One in a series of case studies highlighting creative projects, imaginative clients, and remarkable results.
The Isabella Santos Foundation works relentlessly to fund research and treatment options for pediatric cancer patients. Named for the little girl who inspires this effort, the Isabella Santos Foundation has raised and donated more than $5 million in 12 years to reach its goal to help kids Beat Cancer, Grow Hair, and Live Their Dreams. In 2020 alone, it reached a milestone by donating $1 million to achieve its mission.
ISF donations are currently building a program at Levine Children’s Hospital for children with rare cancers. Their efforts have brought in a top doctor, Dr. Giselle Sholler, to head the department, and are building a team of doctors, nurses, and researchers around her. They’re achieving their goals of funding trials and doing research for rare pediatric cancers.
While ISF is known for unique and attention-getting events, they wanted to diversify their fundraising streams for a more consistent source of income. For ideas, they leaned on what powered them forward the last 12 years: positive thoughts.
“When Isabella was battling cancer, we were the biggest consumers of positive thoughts and products,” says Erin Santos, Isabella’s mother and founder of the ISF. “We wanted T-shirts with positive thoughts.” With all that’s going on in the world right now, says Erin, ISF wanted to reach people in a way that speaks to them personally — and not necessarily about cancer.
The Foundation has had a lot of success with an advocacy campaign launched in 2015, called “Cancer Messed With….” It was based on what they would tell people about Isabella and her fight — that cancer messed with the wrong kid. ISF printed the phrase on a few pieces of merchandise, and it sold well as the idea caught on. But in 2021, it needed a refresh.
Erin and her marketing team worked with Brian Young at The Dunstan Group for a way to freshen up the Cancer Messed With Campaign and make it more accessible to supporters. The result was an online store that offered T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, stickers, and even customizable team shirts in trendy, edgy styles and colors.
“We wanted something that evolved to keep pace with what people are buying,” says Erin. “The Dunstan Group has a good view of what people want, and suggested different products that they know people want to buy — and they were right. They showed us how to branch out into other categories.” Suggestions of new fabric blends that people love, in colors that are on point, led to instant success. The sand-colored oversized hoodie sold out quickly!
“I love it!” says Erin. “We let them lead and we held back, and they were right!” ISF is already reordering the most popular products, like the hoodie. Part of the campaign’s success? “They are great at communication,” says Erin.
A crucial part of the communication was letting ISF know about supply chain issues that are causing a hold-up on a lot of online merchandise for retailers. The Dunstan Group knew their products well enough to suggest branded attire and accessories that could be in the hands of donors when they wanted it. That kind of knowledge and professionalism is why the Isabella Santos Foundation keeps coming back to The Dunstan Group for more fundraising ideas and merchandise.
“Brian is by far one of my favorite people to work with,” says Erin. “He’s the best! He loves what he does, and he loves what we do, so he’s an extended member of our team!”