Life-changing experiences can be positive or they can be negative—but our research has uncovered that both kinds of experiences can be channeled into deeply meaningful, transformational philanthropy that makes a tremendous difference for organizations and the important work they do.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a time to recognize and honor the people whose lives have been touched by this devastating disease. We had the opportunity to interview a patient whose life-changing experience with breast cancer inspired her to help others.

When I found my lump, it was Super Bowl Sunday. We were expecting a group of people that were coming over. My husband came up and he’s like, what are you doing? And that’s when I said, “I found a lump.” And the first thing out of his mouth was, “Go get a mammogram.”

Some women don’t have that opportunity just to go get a mammogram: “Where are the funds? Where do I go? How am I going to afford this?” I hurt for those people.

I was one week into radiation, and I said to my husband, “We’ve got to do something to give back. We’ve got to do a golf outing. I think we could raise some money and we’ll give it back to the foundation and then they can help women behind me who have to go through this.”

The physical part of it was coming to an end. But I knew that there were mental and emotional things that I hadn’t yet dealt with, because once you’re diagnosed, you’re put on a fast track. You know, cancer is behind my name now, and I think by doing the golf outing, it allowed us to get through that time, because I had something else to think about. I had something else to focus on.

So I came to my nurse navigator and I told her. When somebody offers monetary donations, I think people get a little uneasy, but she was like, “That’s awesome. That’s great, let’s do this.” And she immediately forwarded my name to the foundation.

We ended up raising $23,000 the first year. We did it this past year and we raised $31,000. It will be used to support breast cancer patients with financial needs, so that if they feel a lump, they can receive the care they need. I feel like I’m doing my part to help them.

For this patient, the ability to do something for others was an important part of her healing process. Her healthcare providers recognized this and helped her connect with the right people to make it happen.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a great time to reflect on what your organization is doing to enable such patients to engage in meaningful philanthropy.

Ask & Act

    • Do your health professionals recognize what motivates patients and family members to want to be philanthropic?
    • Are your health professionals listening for things patients and families say that indicate a desire to engage?
    • Are they prepared to respond appropriately, as did this nurse navigator?
    • Does your organization have engagement opportunities that you can offer patients and families?