By: Ashley Byars
Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States? For American Heart Month this February, we talked with Alex Carson, National Sr. Corporate Relations Lead of the American Heart Association (AHA), to gain insights on how the AHA is raising awareness and funds toward improving heart health for all Americans.
We spoke with Alex to learn more about:
- His career journey to corporate relations
- How AHA’s corporate collaborations are enabling health equity beyond February
- What nonprofits can do to overcome challenges of siloed cause marketing decisions
Q: How did your career path lead you to your current role in corporate collaborations and what’s one thing you love about your work?
A: As a graphic communications and management major, I made an easy decision my senior year of college to follow my passion for peer-to-peer fundraising (which I had done since middle school), accepting my first professional nonprofit role leading local campaigns in the greater Cincinnati area. Three years in, I wanted experience growing a major metro campaign versus sustaining many smaller market events. I knew the American Heart Association’s Top 5 Heart Walk campaign also called Greater Cincinnati home. I took the leap to American Heart Association and through great mentors in this role, I was offered a chance to lead our team and some of Cincinnati’s largest supporters.
It opened my eyes to what national collaborations could yield for the mission and for our world. I realized that I could craft bespoke relationships that also save and improve lives at-scale. In my role with National Corporate Relations, I love developing authentic, trusted relationships where the shared alignment allows for a transformational solution impacting millions of lives.
Q: In your current role at the AHA, what are your organization’s areas of focus with corporate collaborators?
A: At the American Heart Association, we have a vision of advancing health and hope for everyone, everywhere. As you can imagine in combating the No. 1 and No. 5 killers of all Americans—heart disease and stroke, respectively—collaborations span the gamut by way of focus area. The key focus, though, is to reduce barriers that enable health equity for all—from women’s health to nutrition security and from mental well-being to learning the lifesaving skill of CPR. Our aim is to leverage the Association’s science, brand and grassroots to create mutually beneficial relationships that ultimately save and improve lives. While American Heart Month spotlights many of our consumer-facing campaigns, we have many national sponsors who support our programmatic work which comes to life in communities across the nation year-round.
Q: February is American Heart Month, an important awareness month for AHA. Are there any cause campaigns that you’re excited about for February?
A: It’s like picking a favorite child (luckily, I only have one child), but we have nearly 60 Life is Why consumer campaigns in motion this American Heart Month. Annual retailer supporters are inviting their customers to support the American Heart Association in-store and online through a variety of ways such as donating at point of sale:
- Big Lots
- CVS Health
- Orangetheory Fitness
- Pilot Travel Centers
- The UPS Store
We’re also excited to welcome inaugural campaign supporters to the companies supporting our mission this year:
- Daily Harvest
- The Container Store
Q: This year, AHA is celebrating its centennial. Congratulations on 100 years of impact! We know that building relationship over many years with your corporate supporters is vital to developing sustainable relationships. Can you share with us any long-term collaborations and how the relationships have evolved with them over several years?
A: The centennial is a moment in time to celebrate what we’ve accomplished over the last 100 years while being clear that we’re not done yet. There have been significant scientific advancements, improvement to quality care and lifesaving skills—like CPR for example. Yet, these advancements have not been shared equitably. We are dedicated to fully achieving our impact goal of identifying and removing the barriers that exist to achieve health equity for ALL, which includes:
- Social determinants of health
- Structural racism
- Rural health inequities
While I can’t point to one major supporter, I do know companies want to be part of the next century of impact, helping to break down barriers that exist to achieve equitable health for all constituents we collectively serve.
Q: What do you see as the biggest opportunity and challenge for the future of corporate and nonprofit collaborations?
A: I think the biggest challenge is (and will continue to be) the siloing of partnership decisions. Truly strategic relationships can’t come alive in a vacuum. We must always think about who else can such a relationship benefit. Corporations are always looking to do more with less, and non-profits must innovate to serve as a solution across multiple business lines to ensure relevancy and efficiency.
5 fun facts about Alex
- Last book read: Weekend Language by Andy Craig and Dave Yewman
- Favorite activity to unwind: Lake trips and mowing our five-acre property both provide great moments of well-being for me. Can you tell I’m ready for summer!?
- Best advice you’ve been given: “Fail fast.” Don’t be afraid to be bold, to fail and to quickly learn thus refining your talents and skills for future growth.
- Most interesting place you’ve visited: I would say Sleeping Bear Dunes at sunset on Pierce Stocking Drive in Michigan was one of the most unexpectedly beautiful spots I’ve ever visited.
- Current favorite TV show: Ted Lasso remains a top candidate, but Lessons In Chemistry was a great recent watch showcasing a powerful vignette of gender inequity.
About the AHA
Founded in Chicago in 1924, the American Heart Association (AHA) is celebrating 100 years of raising awareness and funds toward improving heart health and reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke. During this time, they have helped raise over $5 billion in funds toward research. Since 2018, they have helped reduce deaths from heart disease by 15.1% and stroke by 13.6%.