From volunteer-led to professionally-run: 2004-2009
As our programmes expanded we became aware of more things we wanted to do. This required that we transition from being dependent on the voluntary time given by parents and their friends to an organisation that employs staff to handle the administration, finances, and fundraising.
And as the funds raised grew to several million rand a year, it became necessary to ensure that the funds were managed effectively and the required governance processes were in place. This required that we employed more, and better-skilled, staff at national and divisional level.
It also became apparent that the demands of the organisation had grown to such an extent that it was no longer possible to continue to operate with volunteers in the leading positions.
The time requirements to manage the relations with major donors, and the need to develop proper business plans and budgets, as well as have sustainable funding in place to support all CHOC’s activities, were too great for a national chairperson who also had to earn a living.
Consequently it was decided to recruit a national director and Clare Jeffrey was appointed in 2005 but due to personal circumstances she had to resign in late 2006. Then Geoff Penny filled the post but had to resign some months later due to family issues that prevented him from moving to Jhb.
A decision was taken that then chair and vice-chair, Kenneth Dollman and Francois Peenz, would become employees and share the directorship between them on a part-time basis. As a result, Julian Cutland came back for a stint as national chair. Although the shared appointment worked fairly well for some 18 months, a decision was taken in mid-2009 that we would have one person at the helm, and Francois was appointed the first CEO of CHOC.
The head office staff component grew to include a finance and administration manager; a business development manager, and a psychosocial support services manager.
Through this transition we were mindful of finding an acceptable balance between the passion and commitment people have brought to CHOC and the professionalism required to manage the organisation and deliver services effectively.
In early 2003, CHOC was approached by then head of marketing at Nedbank, Dr Ivan May, with the idea that we should run a Cow Parade, after he had seen one of these open-air art exhibitions, using life-size models of cows as the canvases, overseas.
For the first time we used a multi-centre approach, with the cows on the streets for several weeks in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg simultaneously. This had obvious cost and logistical implications! Cell-C and Kulula came on board and the event culminated in June 2005 with an auction of the painted cows. We ended up making a profit of about one million rand and the event raised an enormous amount of awareness for CHOC. And one of the Kulula planes still has a cow painted on it!
Regional groups in East London and Port Elizabeth emerged in 2006 and 2007. A handbook for parents was finally published after several years in gestation. Leandra Visser was the main author but there were many contributions from other people.
Major rebranding included the creation of a new logo in 2006 and new marketing materials.
Further conferences were held in 2005 in Stellenbosch and 2008 in Johannesburg, which brought together the various disciplines involved in the treatment and support of children with cancer. Attendees included parents, nurses, doctors, social workers, psychologists, and a range of other specialists. The 2008 conference was distinguished by being recognised as an ICCCPO Regional Conference, with ICCCPO sponsoring the attendance of parents from Zimbabwe, Botswana, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Malawi. A full-day workshop was held specifically to address the issues faced by new childhood cancer parent organisations.
2008 saw the birth of The Cows. After the tragic death of their daughter from neuroblastoma that year Kerrin and Grant Bain got a group of friends to ride the Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge to raise funds for CHOC, and to make it more fun, they did the race in Cow suits. And they have been steadily growing since.