Connect for Bleeding Disorders is the National Hemophilia Foundation’s (NHF) new young professionals group, drawing people from various backgrounds. Members use their skills and connections to help raise funds and awareness for NHF.
“So many people get involved with a cause because it’s trendy,” says Connect Co-chair Aliana Soto, 30. “So few people have hemophilia that we’re never going to be ‘the next big thing.’ But I want to do whatever I can to raise the profile of this disorder and the people who have it.”
Connect Co-chair Joe Miller, 33, joined the group because he enjoyed interacting with the bleeding disorders community, as he once did as a Bayer HealthCare employee. “Now that I have a job that has nothing to do with hemophilia, I found I really missed working with a patient community,” says Miller, who is now director of global marketing at Alvogen. “Connect gives me a chance to give back to the bleeding disorders community.”
With Connect, NHF hopes to raise the profile of the organization and the population it serves by harnessing the enthusiasm and skills of professionals outside the bleeding disorders community. Connect members plan to invite their friends and co-workers to a series of local fundraisers, with the proceeds going to the foundation.
Melanie Fitzgerald, 28, who works for Major League Soccer, had no experience with the bleeding disorders community before joining Connect. “I had just moved from San Francisco and really didn’t know a lot of people in New York.” A family friend who is a longtime NHF donor told Fitzgerald about the group over lunch. “I thought it would be a good way to meet people, as well as give back a little.”
Connect’s first project was recruiting attendees for NHF’s 2nd Annual Spring Soiree, NHF’s benefit gala honoring people and companies that have made significant contributions to the bleeding disorders community. The group pledged to sell 30 tickets to their friends and co-workers at a discounted price. They ended up exceeding that goal, and the influx of younger people brought vibrancy to the event.
“The people who I brought loved the soiree,” says Soto. “Usually when you hear ‘corporate fundraiser,’ you think it will be dull, but everyone met new people and had a great time.”
In June, more than 50 people attended Connect’s recruitment event at Patrick McMullan’s studio in New York City. McMullan, a fashion and nightlife photographer, was the Leadership Committee chair for the Spring Soiree, where he met Connect members. He then offered his studio for the group’s next event.
“We’re very excited about having such an enthusiastic group of people willing to dedicate their time to NHF,” explains Cheryl Baun, director of institutional giving at NHF, who oversees Connect. She is working with Connect to plan interesting events that will appeal to young adults, including movie screenings, happy hours and wine tastings. “Connect events will have a little education about what NHF does for people with bleeding disorders, but what we’re really trying to do is raise money. They should come and have a good time for a good cause.”