pretty seamless because I was a volunteer at the Society for 15 years. I was on the National Board. As I said before, I really helped lead, from a volunteer standpoint, this transformation. So I’m taking my business experience, my 37 years of business experience, and just applying everything that I’ve learned to how we at the American Cancer Society really fight this disease. So it’s all about empowerment; it’s all about accountability. It’s all about impact, relevance, results.

So I actually was in the corporate world one day and leading the American Cancer Society the next, and I believe we are a business.  We may have a nonprofit status, but we are a business, and we have to act like a business. I say that whether someone decides to invest in the American Cancer Society $25 or $25 million, we have to treat that exactly the same because they are investing whatever resources they have in us because they feel that we are going to be able to do something to have impact with that money. So I’m just trying to get that mindset that we’ve got to be the best stewards possible that we can be, and that everything has really got to be focused on relevance and on impact.

Denver: And you never know if that $25 donor might be a $25 million donor someday.

Gary: Well, you’re absolutely right! The other thing about that $25 donor, and thank goodness, we have lot of those throughout the country, they never know that $25 that they donate could very easily be going towards the next breakthrough in cancer. So, they could be a part of that.

Denver: Let me close with this, Gary, and I want to do that by going back to the very beginning of our discussion, which is: How are we doing in the fight against cancer? Is there one area, whether it be in research or prevention or detection, that you are exceptionally excited about these days and believe just holds enormous potential to fight this deadly disease?

Gary: Absolutely! And it’s what’s going on in research right now. We are making exponential progress, maybe not on a daily basis, but certainly on a monthly basis. What we’re finding out, and I’m saying we collectively, not just the American Cancer Society, but all the researchers out there, the biggest challenge we have right now is keeping up with the research. Seriously. And I tell people that we’re finding out, we’re finding new information every day, and we’re failing faster, which is really important, because we’re finding out that something is going to work or not work quicker.

Denver: You’re learning.

Gary: And right now, there’s a lot of excitement about immunotherapy or using your body’s own defense mechanisms to fight cancer so you’re not using chemo; you’re not using radiation. It’s a very exciting area. The best example I give all the time is President Carter. Two years ago, at age 90, he had metastatic melanoma to the brain. He was treated with immunotherapy, and now he’s cancer-free and very active and very engaged.

So I want everyone to know that we’re making incredible progress today. We’re really able to look at all of these cancers at the cellular level and see what’s going on there and what mutations are occurring, and then very quickly determining – do we have something that will stop that mutation? And if we do, then let’s use it; if we don’t, then what do we need to have that will block that mutation or shut it down? So from a research standpoint, very, very exciting.

I’m very optimistic. I tell people—it’s funny. I was interviewed a couple of weeks ago by a reporter from Newsweek. Her last question for me was: What’s your vision for the American Cancer Society in the next 10 years? I said, “To be out of business.”

Denver: Amen!

Gary: I said, “That’s my vision. I would love for us to be out of business.” I don’t want to say that we’ll eradicate cancer in the next 10 years, and cancer will always be around because a lot of it is genetically predisposed. But I do feel that we’re getting to a point now to where  some of these cancers are being cured, and where I think a lot of them, if they’re not cured, that they will be able to be managed as a chronic disease. So it’s truly, truly exciting what’s going on.

Denver: It sure is! Well, Gary Reedy, the President and CEO of the American Cancer Society, I want to thank you so much for being here this evening. Tell us about your website, the kind of information you have there, and how people can get involved to help support the work of the American Cancer Society?

Gary: Well, I’ll be more than happy to, and thank you for this opportunity. First of all, I tell people all the time: if you get that diagnosis of cancer, or if you have a friend or a neighbor or a loved one, there’s two things you can do immediately that’s going to make you feel a lot better:

We have a toll-free number that you can call. It’s 1-800-227-2345. It’s available 24/7, 365, and we’re there to answer your questions and to help you get the help you need. You can also go to, which is our website. There is a ton of information there in layman’s terms that gives you resources, support, and actually provides information about the specific type of cancer that you may have or may want to know about, once again in layman’s terms.

So please call our toll-free number; go to our website. Like I said, we’re there 24/7, 365 for you. Also on our website, there is a place where you can volunteer. Today, we have about 2 million volunteers throughout the United States, so we’ve grown in the last 104 years from that 15,000 to 700,000.

Denver: Ever since the women got involved, you’ve grown.

Gary: And I tell you what, thank goodness they did! But we have over 2 million volunteers, and I’d love to have 2 million more. So we’d love to have you volunteer for the American Cancer Society. You can express your interest to do so on our website. You can call the 800 number and tell people you’d like to volunteer.

Denver: And you can click on that “donate”  button, too, right?

Gary: Well, you can. You absolutely can! I tell people today I’ve gotten rid of the term “donor.” I use the term “investor.” I tell people that I don’t want them to give us money, but I want them to invest in us if they think what we’re doing is relevant… so that we can be even more relevant.

So it still says “donate” on there, but maybe one of these days, we’ll change it to “invest.”

Denver: You’re the boss. Go ahead and do it!

Gary: We’d love to have anyone and everyone engage with us in this fight because I can’t think of a better time to be involved in it.

Denver: Fantastic! Well, thanks, Gary. It was a real pleasure to have you on the program.

Gary: Well, thank you very much.


Denver Frederick and Gary Reedy

The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at

Rodger DeRose, President and CEO of the Kessler Foundation Joins Denver Frederick

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The following is a conversation between Rodger DeRose, President and CEO of the Kessler Foundation, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer.

rodger derose

Rodger DeRose © Kessler Foundation

Denver: There are certain organizations that just bring with them a blue chip label. The Kessler Foundation, whether you’re speaking about their research, their programs, or their work culture would be one of those organizations. So, it is a great delight to have with us this evening, the President and CEO of the Kessler Foundation, Rodger DeRose. Good evening, Rodger, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Rodger: Thank you, Denver! Appreciate the opportunity.

Denver: Tell us about the Kessler Foundation, and the mission and goals of the organization.

Rodger: Kessler Foundation is over 30 years old now. It was formed as part of the fundraising arm of Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation back in the mid ‘80s. We owned the assets of Kessler Institute as the foundation, and we did a hospital conversion back in 2003 and 2004 and came into a sizeable endowment.

At that point in time, we had to make a decision: How are we going to spend the money? The two areas that we decided to focus on were: research in the areas of brain, spinal cord injury, stroke, and MS; and the other area was in the area of grantmaking, in terms of providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities because it’s one of the most stubborn issues that people with disabilities have… whether they’re born with the disability in life, or they have a disability in life in terms of getting into the workforce and remaining a productive member of society and the workforce.

So we decided that those would be the two focus areas. One, research in terms of addressing the functional issues that people with disabilities have in the areas of brain, spinal cord injury, stroke, and MS. The second area being: How do we help individuals with disabilities re-engage with the workforce?

Denver: Two great focus areas. Now, you continue to work closely with the Kessler Rehabilitation Institute, which is over in West Orange, New Jersey. What’s the relationship between the two of you now?

Rodger: You know,  while we’re separate organizations, separated by firewalls and we have our separate boards. We sold the hospital – Kessler Institute – to Select Medical, which is based in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and they really are a dominating force across the country in terms of medical rehabilitation hospitals. But we are still very, very close. We’re as joined at the hip as possible. We have our research center, our major research centers in West Orange on the Kessler campus, and that, of course, is part of the Kessler Hospital.

So the great thing about that, Denver, is the fact that when we’re conducting research, we’re almost vertically integrated where patients– either inpatients or outpatients that are coming there for their service in terms of the rehabilitation service–  they can actually migrate right into our research programs. And so when you have access to patients, you have the ability to do your research in a very effective and efficient way.

Denver: Absolutely. Truly translational.

Rodger: It is. It is truly translational. That’s the end benefit, I think, for Kessler Institute, is the benefit that they receive in terms of the new medical interventions that we are creating in these areas of brain, spinal cord injury, stroke, and MS that they can actually apply right in the hospital to the patients.

Denver: Great! Well, let’s take a couple of those that you just mentioned. You have six specialized laboratories in this research center. You mentioned a moment ago stroke rehabilitation–that research lab. How many people in this country, Rodger, have had a stroke?

Rodger: In the US, there are 800,000 new stroke victims every year, and the areas that we address, of course, are the areas of cognition. For example, the area of spatial neglect is a specialty that we have within the foundation.

Spatial neglect is:  if you think of the brain as a GPS system and it losing its ability to go left if you’ve had a right brain stroke.

Spatial neglect is a very, very special need, and it’s something that we have become a leader in, not only in research but also in terms of applying it now to every stroke patient that comes through Kessler Institute.

Denver: Speak a little bit about that because that’s really interesting.

Rodger: Spatial neglect is: if you think of the brain as a GPS system and it losing its ability to go left if you’ve had a right brain stroke. In 50% of the cases of an individual who has a right brain stroke, it’s a common occurrence to have what we call “spatial neglect” where you have an absence of leftness. So, for example, Denver, if you are an individual that has spatial neglect, and you’re eating a plate of food and we asked you if you’re finished, you would have most likely eaten the right-hand side and missed the left-hand side completely. And as we turn the plate, you would then start to see the remainder of the food that you missed. Or if you’re shaving in the morning, you would shave the right-hand side of your face but miss the left-hand side. Same with a woman applying makeup.

So it’s called spatial neglect, and it’s an area that we have specialized in over the last seven years and developed a very straightforward approach in terms of how we address this issue in 10 sessions, less than 45-minutes per session; in terms of helping individuals regain leftness; in terms of where their world can be complete again, whether they’re looking at an album, a picture book of their family members and being able to see the entire family; or in the case of driving, being able to go out and drive again. So what we’re trying to do is give them complete independence where they can go right back into the community, into the family, and into the workplace. The areas of paralysis with stroke is something that we deal with every day, but spatial neglect is a very, very special need, and it’s something that we have become a leader in, not only in research, but also in terms of applying it now to every stroke patient that comes through Kessler Institute. Now, all of their nurses and practitioners are trained in this methodology.

And now what we’re doing, Denver, is rolling this out across the country and around the world so that other medical rehabilitation centers become aware of what spatial neglect is because it really has been something that has been absent from neurologists.

Denver: Neglected.

Rodger: Yes.

Denver: No question about it. I just can imagine how dangerous that must be just in terms of walking around and taking falls.

Rodger: Well, that’s it! And then they end up back in the hospital or back at Kessler Institute for another issue that they might have had from the fall.

Denver: Any other symptoms of stroke that are somewhat invisible?  Or things that people don’t know about and that you’re addressing?

Rodger: Well, you know, aphasia– in terms of the ability to think and be able to speak clearly– is always an issue, and that’s something that’s addressed very clearly in almost every major stroke organization that deals with this from a rehabilitation perspective, Denver. But the area that we have really focused on in our research is this area of cognitive deficiencies that come from a stroke.

Denver: You know, one of your centers of excellence out there is your traumatic brain research center. What’s some of the work that you’re doing over there?

Rodger: In traumatic brain injury, the common areas are not only cognition-related issues, but also mobility-related issues. So the areas that you would see us focus on are in cognition– helping individuals think, learn, remember again, and address those issues of cognition deficits. And then the other areas that we’re working on are balance. One of the major issues with traumatic brain injury patients is regaining balance, and this leads to the type of issues that you mentioned with stroke patients– spatial neglect where they would fall. In this particular case, we’re working with the Department of Defense in a major area of helping individuals, civilians as well as veterans, address this issue of balance and how they regain it.

Denver: How is your research funded?

Rodger: Our research is funded by two methods, actually, Denver. We’re very fortunate that now that we have an endowment.  It does give us the ability to fund many startup programs that otherwise, you wouldn’t have the pilot data to collect this important information that allows you then to go to federal agencies to win the major grants. So we fund ours through the endowment in terms of giving them startup funds– our researchers, our scientists, our own scientists–startup funds so that they can get their pilot data. And then they can use that pilot data to go after the large federal grants at NIH or the Department of Defense or the VA or other federal agencies.

We’re also very, very fortunate in New Jersey, Denver. If you talk to competition that we might deal with across the country, they would call it an unfair competitive advantage.  And that is the fact that we have in New Jersey, the New Jersey Brain Injury Commission and the New Jersey Spinal Cord Injury Commission. They allow us to apply for grants and, again, collect pilot data that we can then use and leverage in terms of advancing research at the national level. And that’s what our scientists are really doing. They’re competing on the world-class stage in terms of these areas of brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, and MS.

Denver: And they’re winning a lot of those grants!

Rodger: They do. They are very successful at it. Yes!

Denver: Well, let’s talk about your other focus area that you mentioned at the beginning, and that is employment opportunities for the disabled. Now, from what I understand, there are about 60 million people in this country who are disabled. Of that group, how many of them are of working age?  And what percentage of those are working?

Rodger: That’s a great question. It grows each year, especially as we start to see the Baby Boomers rotate out of the market force. But of that 60 million, there are about 30 million that would fall into the category of 18-64, so that they would be in the working age population. The big issue is that of that group, only about 25% are actually working, and there’s a number of reasons for that. From an employer perspective, there’s always the stigma of disability and the fact that I call the fear, uncertainty, and doubt factor in terms of:  If I hire somebody with a disability, are they going to be able to perform? How are my other employees going to react? What happens if I have a legal issue and I have to, unfortunately, find a way to let that employee go?  Does that lead to potential lawsuits and complications? And actually, it’s just a reverse of that in terms of the employment funding that we have done across the country in the last 13 years. We’ve invested probably around $40 million in this area where we give funding to other nonprofit organizations that are creating innovative, new ideas to create employment opportunities for people with disability.

So let me give you an example of that, Denver. You had on your show back about a year ago or so, Carol Glazer from the National Organization on Disabilities. Carol and the NOD had received funding from us to do what we call the Bridges Project, which was in Lowe’s Department Stores. So we are sort of like a venture funder, if you will, and give organizations  like NOD the funding that they need to start up and do that three test market site in Lowe’s Home Improvement centers where they ended up being the consultants, if you will, on where to find people with disabilities with the Lowe’s management team, how to train individuals with disabilities against the skill sets that they were looking for in their distribution center, and then also how to train individuals in the workforce at Lowe’s on their first encounter in terms of how to work with people with disabilities. These of course are not sheltered workshops in any way. These are individuals that are working side by side with able-bodied individuals at Lowe’s Home Improvement centers where they’re earning the same pay, being held accountable for the same metrics, and getting benefits as well.

So what you see then through these demonstration projects – and there are hundreds of them throughout the United States that we have funded – is the ability to convince businesses that hiring people with disabilities adds shareholder value to them. No business is in business to hire people. They’re in business to do transactions, to make a better product or lower the cost of that product, and then they hire people. And that’s what we’re trying to do, is make sure that they understand that people with disabilities can be just as productive, just as creative, just as loyal as an able-bodied  a person, and make a contribution to that organization.

Rodger Derose and Denver Frederick

Rodger DeRose and Denver Frederick at the AM970 The Answer Studio

Denver: So, you do the proof of concept with that funding.

Rodger: We do. And I don’t think it ends there, actually, Denver. I think that the bigger picture is not just in…if I was the CEO of a Fortune 1000 company, the way I would be looking at it is: I would be looking at it from a customer perspective: How do I create best products that serve not only the needs of able-bodied individuals, but people that have disabilities? And then I’d be looking at it in terms of talent: How do I hire diverse and inclusive workforce? And then I’d be looking at it from a production productivity point of view as: How do I put the best processes in place that are going to address the workforce issues and the production of my product in the most economical way?

And if you address those three areas, you really come to the conclusion that you’re going to be developing products, services.  You’re going to be hiring people with disabilities; you’re going to be developing products for all individuals with universal design, and you’re going to be looking at productivity in a different way as well because you’re going to set up  your line operations and your manufacturing operations in a completely different way.  If you had people with disabilities working side by side with able-bodied people, that’s going to benefit every worker in that chain, that line of production.

…over 60% of individuals with disabilities wanted to work.

…there is an appetite, there is a need. Nobody is going to get rich living on Social Security disability insurance, that’s for sure. And so they would like to do anything that’s possible to earn an income, pay taxes, be a productive member of society…

They want to be productive members of the workforce and they want to be proud of it as well.

Denver: Absolutely. You mentioned before, we have 30 million people who are disabled; about 25% of them are in the workforce. Are people who are disabled… do they want to join the workforce or not? Have you done some studies on that?

Rodger: We have, Denver. In 2015, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, we did an updated survey, and that survey clearly indicated that—and this was with 3,000 individuals with disabilities–

Denver: Good survey.

Rodgers: –it clearly had a very high statistical confidence level, but it clearly said that over 60% of individuals with disabilities wanted to work. It was finding ways that they could actually get into the workforce and convince those that are making the hiring decisions to hire them.

So there is an appetite; there is a need. Nobody is going to get rich living on Social Security disability insurance, that’s for sure. And so they would like to do anything that’s possible to earn an income, pay taxes, be a productive member of society, and have the ability to go to an office party or a party.  And the second question that comes out from a person that you meet at that party after you make your introduction with your name is “Well, what’s your profession? What do you do?” Well, the last thing you want to do is be able to say “I sit on the couch and watch TV, and I collect the Social Security disability insurance paycheck.” They want to be productive members of the workforce, and they want to be proud of it as well.

Denver: Absolutely! A real sense of self-worth around there.

Rodger: It is.

… mandates only do so much. Working from the heart and doing things out of good will only do so much. You really have to attack this issue from the perspective that it is good business sense. It’s going to add shareholder value by having an inclusive workforce.

Denver: I know how I would feel, you know what I mean? So that really brings it home. You know, I noticed it’s always evolving, but what does the current law say about disability and employment today?

Rodger: Well, there was a law that was passed under the last presidential administration called the 503 Act, and that had required that any organization that had federal contracts, they had to hire 7% of their workforce with disabilities. Now, they started out very slowly. They didn’t really enforce that, and then near the end of the last administration, they started to enforce that.

I happen to believe, from my perspective, Denver, that mandates only do so much. Working from the heart, and doing things out of good will only do so much. You really have to attack this issue from the perspective that it is good business sense. It’s going to add shareholder value by having an inclusive workforce.

So, in the same ways that marketers market products to Asian-Americans or African-Americans or Hispanic population or the disability community, you have to look at the 60 million Americans as one of the largest majority minorities in the country, and their families and their friends– which make up over 50% of the population– and you have to say “What does that mean from an economic value perspective?  And how do I participate in that?” And once you do that, and you look at it from a business perspective, I think it starts to address the issue of employment in a more comprehensive way than just a mandate.

Denver: A more self-enlightened way, and it is self-enlightened. We have a hard a time finding good people, and there are a lot of them around in the disabled community that can fill many gaps within these organizations and corporations. Can an employer ask a job candidate whether they are disabled before they extend the job offer?

Rodger: No. You do not want to approach it that way. If it’s a physical disability that an individual has that you can actually see, you can ask the individual if there are any special requirements that they might have. But you’re really not supposed to dive into the disability. Now, the issue that many individuals with disabilities have is there are hidden disabilities that you and I would never see in the interview and, of course, you’re never going to go there as an interviewer. But you can ask: Are there any special requirements that you might have?

For example, there are some individuals that have back issues, and they may need a standing desk, for example, and that’s something that we provide to our employees if that’s something that they need. So those are issues that you want to tread very carefully on, and you want to make sure that you’re talking to your human resource department in terms of making sure that you’re asking the right questions.

I think that the culture in any organization that hires people with disabilities changes. It changes for the better…having a workforce that includes people with disabilities makes managers better managers…better parents…better citizens of the world. It makes them, I believe, better human beings that are going to approach issues in the workforce in a different way.

Denver: You know, we tend to look at the disabled through the lens of the limitations that they have. But boy, they can bring some incredible assets to an organization that we just tend to overlook. Give us a few of the special things that a disabled person brings to a workplace?

Rodger: I think that the culture in any organization that hires people with disabilities changes. It changes for the better. I think that having a workforce that includes people with disabilities makes managers better managers. It makes them better parents. It makes them better citizens of the world. It makes them, I believe, better human beings that are going to approach issues in the workforce in a different way. And so I think it will change the culture of that organization once you start hiring people with disabilities into the organization.

But as I was mentioning earlier, Denver, in terms of productivity, creativity, loyalty, these are the types of things that add value to any organization. When you can reduce turnover because you hired somebody with a disability that perhaps this is the first job that they’ve had, and they’re going to do everything that they can to make sure that they’re a productive member of that workforce, and they’re going to give you loyalty instead of looking for another job on the outside as long as you’re treating them fairly. That adds value to the organization because we all know what turnover costs are like in any organization.

Denver:  Much more than we expect.

Rodger: Exactly!

Denver: Absolutely. You mentioned Lowe’s before. Any other employers that stands out as exemplary in your mind?

Rodger: We have worked with funding projects with Pepsi, which is hiring people in their bottling plants and in their vending machine repair organizations. We’ve hired with OfficeMax, Office Depot. We’ve done a lot of innovative projects as well, where we’ve been funding the entrepreneurial spirit of people with disabilities in terms of if they have a special talent in the arts, for example.  How do you get that to come out in terms of their personality?

And so we’ve done smaller projects. We have done projects in terms of training individuals with disabilities on how to become lab technicians in New Jersey– with the pharmaceutical industry being one of the largest in that scenario– that there’s a growing need as well. So we’re trying to address it across different technology and different sectors in industry in terms of how we can address these issues for people with disabilities and make them employable.

Denver: Let me talk a little bit about your personal journey, Rodger. You’re one of those executives that has moved from the private sector over to the nonprofit sector. You were at SC Johnson and then Arthur Andersen, and became the President of the Kessler Foundation back in 2008. What are some of the differences that you’ve noticed in leading a nonprofit organization, as opposed to leading an enterprise in the private sector?

Rodger: I would say that in business, you move very, very quickly.  At SC Johnson, which was a family company, we had the ability to spin on a dime because we didn’t have to answer to shareholders, and we could make investments that other companies couldn’t necessarily do. So coming from an organization like that, coming from Arthur Andersen– which was a partnership before the Enron scandal– which, by the way, was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2003, but by that time, they had unfortunately lost all their clients.

Denver: Damage had been done.

Rodger: But the one thing, moving from a for-profit into nonprofit, is many people get a sense that there’s a lack of urgency in the nonprofit sector. I think if you can be sensitive to that and try to address those needs as you come into an organization… address the cultural issues that go with that in a nonprofit organization, you can be successful in terms of making the transition.

I think the other area is dealing with a nonprofit board versus a for-profit board. Many of the individuals that come into a nonprofit board come from a business or a legal or a financial background, so they have a mindset of operating in a for-profit segment, if you will. And when they come to a nonprofit like Kessler Foundation… or any other nonprofit organization or public charity, they have a certain mindset in terms of expectations. So you have to make that adjustment as well and work with them… make sure that they are understanding of the needs of the organization, and get them to understand how we’re moving forward with the mission of the organization.

So those are some of the complications that you typically go through in any organization from for-profit to nonprofit, but you can make the transition. The problem is, I think, for many individuals that try to leap and make it too fast, they stumble; they expect it to turn around like a for-profit organization and operate like a for-profit.  And when they stumble, often times they can create hardships on the organization and start to have very, very high turnover of key asset personnel. So you want to be very careful when you’re making that cultural shift to a nonprofit organization.  

… be human first; be a manager second, and still do the best thing that’s in the interest of the organization.  But know that your key asset that is helping you make all of these business transactions that you’re doing on a daily business are your people.

Denver: Well, you were careful, and you’ve made it really, really well.  And that’s why the Kessler Foundation is considered one of the best places to work. You’ve been on New Jersey Business list for six years in a row. You took a big jump, higher on that list this past year, and the NonProfit Times has the Kessler Foundation as the fourth best nonprofit organization to work in the United States. Tell us why people say that… and a little bit about the corporate culture at Kessler.

Rodger: I believe, Denver, that any great organization has to treat its most important asset, which are its people. They have to have competitive salary, and they have to have competitive benefits. But I think beyond that, they have to relate to the mission. It’s one thing to be working for a tobacco company. It’s another thing to be working for an organization that is actually helping to change the life of an individual that has a disability, and actually see it first hand in the work that you day in and day out. And so relating to the mission of the organization is fundamentally critical, and I think that that’s first and foremost, in addition to making sure that the playing field is level in terms of benefits and pay.

I think the other area that is so important is if you manage your organization with a real human element– where you are human first and manager second, it really shows in the culture of the organization… and how you address personnel issues, for example, that are going to live with the organization for a long period of time. Every organization has to release somebody at some point for not meeting the performance metrics. How you release that person, for example, says a lot about the organization. If you do it in a very dignified way, in a way that allows an individual to leave with grace and dignity, it says something about the organization. And that as that person leaves, that you continue to have a very meaningful discussion or relationship with the person, so that it’s a positive relationship as opposed to a negative one. That translates to how people view you in the marketplace.

That’s an example, but my point to you is: Be human first; Be a manager second, and still do the best thing that’s in the interest of the organization.  But know that your key asset that is helping you make all of these business transactions that you’re doing on a daily basis are your people. And I think it comes through in how you manage and how you lead the organization.

Denver: That’s a great point, Rodger, and particularly, as you were talking about releasing someone. I’ve been with so many organizations that when they do that, they’re completely unaware of the impact that it’s going to have with everybody else who is still there. And they pretty much all say to themselves, “Oh, I see what’s going to happen when my time should ever come and how they’re going to treat me,” and they make their plans accordingly. So that’s a wonderful point.

Well, you talked a little bit about individuals, and I want to close with that because we’ve been discussing your two major programs: research and employment. But at the end of the day, what you’re doing is you’re impacting one person, one family at a time. Give us a success story of one of those people that Kessler really has played a role in touching them and changing their lives.

Rodger: I would suggest to you that there’s an individual by the name of Chris Tagatac. Chris is an individual that lives in Vermont, fell off his roof, had a spinal cord injury and was destined to be in a wheelchair. He is a business person, a finance individual, and he really wanted to address a number of issues. Those issues for him, even though he knows that at this point in time in the history of spinal cord injury, that he’s going to live a good portion of his life in a wheelchair, that he wanted to address the complications so that he could have a higher quality of life. And that being issues like bone density loss, muscles mass loss, urinary tract infection, sexual function, circulation, pressure sores, pressure ulcers that create the long-term medical complications of being in a wheelchair.

He was one of the early participants in our robotic research that we started back in 2011 as one of the very first centers in the country to move into robotics for spinal cord injured patients. He’s become an ambassador for us in terms of a spokesperson that not only talks about the fact that being in a robot–which is like exercise for you and I in terms of going to the gym each day– if you can be walking in a robot several times a week and getting that exercise and addressing these issues of bone density loss, muscle mass loss, circulation, pressure sores, urinary tract infections, et cetera – those are life-changing issues that he has to address from a functional perspective that’s going to keep him out of the hospital.

So that’s a personal story that Chris would tell you is life-changing from his perspective until we can find a cure for spinal cord injury.

Denver: Well, Rodger DeRose, the President and CEO of the Kessler Foundation, I want to thank you so much for being here this evening. Tell us about your website, some of the information that is there, and how people can get involved in helping support your organization.

Rodger: They can go to and learn about the foundation. They can certainly volunteer. We’re always looking for new board members that can come to the board and want to have an impact. They can reach out to me personally on our website by just emailing me, and I’d be happy to have a conversation with them and carry on the great work that Kessler Foundation does every day.

Denver:  It sure does. Well, thank you very much, Rodger. It was a real pleasure to have you on the program.

Rodger: Thank you, Denver!

Rodger Derose and Denver Frederick

Rodger DeRose and Denver Frederick

The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at

Mari Kuraishi, Co-founder and CEO of GlobalGiving Joins Denver Frederick

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The following is a conversation between Mari Kuraishi, Co-founder and CEO of GlobalGiving, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer.

Mari Kuraishi

Mari Kuraishi ©

Denver: Crowdfunding is a fairly recent phenomenon, with sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo changing the way money is raised to support and finance many a project. But did you know that there was a fundraising venture to fund nonprofits and good causes all the way back in 2002…before Facebook, before Twitter, before social media as we know it today? Well, there was, and with us now is its co-founder. She is Mari Kuraishi, the President and CEO of GlobalGiving. Good evening, Mari, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Mari: Thank you, Denver! I’m pleased to be here.

Crowdfunding is a way for anybody really to ask other people to fund them… this is an amazing thing to use the web to get people to come together for a common cause.

Denver: Before we get into the work of your organization, for those listeners who may only be casually acquainted with crowdfunding, tell us what it is and how it works.

Mari: Crowdfunding is a way for anybody really to ask other people to fund them. So you can go to a site like Kickstarter, someone’s got this great idea for how to build a new and better cooler, and he shows people the prototypes, photographs and how he’s going to attach a boombox to the cooler.  And the cooler is going to have these wheels, and it’s going to do all these awesome things, and he says, “I can build this if I get $100,000 from you all.” People can give as little as $10 for these things.  And Lo and Behold!  People look at the cooler and think, Oh, this is going to be so awesome for my barbecue in the summer; I’m going to go and take it to the beach…I’m going to give this guy $80 and get the first one that comes off the production line. So that’s one form of crowdfunding.

You can crowdfund for a documentary, which you might get a DVD… but it’s not as tangible as a cooler. You can crowdfund for somebody who’s fallen on hard times. So someone’s daughter gets sick with cancer; their medical insurance can’t cover all the cost. They put up that cause on a crowdfunding site, and they can get people to donate. It’s not all tax-deductible. I use the word “donate” sort of in a conceptual form, but this is an amazing thing to use the web to get people to come together for a common cause.

Denver: Good explanation. Well, you can also finance for a good cause. So tell us about GlobalGiving and the mission and goals of your organization.

Mari: So we founded GlobalGiving to make it possible for anyone in the world to give to a grassroots project, again, from anywhere in the world. I worked for a long time at the World Bank, and I traveled the world, and I would see people in the hardest places to work, where electricity wasn’t reliable; transport wasn’t reliable. The hurricanes would come through, but they were doing amazing things. They were helping girls get an education. They were providing water for a community that didn’t have access to clean water unless they walked 10 miles to the next village. They were everyday heroes, and yet they’re unknown to most of us here. So could I take their work? Could I show everybody what was going on in these remote communities and make it possible for people to contribute to those things?

We’ve been able to send over $260 million from over half a million donors to 17,000 or so projects in 166 countries. We’ve also worked with almost 200 countries along the way.

Denver:  And as I said in the opening, this was founded in 2002. What have you been able to accomplish over the course of the last 15 years in terms of the projects, and the countries, and the amount of money, and things of that nature?

Mari: We’ve been able to send over $260 million from over half a million donors to 17,000 or so projects in 166 countries. We’ve also worked with almost 200 companies along the way.

Denver: That’s very impressive. Well, you mentioned a second ago you were at the World Bank, and that’s a very well-respected organization.  But they deal at the very highest levels – the minister of finance – and they address problems with a lot of money often, and it’s kind of a top-down. So GlobalGiving, as you described it, is really just the opposite of that. It is on the ground, bottom-up, in communities with those problem solvers. Tell us what instigated this dramatic change of approach with you.


The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of City Year

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Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations. 


Michael Brown ©

Denver: Today’s visit will take you to Columbus Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts in the headquarters of City Year. In 28 communities across the country, City Year brings together diverse young leaders to service AmeriCorps members who work full time in high-need schools to help students succeed. You will first hear from their co-founder and CEO, Michael Brown, and then from members of the staff who, as you will soon learn, feel very passionate and emotionally-connected to the work that they do. 

Michael: When Robert Kennedy said at the height of apartheid in South Africa that “every time a man or woman stands up for an ideal or acts to improve a lot of others here, she sends out a tiny ripple of hope that can create a mighty current that can wipe away even the highest walls of oppression or resistance.” What we’ve done with that with our corporate culture is the very first agenda item of every meeting.

  1.  Ripples. No matter what’s going on, no matter how hard the work is we start with ripples. What’s out there that’s inspiring us, is there something that the corps members have done. What that does is that just puts you on the mood to tackle hard things. The core of our corporate culture is to be prepared from an idealistic spirit to do really hard things.


Jennifer:  I feel like every single person I interact with here at City Year is laser beam-focused on delivery the best possible service we can to the highest need schools in this country to make sure that every kid we serve gets the supports they need to be successful. That is an incredibly unifying force even though, “Wow! We are so diverse at City Year.”

Charlie: A couple of things I would mention, our values drive everything we do, our values come to life in our work, in our schools, in our communities across the country, across the world. Erin mentioned belief in the power of young people. I’m also interested in the belief in the power of old people, given my age. But we have 10 values, two others I would mention. One our service to a cause greater than self and starting there, the other is students first, collaboration always. We feel like our values and the stories that represent our values really helped guide our daily actions and our work and motivate us, so I am really excited about that.

Jamaal: What I appreciated the most about my City Year experience is that it gave me a common language to connect with people who thought like I did and those who didn’t think like I did, but we’re all committed to making sure that the communities, the schools, and the students that we were working with were going to get everything that they needed to be successful.

When I think about the cultural pieces that stick out for me, especially from my lens, I think about level 5 leadership and I think about how we strive to build young adults who are socially conscious, who are aware of their skills and their areas of development and are courageous enough to step into positions that they made initially beyond comfortable with but will grow into them.

Erin:  We’ve committed to embodying a culture of idealism at the office space and I had the opportunity to give a tour to someone who just had a meeting later this afternoon at City Year and was visiting the offices and it’s always really great to see our office through the eyes of a new person. We have a lot of our logos, our values, our culture points, a lot of our founding stories which are parables and descriptive stories that have some moral or ethical implication that we can draw at time of need and at times of indecision. Right now I am staring at one about Stone Soup and it’s really moving for people who are used to various sterile office environments. It’s something that seems so simple to all of us here in the office because we’re around it everyday but the colors, the blues, the reds, the yellows are all really vibrant and really energizing because our work is hard and we need every little bit of energy that we can get and I draw a lot of it from our office space.


ChandI’m going to talk about something that people may not know unless they worked here and that’s the CY Mindful Community (CY standing for City Year), and that’s something that’s pretty unique about our culture. We focus on doing meditations Tuesdays and Thursdays or any sort of brain break related activities. I’m part of the leadership team group for it. We get together at the beginning of each month and plan what we want to do for the community. Anyone and everyone is welcome. 

Erin: We close those meetings with a spirit break,  which everyone gets up, you all put your hands in the middle and if you can’t reach the middle, you out your hand on the shoulder of your colleague to make sure everyone’s connected, and you think of a word that either symbolizes or inspires and sums up the meeting or sums up the work ahead, something like collaboration or students first is a good examples that you could use. For my team strategy and growth, it’s SNG and then you say the word and it’s a way to end the meetings in the same way every single time, but also to cap it off in a really symbolic way to have that inspiration to move forward.

Virginia: Another thing we share is joys and appreciations. We start our meetings that way, we start our days that way and we end our days that way. There’s a balanced when thinking about being in that challenging environment continually that you’re still focusing on the small wins, both with students in the schoolhouse but then also with each other and appreciating each other for the work that we do. I think that balance is really key for me and that’s something that’s is really important in our culture is that balance that reminds you no matter how challenging your day was, there’s still something to appreciate or to find joy in. That’s still a really big piece for me.


Grace: I’ve had a one-on-one with my boss. Outside of any performance management meetings that we’ve had, I’ve been able to have those meetings with my boss to figure out what are your long term goals, what do you want to get out of this job, what elements of this job do you enjoy and want to do more of and how can we provide you additional leadership opportunities to build on what you’re doing here and why you want to be in this role or what role as you see yourself in in the future.

Jamaal: When you have leaders who are as accessible and open to answering your questions, to providing you with the perspective needed to sometimes say, “Okay, I understand why this decision was made and now I can see myself moving the work forward,” I think it’s another piece of our culture that’s really unique and special. I sometimes take for granted how other organizations don’t have leaders who are as approachable and accessible.

Grace: Our CEO, Michael Brown, this year did something different where he put together a campaign to fund raise and pack packages that will be sent to every single City Year team across the country. Michael led these efforts, helped to fund raise. Our senior leadership team donated half of the funds for this entire effort to put together care packages for all 314 schools that City year serves our across 28 cities across the entire country. It wasn’t just the funds, but it was also the amount of time it took to organize that, the amount of time it took to put that together,  and I think that is a perfect example of their leadership and leading by example when it comes to the work that we do.

Charlie: We do have a pledge that our corps members say on a regular basis, that maybe I can call on Jamaal to do it with me right now, the City Year pledge. I call on Jamaal because he was on the dean’s council, so I can do that–10 years ago. “I pledge to serve as a City Year member to the very best of my ability, to honor the rules and expectations of City Year, to respect my colleagues and the people and the communities we serve, to provide excellent service, to lead by example and be a role model to children, to celebrate the diversity of the people, ideas and cultures around me, to serve with an open heart and an open mind, to be quick to help and slow to judge, to do my best to make a difference in the lives of others and to build a stronger community, nation and world for all of us.”


Denver: I want to extend my thanks to City Year CEO, Michael Brown, for allowing us to visit their offices to Tina Chong and Jennifer Merrill for organizing all of these and to those who participated: Chand Jiwani, Erin McIntosh, Grace Boal, Charlie Rose, Virginia Bette, Jamaal Williams, and Jennifer Jordan. Come to for this podcast, transcript and pictures of the participants in the office City Year.

The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at

The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of First Book

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Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations. 

Denver: Today, we will be heading down to our nation’s capital and to the offices of First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books, learning materials and other essentials to children in need. We will begin with their President and CEO, Kyle Zimmer, and then hear from the other members of the staff about the secret sauce that makes First Book a special place to work.


Kyle Zimmer and Denver Frederick

Kyle: Culture of the organization is paramount because it will affect everything you do… and a lot of things that you can’t do. It’s been important to us from the day we opened our doors. I believe strongly in team leadership. I don’t believe that having a single lone wolf at the helm of an organization is a healthy strategy; I don’t think it is a sustainable strategy. And so for starters, we have a team of four people at the top of the organization who are really co-equals in running it. In addition, we really work hard to elevate entrepreneurial thinking and to attract entrepreneurs into the organization

Jennifer:  I’ve been given opportunities to be challenged and to really manage up. So to do things that I’ve never had the opportunity to do before and really show and prove myself as a professional, and I think that’s really special and not every organization gives their employees an opportunity to do that.

Michael: The thing about First Book that always has me coming back for more is it’s kind of like coming to a playground of challenges every day and hanging out there with your friends. And so, under the big umbrella of getting more books out into the world, there are all of these smaller umbrella challenges, and smaller problems and issues and tasks to go through, whether it’s how do we get books to rural areas more effectively, whether it’s how do we let our network talk to each other so that they’re using our books more effectively or how do we make it easier for everybody in the US or people abroad to get books. There’s always this sense of there’s another great challenge, there’s another thing to work on, and you’ve got a lot of cool, interesting, smart people to roll up your sleeves with and try to figure them out.


Dan: And after we hit a great milestone, we’ll pop some champagne, we’ll eat and we’ll laugh and have a good time, and then we clean up and we get right back to climbing that hill. So I think it’s critically important that you’re able to come to a job that challenges you, that has a great mission, but also allows you to have a good time.

Paula:  I’ve been at First Book for almost 10 years already, and one of my favorite things about the organization is how fearless we are and how we don’t settle for things that we have already achieved. We keep looking for more. We set challenges and goals, but once we have achieved those, we look for more.

Anna: But we really are trying to meet the goals of that corporate partner and the goals of First Book. So as we grow and change and the partner grows and change, we want to make sure that we’re fitting in and making the best out of all of the goals and the needs of both parties.


Jennifer: So in every single performance evaluation that I’ve had at First Book, my manager has given me the opportunity to talk about my performance and how I feel about it, but also talk about their performance and how I feel about their management style, what’s working for me and what’s not working for me, and what they can do better to make sure that I feel supported, to make sure that I feel successful, and to make sure that I’m challenged and see a future for me here at First Book. So that, I think, is really important to me. It makes me feel valued in the same way that each one of our members feel valued.

Dan: I ask them questions like “What is your professional Shangri-La when it comes to work environment?” “Would you prefer to work in an office alone or with other folk?” “Can you make a joke or take a joke?” These are things that are important to the culture here, so these are questions that I’m constantly asking candidates when their potentially looking for jobs, including “Why First Book? Why would you want a job here?”

Roxana: I think that’s the kind of environment that we come to everyday that makes it really easy to come to work, and I think we get to celebrate it with traditions that we sort of look forward to. I’m going to say one that I enjoy a lot just because I think it defines, for me, First Book – it’s our Halloween celebration. Because we go all out, people get very creative and very competitive about “What are we going to do for Halloween? Because we have to come up top. We’re going to have to really rock it this year.” And people are so committed to the work that they find ways to put thematic/themes into their costumes and just really have a lot of fun, so that makes coming to work really, really special.


Paula: We not only do that through our program such as the Stories For All program in which we try to bring to schools titles that speak to minorities and different groups of people, but we also do a lot of that within the organization. Wherever you look in the offices here in Washington, you’re going to see a diverse group of people from different backgrounds, and First Book does a great job of making them feel inclusive, included in every single thing that we do as an organization.

Chandler: I was going to talk about work life balance, which maybe I don’t achieve so well all the time, but, in a way , I kind of love that because work life balance sort of implies that the thing that you do during the day is somehow other than who you are at core. And I think for me and I think for a lot of us here, I get a lot of my identity out of this organization and who we are in terms of the work that we’re doing together.



Chandler: I think one thing that I’m really proud of with regard to our culture is really trying to encourage a culture of innovation. I think that a lot of groups do that and they tend to focus on good innovative ideas that work, which is great, but we also really try to celebrate good innovative ideas that fail.

The way we do that is something called the First Book Brick Award and our Brick Wall Award, sort of illustrating the fact that we know that sometimes you have a great idea and for whatever reason, you hit a brick wall and it doesn’t work. But the thing that we want to celebrate is the people that have ideas that really are passionate about them. They think about ways to lay them out. They don’t let a fear of failure stop them from sort of pushing the boundaries of creativity, pushing the limits of what we usually do, challenging conventions that we might always have held in the past. So by purposefully calling out once a year the best ideas that failed, we really try to encourage everyone to not let the fear of failure prevent them from trying that thing that might really propel us forward.

Denver: I want to thank Joyce Johansson who helped organize my visit and to all those who participated, Anna Anderson, Chandler Arnold, Jennifer Cobb, Michael Jones, Dan Stokes, Roxana Barillas and Paula Neira. Podcast, transcript and pictures of the participants in the office of the First Book are all up on


The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at