Three junior Qualtrics employees in Ireland are on track to raise €500,000 to fund three cancer researchers for three years — and that may be just the beginning.

Let’s begin with a glimpse of what could be.

“If 5 For The Fight wins the Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award, it would open the door for SAP and Qualtrics to make an even greater contribution to cancer research,” says Aisling MacNamara. “It would be the beginning of our story and not the end. The potential impact we can make would be unbelievable.”

Battling Cancer, Researcher by Researcher

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Battling Cancer, Researcher by Researcher

The Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award is the highest employee recognition at SAP, awarded annually by the co-CEOs to an individual or a team.

But back to the beginning.

The Idea

In 2017, MacNamara, Sarah Argue, and Peter McGreevy decided to help increase social engagement at the Qualtrics subsidiary in Ireland. They asked their managers for approval to launch a project of their own as part of the Qualtrics’ global 5 For The Fight campaign, which is devoted to the battle against cancer.

The fledgling project picked up momentum when the trio discovered their partner, Breakthrough Cancer Research. Together with this Irish medical research charity, they developed an innovative concept: Instead of donating cash, they would directly fund three cancer researchers for three years. To do that, they needed to raise €500,000 within three years. This may sound like a tall order but the team was soon in for a surprise: After presenting their idea and a video at an all-hands meeting in Dublin, they received donations of around €12,000 in just 24 hours.

McGreevy explains why the project enjoys a broad appeal: “Our approach to funding cancer research lets donors see exactly where their money is going. For a long-term problem like cancer, where you don’t get results overnight, you need to be able to monitor the outcome in a different way. We’re able to measure impact by viewing the headcount we’re funding.”

The Motivation

According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, and was responsible for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018. Globally, about one in six deaths is due to cancer.

Those are the bare statistics. But almost all us have personal experience of the disease. Dermot Costello, founder of the Qualtrics subsidiary in Dublin, died of cancer in January 2018. “He never wanted it to be about him,” recalls MacNamara. “He was very generous with his time, even in his last weeks. His engagement was a massive driving force for us to keep going and believe in ourselves.”

The funds raised by the three colleagues in Dublin are being channeled into immunotherapy, which is currently a major area of cancer research. “Within the next three years, our researchers could potentially hit on some kind of cure or treatment for cancer that wasn’t there before,” says Argue.

The Outcome

A key factor in their success was that they were able to mobilize their colleagues, families and friends. “We invited employees to come up with their own ideas to raise money, like sponsored runs, and lots of people joined in,” explains MacNamara. “It’s also good that we’ve offered a variety of events to make sure we’re catering to as many people as we can,” adds McGreevy. “We ran different events for different target groups, such as golf tournaments and pub quizzes, always looking at the best customer or donor experience.”

The team has collected about €450,000 – in two years instead of the planned three – and they want to hit the €500,000 mark by January. “We created something from scratch with no resources and no budget,” Argue says proudly.

Motivated for More

McGreevy, Argue, and MacNamara’s project has even impacted Qualtrics’ global strategy. “Qualtrics has now set a target for funding 500 researchers worldwide based on our program,” says McGreevy.

None of this would have been possible without passion and dedication. The three co-workers invested a great deal of free time and energy into their project, and the weight of expectation was heavy at times. “It’s taken a lot. But this is something that is bigger than our work. It’s about lives,” says Argue.

Being nominated for the Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award has motivated the team to do more. “In the longer term we want to establish 5 For The Fight as an ongoing program, continue to fund raise and pay for more researchers so that it becomes part of everything we do,” says Argue.

Finalist Fast Facts

  • Submission Title: Qualtrics EMEA: 5 For The Fight
  • Team: Sarah Argue, Aisling MacNamara, Peter McGreevy
  • Board area: Cloud Business Group
  • Achievement: The EMEA 5 For The Fight program is a crowdfunding campaign to hire cancer researchers. This employee-led, grassroots program has mobilized the entire EMEA workforce, uniting and motivating colleagues around a common goal. To date, employees have created over 30 fundraising events. This success has influenced Qualtrics’ global approach to 5 For The Fight, recently culminating in over US$1 million fundraised globally in just one month. The project has the ability to grow and scale through all areas of the SAP business and partner network in line with SAP’s vision to help the world run better and improve people’s lives.
  • Impact: In less than two years, the team raised over €450,000 to hire three full-time cancer researchers for three years. Furthermore, they have channeled resources into immunotherapy research, a major research area for cancer currently. The ultimate impact of this project aims to create new treatment options for patients.