One of the things that I value most about leading The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is seeing our talented, dedicated and relentless staff and volunteers in action. During these trying times, they have adapted and rallied behind our mission like never before.
The past few months have been extremely difficult for all of us at LLS. The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy has dealt a major setback to LLS’s ability to raise funds for our mission threatening the future of our organization at a time when blood cancer patients and families need us more than ever.
Since the earliest days of this crisis, I made a commitment to our staff and volunteers that I would be transparent. I shared that we need to ensure LLS’s future viability and growth, and that every action we would take to protect our mission would be thoughtful, purposeful and strategic. That we had to redefine how we operate, so that we can deliver our mission priorities – across research, education and support, and advocacy – more effectively. And as part of this path forward, that this week, we would start the process to reduce the size of our workforce across the organization.
Our staff and volunteers came to LLS for a greater purpose: to cure blood cancer. Their unwavering dedication to our mission makes these organizational changes even more difficult to absorb, especially for staff who are leaving. I want to share how this decision was made, how this impacts our staff, and what the future holds.
This is how we arrived at this decision:
From the start, we took action to keep our organization stable in order to deliver our mission. We reduced expenses, reduced executive leadership salaries, laid off temporary staff, paused employee incentives and stopped hiring. Unfortunately, these actions were not enough given the economic realities of the crisis, and we had to reduce some of our research initiatives as well as patient support and education programs. Despite these challenges, we remain the largest nonprofit funder of blood cancer research, and we are committed to doing more for blood cancer patients and their families than any organization in the world.
Our lifesaving mission is what drives everything we do. That’s why we started with our mission priorities by evaluating how to maximize our investments in research, patient services and advocacy. We then assessed how we work today and re-envisioned how we will work in the future.
With collaboration as one of our guiding principles, we assembled a cross-functional team of field and national leaders to reexamine how various constituents engage with LLS and evaluate how we are structured. The team looked closely at how departments and teams work together, with a focus on stewarding relationships and meeting the needs of blood cancer patients and their families.
The outcome of their work is a new operating model that puts mission at the center of everything we do. We’re calling this “One LLS: Mission Centric. Locally Delivered. Nationally Powered” to reflect our unwavering commitment to doing more for the patients and communities we serve. As part of this model, we outlined fundamental changes to our organizational structures, roles, processes and the ways we engage our constituents. The final step was to determine the size and shape of each team as well as what roles and skill sets we need to set our organization up for future growth.
I want to be clear that staff reductions are in response to an untenable business climate caused by the pandemic. We made these decisions with care and diligence, guided by a new operating model, which considered the new roles and skill sets needed for the future viability of our organization. So while we reduce our workforce, we also have created new roles.
This is what key changes mean for staff remaining at LLS:
Our vision is to elevate our local offices and teams as the gateway to all that LLS does for patients and the community, fueled by a national team dedicated to supporting their success. To do this, we are making fundamental changes to our national and field organizational structures and roles, and significant changes to our field footprint.
Today, we serve more than 150 markets across the U.S. through 56 Chapters led by 56 Executive Directors. These Chapters are grouped into four regions led by four Regional Vice Presidents. We will continue to serve more than 150 markets, but they will now be grouped into 27 Regions led by 27 Executive Directors. These Regions will be grouped into two Territories – East and West – led by two Territory Vice Presidents.
Consolidating our Chapters into Regions will help ensure the viability of our organization in the coming months and years. To ensure our local staff and volunteers have the support they need to cultivate and build relationships in their communities while executing strategies to drive forward our mission, we are also making fundamental changes to our national structures and roles in order to enhance collaboration and innovation.
Our mission remains unchanged. What is changing is our structure and many of our processes, so we can operate more effectively and importantly, reach more patients.
This is where we go from here:
For our colleagues who are leaving LLS, please know how grateful we are for your hard work and dedication. We know you came to LLS to make a difference. The qualities, passions and talents you brought to LLS each day have made an incredible impact for patients and families. You helped to save lives. I have no doubt that you all will go on to accomplish incredible things. I want to thank you for your tireless work in service of our mission, and I hope you will stay connected.
For those who are staying, we recognize how difficult this is for you. These are your teammates, and in many cases your friends. We will be sharing resources to support you, and you will continue to hear from me and other leaders regularly about what’s next under the One LLS operating model. We also remain committed to diversity, inclusion and belonging among our staff and volunteers. We know there’s more work to be done, and we don’t have all the answers today, but rest assured that this is a priority as we move forward.
For our volunteers, please stay in the fight against blood cancer. This is a difficult time, and we know how much you will miss the staff who are leaving. I urge you to keep driving our mission forward. We need your support.
Each and every one of you has played a vital role in efforts that have saved and improved the lives of patients.
Thank you all for being part of the LLS story, a story that is evolving and ends with curing cancer in our lifetime.