Featured week of April 7, 2014
Name: Katie Kotkins
Title: Director, Cycle for Survival at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Location: New York City
Number of years as a fundraiser: 10
Number of years at current organization: 8
What inspired you to do this work?
Growing up in Seattle, my parents were deeply involved with various organizations, and their passion for giving back had a profound influence on me. I went to many of their meetings and all of their events – and I loved it. When I graduated from college, a family friend suggested fundraising, and I was immediately inspired.
I’ve been raising money for cancer research because – unfortunately, like most people – this disease has significantly impacted my life. And I believe wholeheartedly that every single person can make a difference in the fight.
I’ve stayed inspired because of the talented, passionate, amazing people I’ve been fortunate to meet: colleagues in the Development Department; incredible doctors and researchers on the forefront of cancer research; Equinox leadership and employees; and patients and families – who go through a challenging or devastating experience – and come out the other side only wanting to help others.
What has happened recently that pumped you up?
The entire Cycle for Survival 2014 season really pumped me up! We kicked off our season with a big ride in Times Square, we were on “Good Morning America,” and we rang the Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
We’ve grown dramatically over the last two years, adding seven new cities. I’m continually amazed by first-time Cycle for Survival participants who embrace the community, make it their own, and inspire others to join this movement.
The people we get to work with – from our founding partner Equinox, to the participants around the country – are truly incredible. I am also continually inspired by the people and work being done at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. I’m grateful and feel privileged to be part of such an exceptional institution. And I am motivated every single day by the courageous cancer patients in our movement. They are literally fighting for their lives and at the same time, raising awareness and funds for more research. Their strength is inspiring.
Tell us of a recent challenge that you’ve faced?
Most of the challenges we face relate to building Cycle for Survival. For example, this year we hosted our first Dallas ride, which required getting the word out in a new community. Through lots of networking, phone calls, emails, local outreach and meetings, we had a successful event – and we can’t wait to be back there next year.
What is next for you as a P2P fundraiser?
Next for me is finalizing the plans (locations, dates, expansion, etc.) for Cycle for Survival 2015. I know everyone working in this field will understand – it takes a full year to execute Cycle for Survival successfully. We use the feedback and data gathered from the most recent events to inform our strategy and decisions. This was a big year, and I’m excited to see how this movement evolves based on what we learned.
This builds toward our ultimate goal of – one day – shutting down Cycle for Survival because we will have beaten rare cancers. It’s ambitious, but we believe we’ll get there someday.
What advice would you give to someone just starting a career in athletic event fundraising?
Regardless of the number and location of your participants and donors – remember to connect personally with as many of them as possible. We had over 16,000 riders in Cycle for Survival 2014. It’s impossible to build a strong, direct relationship with each person, but we do strive to keep things personal (e.g., a frequent presence on social media, a manager focused on every market so responses are rapid, proactive, etc.). It’s a top priority for our entire Cycle for Survival team.