Industry Firms Enlisting in Battle Against Cancer

By Lisa Lacy

The fund industry's participation in the fight against cancer has taken many forms this year, ranging from fund raising and special events to seminars, among other events. Several industry firms are pitching in to do their part. Both on an individual employee level and corporation-wide, MassMutual, American Century, SalesPage Technologies, State Street, Investors Bank & Trust, JPMorganChase, Beacon Consulting Group and Mutual Funds Against Cancer, among many others, have enlisted to battle the disease in some form or another.

In recognition of October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, MassMutual is combining seminars for women with its fundraising efforts. The firm says it is working to raise awareness and to provide a minimum donation of $100,000 to local research, detection and treatment programs to support National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. MassMutual’s U.S. Insurance Group will make charitable contributions of up to $3,000 to local cancer organizations in the name of each agency that conducts its “Pearls of Wisdom” financial educational seminar in October. The firm’s Pearls of Wisdom seminar is an interactive video-based seminar that includes women telling stories about how their financial lives are impacting their personal lives. MassMutual says it is encouraging agents to present these seminars in their communities to raise awareness of financial preparedness, especially when it comes to breast cancer and other unexpected life events. An estimated 200 to 250 agents, representing MassMutual’s more than 80 agencies, are expected to participate. “We’re on the hook for about $250,000,” says Susan Sweetser, second vice president of MassMutual’s Specialized Markets division. In addition, the firm sponsored the Danskin Women’s Triathlon, which donates 10% of entry fees to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. In conjunction with that sponsorship, MassMutual made donations to the Foundation on behalf of triathlon participants who attended MassMutual’s “Pearls of Wisdom” seminar. On another front, an industry executive has established “Mutual Funds Against Cancer" or MFAC. MFAC is an advocate in the fight against cancer within New England’s mutual fund and financial industry that hosts several events throughout the year. The organization’s mission is to proactively find a cure for cancer by raising funds and awareness through event-based programs and charitable donations. For instance, in November it will hold its Third Annual Expect Miracles Wine & Spirit Extravaganza in Boston. Founded in 1995 as a grassroots family-and-friends group, MFAC has raised $1.2 million to date. What started with a golf tournament has since expanded to include the Wine Extravaganza as well as the First Annual State Street 5K Challenge at the Nicsa Technology Summit next month. Proceeds raised by the organization benefit The Jimmy Fund, the fund-raising arm of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Dana-Farber provides care to children and adults with cancer while advancing the diagnosis, treatment, cure and prevention of cancer and related diseases. As a former CFO and treasurer of The CGM Funds, founder and chairman Frank Strauss says he "felt in a position to rally some industry folks around me and get something going, and I never dreamed it would grow [to this point].” Strauss is now principal of the Beacon Consulting Group.

MFAC’s board consists of approximately 25 executives from State Street, Investors Bank & Trust and JPMorgan Chase. Last month, customer relationship management, or CRM, software company SalesPage Technologies made a more indirect contribution to the cause: It donated software and support to MFAC. MFAC will implement the SalesPage CRM offering to streamline fundraising and awareness efforts as well as to leverage its growing list of data and contacts. Michael Pessetti, vice president of sales and marketing for SalesPage, says SalesPage is providing the hardware, software and infrastructure in order to help MFAC keep track of donors and sponsors as well as planning and communication around events such as marketing to potential participants. “We recognize they’re a virtual organization and they don’t have a lot of staff or even a physical office location,” Pessetti says. “We felt we could do something effective.” For its part, American Century has struck up a partnership with a celebrity spokesman and launched a new brand and advertising campaign to raise awareness and support for cancer. Via a campaign featuring Lance Armstrong and the catchphrase, "Put Your Lance Face On," the firm is encouraging investors to tackle investment decisions with determination and focus. Company spokesman Chris Doyle says the firm rebranded target-date funds and asset allocation funds under the “Livestrong” moniker. In addition, American Century has “made a financial commitment” to the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which is devoted to raising cancer awareness. Doyle says there is a minimum level of commitment and that if the funds prove to be more popular, the amount of commitment can go up. Like Armstrong, American Century’s founder, Jim Stowers, Jr., is a cancer survivor. Also like Armstrong, Stowers is using his position to help fight the disease. He has created a biomedical research facility, The Stowers Institute for Medical Research.

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