I wanted to be really clear that if I was doing this, then the money was going to make an impact. That’s why I selected CRI.
Inspired by members of her work-family battling cancer, Deborah Knuckey from Petaluma, CA, a senior marketing manager at Enphase Energy, came up with an idea. She would shave her head if her company raised $5,000 for the Cancer Research Institute. Enphase—a leading solar technology corporation—got on board immediately. In the end, their supporters raised almost $12,000 for the Cancer Research Institute in just over a month.
We spoke with Deborah and her colleague, Katie Lyman, about the event, their coworkers whose lives have been touched by cancer, and about how Enphase Energy’s employees came together to show their colleagues #YoureNotAlone.
Tell us how planning the event got started?
Deborah: We have a couple of people at work who are battling cancer. One of the people, Phil, I know pretty well. For Phil’s birthday, a bunch of guys shaved his name into their scalps as a morale boost, photographed it, and then shaved their heads. I impulsively said, “Hey, if you raise $5,000 for cancer research, I’ll shave my head, too.”
Katie: I’m on the Strategic Philanthropy Committee at Enphase, and when this offer came through, we said, “Of course, we would love to get the company involved.” Not only are our employees here battling cancer, but each and every person at Enphase Energy knows someone who has had cancer. This is a great way to get all the employees involved and to raise awareness.
How did you first hear about the Cancer Research Institute?
Deborah: I said, “If I’m going to actually shave my head, I want to know that it’s going to an organization where the money actually goes to the end purpose.” So I went on both CharityWatch.com and Charity Navigator, and did a search for national cancer research organizations that were very highly rated. I’ve had so many friends do fundraisers through organizations where you run a marathon in Ireland and you end up finding out that half the money they raise goes towards their own airfare and travel. I think that’s wrong. I wanted to be really clear that if I was doing this, then the money was going to make an impact. That’s why I selected CRI.
How did the event go?
Deborah: The Strategic Philanthropy Committee created a hash tag, #YoureNotAlone, and really made sure that the focus wasn’t about me shaving my head, but about showing support for two of our team members who have cancer. We then had our annual sales kickoff meeting where a colleague who lost his mother to cancer challenged everyone to donate, and we hit the first goal of $5,000 really quickly. So we upped the goal to $10,000. A couple of weeks later we had the company All Hands meeting. On that day, we showed a short video, we talked about the issue of cancer, and then they shaved my head on stage. We had a bucket where people were writing the names of anyone they knew that had dealt with cancer. One individual was matching one dollar for every name in the bucket, and there were hundreds of names. We had an area where you could paint a scarf, and you could give that to someone who’s dealing with cancer. We had a nacho stand and the IT team matched that dollar-for-dollar. Today, we’ll be at almost $12,000.
What was unexpected about the fundraiser?
Deborah: What was stunning was the number of my colleagues who had lost one or both parents, had a sibling battle cancer, or knew survivors. People were logging on to our fundraising page and donating a hundred, two hundred dollars. It became a really personal thing.
So how did you feel about shaving your head?
Deborah: My friends who have lost their hair while battling cancer didn’t have a choice about it. I got off lightly, because I’m just shaving my head. They’re the ones that are doing the hard thing.
What was the most gratifying thing about the event?
Deborah: At the All Hands meeting, Phil and Heidi—the two staff members currently undergoing treatment—were there. They made it clear that it wasn’t just a stunt. We, as a company, are pulling together as a family to show support for our two colleagues, and to raise funds for this bigger thing that has affected so many of us.
Tell me how your event aligns with the values at Enphase Energy?
Deborah: Our company is great because it’s got great people. If any one of us is affected by cancer, it impacts the whole company. It’s been incredibly moving to see how people all pull together and how incredibly generous people were with their time and with their money. That says a lot about the fact that the bottom line in a company is people, and if the people all work together to support anyone going through a tough time, then everyone feels more connected to the company.
Fundraise for cancer research