Memorial Sloan Kettering Partners With Humans Of New York To Raise Over $3 Million For Cancer Research

What do you get when a philanthropic social media giant, and a hospital with a strong reputation in the charity world come together? An astonishing $3.8 million to support cancer research, survivors, and their families.  

Iconic Humans of New York photographer Brandon Stanton reached out to the pediatric cancer department of Memorial Sloan Kettering after he felt it was time to bring more awareness to children that suffer from the disease. Nina Pickett, the administrator of the Department of Pediatrics at MSK, explained that, ”Childhood cancer doesn’t get the funding support from national granting agencies, nor does it have the zeal of the pharmaceutical industry. It truly relies on philanthropy to seed new concepts and ideas.” Stanton saw this need to increase funding and used his massive social media following and a crowdfunding site in order to launch the two-week campaign that was quoted as being “one for the record books. 

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is the oldest operating private cancer center in the world, with over 130 years of experience treating cancer patients, researching innovative new treatments, and educating the public, as well as future physicians and oncologists, about the disease.

Humans Of New York (HONY) is a social movement that began as a simple Instagram account. Photographer Brandon Stanton began posting pictures alongside interviews of people from all walks of life in the city, intending to showcase the diversity and help people tell their stories. Today, HONY has been created into a book and a blog, and Stanton continues to portray street portraits via the original Instagram

Making the stories personal

The movement consisted of Stanton using both photographs and intimate interviews to put faces to the stories of grief, accomplishment, and struggle associated with cancer. Not only patients were asked for their experiences, but parents, doctors, and all types of MSK employees were asked how pediatric cancer affected their lives as well. Some of the interviews lasted for over an hour, but unlike traditional fundraising efforts the experience was truly life changing for every party involved. Immediately after his interview with Stanton, one doctor stated that, “I feel like I just left my therapist, my priest and my maker.”

In just over 50 posts, these unique journeys were shared with over 5.3 million Instagram followers and 17.6 million Facebook users.  By the end of the two-week project, about 103,000 people had donated $3.8 million. Marian Stern, an assistant professor at NYU’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising, gave Crain’s insight on the evolution of fundraising that made this partnership between HUNY and MSK possible.

“For the new era of philanthropy… donors make contributions with a text message or one tap on a smartphone. The strategy of soliciting small donations that add up to enormous totals isn’t new... It has been on display during the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders and before him Barack Obama. People are more willing to donate to an online platform than ever before.”

What we can learn from this average of $37 donated per person is that a little truly does go a long way, and that the results can be life altering.