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article imageCEO and co-founder talks Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation Special

By Markos Papadatos     Jun 26, 2018 in Health
Robin Cohen, the CEO and co-founder of the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation, chatted with Digital Journal, about the foundation and its future plans. She also opened up about the digital transformation of the nonprofit healthcare sector.
Cohen started the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation 17 years ago. "I was Sandy's oncology nurse and started the organization with her sister after she passed away from ovarian cancer at the age of 33," she said. "We were founded on a wing, a prayer, and the living room floor. The organization was founded on the basis of togetherness during tough times. We knew nothing about running a nonprofit, but we were driven by hearts filled with love and filled with pain. We were two people with one idea and took a leap of faith- a big leap."
"As the Co-Founder of the organization, I continued to work for several years as a full-time nurse while building the Sandy Rollman Foundation as a full-time volunteer," Cohen said. "It was a challenging time. Seven years after we started, when we were confident we were off that floor and had firm footing, I became CEO. As the CEO, my primary role is to further our mission and to ensure the consistency of our mission. I provide strategic leadership to move the organization forward, develop and support our board of directors, manage our staff, plan and manage all fundraising efforts, assist with program development, serve as the organization's spokesperson, manage collaborations, and implement advocacy actions."
Cohen added that due to her nursing background, she fields most of the patient calls. "I know, it sounds like a lot. But, I wake up every day and I don't go to a job. I go on a mission, and that's very meaningful. Patience is key, and heart is everything, always. And passion will take you places that ambition never could," she said.
On her plans for the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation for the rest of 2018, she said, "We will be continuing our advocacy efforts. We have several fundraising events planned for the remainder of the year. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, so we have a lot of activities during that time."
On September 15, 2018, acclaimed soap actors William deVry, Maura West, Wally Kurth and James Patrick Stuart from General Hospital will come to town for "GH Fantasy Philadelphia," which will include a meet and greet and private dinner event with fans. "These events have allowed us to give out an additional research grant each year which has been wonderful. We will cross the $4.1 million mark in research grants this year with that donation. The events have also brought a new audience into our organization. Many fans have become great supporters of Sandy Rollman events throughout the year," she said. "Also, in the near future, we will be focusing on ways to be a leader in the investments that we are making."
William deVry of  General Hospital
William deVry of "General Hospital"
Courtesy of ABC, Craig Sjodin
Emmy-nominated actor William deVry from General Hospital serves as their celebrity ambassador. "William deVry brings his voice to a cause that desperately needs one. He empowers others to get involved in the fight against ovarian cancer. I learned quickly after starting the Sandy Rollman Foundation, that we needed to do more than start an organization- we needed to build a powerful movement, which we have done. William's involvement takes this movement to the next level. He has been able to bring people together to shine a light on the disease. It also means a lot to the ovarian cancer community at large," she said
Cohen noted that it's important for survivors and their families to see a celebrity with a high public profile get involved in this cause and it's very meaningful to them to know they have him in their corner. "That is something that has been missing. William and I have talked about giving him the opportunity to sit down with survivors to hear their stories, to give him a better understanding of what they go through. I think we will be making plans to do that. Women and their families need the support of a greater community at large. They can't do it alone and it's important for them to know that they don't have to. I believe that anything is possible when you have the right people by your side and William has become one of those people," she explained.
Digital transformation of nonprofit healthcare profession
On the impact of technology on nonprofit healthcare, such as the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation, Cohen said, "Digital technology has had a huge impact on both the healthcare industry and the nonprofit sector. All of our database management is done electronically. Through our database system and fundraising software tools, we are able to capture information about our supporters that we never could before. It is important that we stay current. Most people are accessing these systems and our website through a mobile device. It has become an easy way for us to share information to a larger audience quickly. And, it's often the way people who need help contact us."
Cohen shared that she is a bit surprised when people contact the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation through social media, but it has been happening more and more, as of lately. "Technology has helped tremendously with fundraising, educational and awareness initiatives too. Most of our campaign initiatives are done digitally. But, I do have to say, that I am glad that we got our start in the way that we did- before the digital age. We had to go knocking on doors and talk to people. That type of face to face interaction allowed us to know on an intimate level who are supporters were because we had to personally connect with them. Forming relationships in that manner allowed us to build a strong home base. And many of those people are still involved with our organization to this day. To us what we do is very personal. We know the people that we help, we know their families. With all the benefits that digital technology has to offer, it presents new challenges. I would never want to lose that personal connection," she elaborated.
As CEO and Co-founder of the foundation, Cohen uses technology in her daily routine. "I am able to promote our events and initiatives through social media. We do most of our fundraising through e-communication and event software technologies. We had a recent run and walk that raised over $270,000 and that was primarily done by peer-to-peer online fundraising. I don't think anything can replace or be more valuable than meeting someone in person, sitting down with them and sharing our mission. With all that technology has to offer, that's still my favorite way to communicate and build lasting support and relationships. If I had the choice between sitting down and having a cup of coffee with someone or using digital technology to communicate with them, the cup of coffee would win every time."
"The Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation is an organization that is all heart," Cohen concluded. "We function as a team and we are solely mission-driven. Everyone is here for the right reasons. We are unique in that we are grassroots in many ways. We have women who walk in off the street needing help not sure where to turn; and yet we also have a very large national and international presence and fund research grants nationally. Most people in the ovarian cancer space know the Sandy Rollman Foundation."
To learn more about the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation, check out its official website.
Read More: Emmy-nominated actor William deVry chatted with Digital Journal about his acting career, and serving as an ambassador for the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation.
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