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Allison Gauss
3 min
City of Hope grateful patient program

The Key to City of Hope’s Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Success

It takes a lot of hard work to build a strong, lasting nonprofit organization. For more than a century, the staff, volunteers, and supporters of City of Hope have strived to provide the best treatment for cancers and other diseases through both research and patient care. And along with the rest of medicine, best practices for operating and fundraising a major nonprofit have evolved and progressed.

The changing face of fundraising is a big challenge for large, established organizations, but City of Hope shows how these nonprofits can stay at the forefront of the sector.

“I tell people City of Hope is like a cruise ship and you don’t turn the cruise ship quickly,” explained Emily Parris Sandler, Director of Digital Philanthropy at City of Hope. “It’s really about making sure that all of the components of the ship are working together to make everything run smoothly.”

New initiatives are more likely to succeed when all stakeholders are empowered to support them. Learn how City of Hope mobilized their whole team to launch a do-it-yourself peer-to-peer fundraising solution for their grateful patient program.

The Why Behind the Change

Having worked to improve patient outcomes for more than a century, City of Hope’s staff knows that a cancer diagnosis can turn someone’s world upside down. This is just one reason patients form strong ties to their doctors, nurses, and other caregivers. But survivors also wanted a way to regain the agency and control the illness seemed to take away.

City of Hope needed an outlet for grateful patients to give back to the organization and to individual researchers. Online peer-to-peer fundraising was a perfect fit.

We knew as a 100-year-old institution that to stay relevant and stay modern, we were going to need to develop an online tool that allowed our grateful patients, family and friends of patients, and supporters anywhere to be able to fundraise.

Emily Parris Sandler
Director of Digital Philanthropy, City of Hope

City of Hope partnered with Classy to create ourHope, a do-it-yourself fundraising platform for patients and loved ones. It allows these members of their community to fundraise in support of the programs and projects that mattered most to them. But to give fundraisers a personalized experience they needed to promote the program in a personal way.

For Fundraisers: A Guide to Raise Money for the Causes You Love

Get the Whole Crew Onboard

Even though City of Hope is a large, historic organization, it’s still built on face-to-face relationships. Patients become invested not just in the nonprofit or their treatment center, but also in their caregivers and doctors. To mobilize patients, City of Hope needed to get these influential team members involved.

“We know that nurses, doctors, and other caregivers are in constant contact with our patients,” said Sandler. So when patients want to show their appreciation and share their story, team members can encourage them to use ourHope. City of Hope met with all different departments within the organization to introduce the peer-to-peer program. They explained how ourHope would fit into their grateful patient program and benefit patients, doctors, and other stakeholders.

We had to work with stakeholders to get them onboard, to show them the benefit of this type of program…that it wasn’t a scary thing but an opportunity that they could take advantage of.

Emily Parris Sandler
Director of Digital Philanthropy, City of Hope

Funding the Future of Cancer Research

Along with getting all departments invested in ourHope, City of Hope created a plan to re-engage donors acquired through peer-to-peer.

One of the greatest benefits of a peer-to-peer program like ourHope is that it allows organizations to reach larger audiences by accessing their usual supporters’ personal networks. City of Hope is using email segmentation and ongoing communications to nurture new donors. They plan to activate these new contacts for events, annual giving, major gifts, and even fundraising.

Like Sandler said, “City of Hope is like a cruise ship…it’s not a speedboat.” While changing direction takes planning and communication, when your whole team is onboard, you can adapt to modern fundraising opportunities. By understanding their “why” and empowering their team, City of Hope has revitalized their fundraising. The research and care funded by ourHope is enabling a better future for people living with cancer and other illnesses.

To get the full story, check out our in-depth case study on City of Hope’s grateful patient peer-to-peer program, ourHope.


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