The largest nongovernmental supporter of cancer research in the United States is facing major financial hardship during the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
As a result, the American Cancer Society announced the layoffs of 1,000 employees Thursday in an effort to shrink its overall budget, according to a statement.
The Atlanta-based nonprofit cited significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on fundraising in just a short period of time.
“The pandemic has severely reduced our fundraising revenue and forced us to take significant cost-saving measures. ACS is reducing its overall budget by approximately 30 percent, with cuts to both non-personnel and personnel expenses. Unfortunately, this included eliminating approximately 1,000 staff positions nationwide,” the statement said.
Executive salaries have also been reduced between 10% to 20%.
The announcement comes after its signature fundraising event, Relay For Life, started transitioning to a virtual format for the first time in April. The annual walks take place in more than 2,500 locations across the country and make up nearly a quarter of its total fundraising. According to a 2018 annual financial report, ACS raised $728 million in public contributions, 24% of which came from Relay For Life events.
This year, ACS is expecting a minimum $200 million shortfall.
“This pandemic has created some pretty tough times for your American Cancer Society,” CEO Gary Reedy said during a virtual livestream Relay For Life event in April. “Our mission is way too important to fail. … We need you more now than ever.”
Reedy has elected to take a 25% reduction in salary.
Three months after the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, health experts now fear a second wave of infections is all but certain, effectively postponing public mass gatherings for the foreseeable future. As a result, ACS has struggled to make up for losses and plans a “fundamental shift” in how it engages and serves communities, with a greater focus on digital connections.
The financial impact could also have serious implications on cancer research.
“If current revenue trends continue, we could be forced to cut our research work by 50%,” according to an ACS spokesperson. “This could be painful because the American Cancer Society is one of the largest funders of cancer research in the world, and cancer patients cannot afford anything less than research work moving full speed ahead.”
In 2018, ACS invested $147 million in cancer research and $269 million in patient support while also providing resources such as education in cancer prevention, treatment and early detection.