Join The NonProfit Times: or Become a member

Subscribe: Print Publication or Newsletter

Stay connected.
Stay informed.

Not Gone Fishin’: ACS’s Seffrin Retiring To Do More Work

By Paul Clolery - February 28, 2014

John Seffrin, president and chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society (ACS), doesn’t golf. “I have no intention of taking up fishing,” he said. Seffrin’s idea of a good time during his impending retirement is fighting non-communicable diseases around the globe.

“I taught at a university and might do some of that. There’s consulting but I’ll most likely work with the United Nations on non-communicable diseases,” said Seffrin. He and his wife Carole will be staying in Atlanta, though.

Seffrin, 69, announced he’s retiring after 40 years with the organization, 20 of them as the boss. A committee is being assembled to launch a national search for his successor. Tara Peters, ACS’s vice president of media relations, said there is no timetable for the retirement. Seffrin will stay through the search and a transition period, she said, before retiring from the Atlanta, Ga.-based organization.

The ACS chief executive has always come from the volunteer ranks. Seffrin was a volunteer in various capacities for 20 years. This search might widen because ACS has been undergoing a transformation and the board was reduced from 43 members to 21. It has five officers and 16 directors. There had always been a layperson as chairman with the board president being from the medical field. While there is a vice chair of the board, the board president position was eliminated during the reduction. There is now a board scientific officer.

Seffrin cited the World Health Organization’s 2011 Political Declaration on Noncommunicable Disease (NCDs) as something with which he’ll be involved. There are nine global targets for 2025, including reducing premature mortality from NCDs by 25 percent. Worldwide, 80 percent of cancers are NCDs, Seffrin said. Another of the WHO’s goals is a 30-percent reduction in tobacco use.

Turning something on its ear is nothing new for Seffrin. He initiated a transformation of the 100-year-old charity in 2010 that led to a restructuring that merged 11 divisions into one central organization while the 143-member National Assembly voted itself out of existence. The transformation centralized virtually all back-office services, eliminated some individual fundraising, and cut its 6,000 employees by roughly 5 percent through buyouts.

Total revenue for ACS last year was $916 million, No. 20 on The NonProfit Times’ NPT 100, a study of the nation’s largest nonprofits. Seffrin earned total compensation of $762,994, including $79,364 as part of a supplemental executive retirement plan (SERP), for the fiscal year ending August 2012. He also earned $69,361 as CEO of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the affiliate advocacy organization.

Seffrin’s first encounter with cancer dates to his childhood. His grandmother, who was living with his family at the time, died of cancer when he was 10 years. He has lost his mother to cancer and Carole, his wife of 45 years, is a breast cancer survivor.

Seffrin has been on the front lines of the war against cancer for many years, not only as CEO of the American Cancer Society, but also – for many years before that – as one of the Society’s roughly three million volunteers nationwide. Under his leadership, the ACS has become the world’s largest voluntary health organization fighting cancer.

In the political realm, Seffrin has transformed ACS into one of the world’s most progressive public health organizations and a leading advocacy organization. He spearheaded the creation of ACS CAN, the society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate. He serves on the White House Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health, as well as the Advisory Committee to the Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a Secretary-level appointment.

Seffrin is a past president of the Geneva-headquartered Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), the first globally-oriented cancer non-governmental organization (NGO), and has served as chairman of the board of Independent Sector, the largest coalition of nonprofit groups. He helped to create the National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids (now the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids), among his collaborations and affiliations. He is also a member of the Leadership 18 of United Way Worldwide.

In 1999, Seffrin was selected to be a charter member of C-Change (formerly known as the National Dialogue on Cancer) Steering Committee, which was co-chaired by former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush. In 1997, he was appointed to the National Cancer Policy Board of the Institute of Medicine, and in 1999, was appointed by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to co-chair the National Cancer Legislation Advisory Committee.

Seffrin is a contributing author to more than one dozen books and has written more than 100 articles and other publications. He was awarded the 2010 James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation’s Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award.

Seffrin holds a B.S. degree from Ball State University, a M.S. degree in health education from the University of Illinois, and a Ph.D. in health education from Purdue University. Ball State University, Purdue University, Thomas Jefferson University, and Indiana University have also bestowed honorary doctorates upon him in recognition of his more than three decades of leadership in the worldwide fight against cancer.

Prior to being appointed the ACS’s top staff executive, Seffrin served at Indiana University as professor of health education and chairman of the De­part­ment of Applied Health Science.

The ACS goal is to have 1,000 fewer people dying daily unnecessarily from cancer because treatment and preventative measures are in place. Teaching people not to start smoking is key to saving those lives, he said. Seffrin also pointed to vaccines for Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Hepatitis C as big wins in the communicable disease area. Still, there needs to be more education on the NCDs, he said.

What kept him awake at night, he said, was the number of people suffering needlessly from preventable or treatable cancers. “With all the progress we’ve made — we know there are 1.2 million people who have a birthday this year who wouldn’t have had one — there are still people needlessly dying,” said Seffrin.

“I never lost sleep worrying the American public wouldn’t support us. We are in 5,300 communities, virtually every community. People know the brand. They don’t know enough about what we do,” said Seffrin. That’s something to add to the retirement to-do list.  NPT

NPT Senior Editor Mark Hrywna contributed to this story.

Podcast_forHub_500x500

Sponsored Podcasts

Welcome to the Raise & Engage podcast, a filters-off series for nonprofit professionals hosted by Blackbaud's straight-shooting expert Danielle Johnson Vermenton. During this open-mic session, you’ll hear honest advice to help YOU do more for your cause.

Episode 6: The Power of ‘No’ at Work|| daniellejohnson-76

You have a job description, but on any given day, you're probably doing dozens of things outside the scope of that description. Combine that with the challenge of a fast-paced environment and the shifting priorities of funders, colleagues, and board members and it’s easy to fall short of doing your best. By being mindful of your limitations and capacity—and saying “no” when your plate is full—you can actually do more for your cause. In the sixth installment of the Raise and Engage podcast Danielle Johnson and Robin Anderson discuss the power of saying “no” at work.

Episode 5: Professional Development: Getting Un-Stuck|| daniellejohnson-76

In the most recent episode of Raise + Engage, Danielle is back with Brian Reich from little m media to discuss how nonprofit professionals can stay motivated and energized in their day-to-day roles. Brian shares his experience working with nonprofits and the lessons and tips he's learn from and shared with them over the years, including tips for avoiding a professional rut, creating forward momentum in your career and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. If you're considering making a career move or want to ensure you're on the right path, you won't want to miss this inspo-packed episode!

Episode 4: Apps and Hacks to Stay (Mostly) Sane || daniellejohnson-76

Episode 4: Apps and Hacks to Stay (Mostly) Sane, is all about tips, tricks and tools for sanity. Blackbaud’s own interactive product marketer, Julia Lenz, joins host Danielle Johnson to share some high tech. (and no tech.) productivity tips to help nonprofit professionals stay sane in the crazy world of philanthropy.

Tune in to hear:

  • Tips for how to spend the first 30 minutes of your day
  • The benefits of 15 minute meetings
  • Why notebooks are still relevant to a successful organization
  • Ideas for better managing your inbox
  • Why you should take lunch outside the box
  • ...and much more!
Don’t forget to visit the #NoFilterNonprofit Hub afterwards to download our newest tip sheet10 Productivity Hacks for Nonprofits.

Episode 3: Tech. Connection: Solutions, Strategy, and Staff || daniellejohnson-76

Episode 3: Tech. Connection: Solutions, Strategy, and Staff In episode 3 of the Raise + Engage podcast, Danielle Johnson is joined by Chris Geady and William DaSilva, two IT experts in the nonprofit space, to talk technology integration for NPOs: when you need it, when you don’t, and how to do it successfully.


Tune in to hear:

  • When to say NO to integration
  • How to set your strategic plan before even looking at technologies
  • Ways to get your entire team on board
  • The importance of identifying a project lead
  • The RFP process - how it should and should not go
And William shares a story about a nonprofit that may or may not have still been using a typewriter. You don't want to miss this one!

Episode 2: From Socially Awkward to Socially Awesome! || daniellejohnson-76

According to Danielle Johnson, straight-shooting host of the Raise + Engage podcast series, if your staff members aren’t the number one advocates for your cause on social media, you’re failing. In the most recent episode, Danielle is joined by Blackbaud’s own social media guru Madeline Turner to discuss overcoming social struggles and creating a social ambassador program at your organization. This entertaining and insightful duo dishes on the importance of making your social media presence human, making the case for a formal social program to leadership, how University of Michigan turned a one time social media campaign into a long term social program, and how Madeline's mom unknowingly became a social ambassador on #GivingTuesday.

Episode 1: Corporate Culture & Development: Shake It Up! || daniellejohnson-76

In the premiere episode of Raise & Engage, Danielle is joined by three straight-shooting nonprofit rock-stars: Jodi Smith of Sanford Health Systems, Veronica Brown of Chicago Public Library Foundation and Ali Burke of Southlake Regional Health Centre Foundation. The group talks organizational culture, problem employees, why its important to celebrate and how to shake things up this year and build a better more authentic team that gets stuff done!

Newsletters

Stay informed, catch latest trends in the nonprofit space.

Subscribe to Our Free Newsletter

No obligation, unsubscribe at anytime.

Success! Check your email inbox.

Follow Us On Twitter

NPT 2016 Buyers' Guide

Newsletter Sign-up



click here to return to the previous page