In 2019, Development Guild partnered with the Sarcoma Foundation of America on their executive search for a Chief Executive Officer. We placed Brandi Felser in the role. We recently caught up with Brandi to discover how her position and the organization have evolved over the past few years.
What initially attracted you to the Chief Executive Officer position at The Sarcoma Foundation of America?
I had almost 20 years of experience at the senior leadership level in nonprofit organizations before joining the Sarcoma Foundation of America (SFA). After losing both of my parents to cancer, I gravitated towards job opportunities that allowed me to use my personal experience and passion; my previous position was working for an organization in the breast cancer space.
After coming upon the opening at SFA, I started researching sarcoma, and I discovered the limited resources men, women and children diagnosed with sarcoma have. I wanted to use my skills to make an impact in this area. I had a wonderful interview with one of the Founders/Board Members at SFA. She inspired me and I felt a connection with her. I also had a great meeting with the executive team who were so enthusiastic about the organization, the sarcoma community, and the opportunities for growth and impact. I knew this was where I wanted to be and I feel very lucky that I am able to work on behalf of sarcoma patients, survivors and their loved ones. This is a true passion for me and I never forget on whose behalf I am working.
What do you enjoy most about Sarcoma Foundation now?
SFA is a fantastic organization with so many dedicated supporters. I love to hear the stories of patients and family members who engage with SFA. It really is so motivating and reminds me why I am here. The organization’s Board, Medical Advisory Board, Event Committees and supporters have stood by SFA during the difficult last two years and are dedicated to the organization’s mission and the overall goals of the sarcoma community. The opportunities for impact at SFA are plentiful; we are only bound by our ability (staffing) to harness them. It is exciting that the Board is open to advancing SFA’s mission in innovative ways and the staff is so motivated and creative. It is quite a time to be at this organization.
How has your role changed since you began?
Three months after starting my new position we went into lockdown due to the pandemic. I very quickly had to pivot our events, fundraising, and programs while transitioning and getting to know my team. Leading through the pandemic posed interesting challenges and we had to forgo plans previously made for 2020 and 2021, but my team was very supportive and made the process much easier. In spite of it all, we did very well and have focused on building our infrastructure, thinking differently about how we deliver programs, and taking advantage of new opportunities. The last two years have required significant trust and support from everyone. I am very proud of what we achieved together.
What have been your and Sarcoma Foundation’s greatest achievements over the past two years?
Over the past two years we grew our revenue and supporters and we engaged our Board and Advisory Board in different ways. This has allowed us to rethink how we fund, research, and engage the sarcoma community. We took time throughout the pandemic to assess our impact and survey our stakeholders to find out the needs in the community and how SFA could (or should) fulfill those needs. We have used this feedback to design and launch new programs. We have also built some important strategic partnerships to grow awareness and revenue for research funding.
In recent months, we started to strategically grow the staff and have moved forward with a strategic plan for the organization.
What do you hope to achieve at Sarcoma Foundation in the future? What is on the horizon?
Moving forward, we are looking to increase our fundraising revenue so as to increase our impact in the sarcoma community. This year alone we are planning to launch a new funding mechanism and increase our patient support by launching a fund to pay for patients to participate in clinical trials.
As mentioned, we are also finalizing our strategic plan this year, and we have already learned a lot from the process that will inform our strategy moving forward. Our takeaways fall into three segments: research funding, sarcoma awareness, and patient advocacy and support. We will increase our research funding in ways that are more intentional and create a lasting impact. We will grow sarcoma awareness through creative partnerships and a strategic communications campaign, launch a patient advisory council to help us develop meaningful ways to engage the sarcoma community, and increase our strategic partnerships. We have started planning for and implementing some of this already as we build the infrastructure to support these initiatives.