Hitch Your Mousetrap To a Cause

Hitch Your Mousetrap To a Cause

David L. Harrington, 1959 Crusade Chairman of the American Cancer Society, and Mr. and Mrs. Edward Ney and daughter, of Darien, Connecticut, who were the models for the poster Guard Your Family, shown in the background

MR. HARRINGTONis chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the Reuben H. Donnelley Corporation and president of the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce. FIRE ENGINEERING is published by the Business Papers Division of the Donnelley Corporation.

ONCE UPON A TIME the man who made a better mousetrap didn’t have to look for customers.

But in 1959 the best of all possible mousetraps won’t sell without a skilled publicity campaign to tell the people —and sometimes also the mice—that this indeed is the trap of the future, a superior product for discriminating mice and men. Generally this is costly. And generally it’s worth the cost.

Some years ago, however, I accidentally discovered a way of securing consumer goodwill at no dollar cost.

And I consider this an excellent supplement to our regular public relations program. Eight years ago, without thought of profit or mousetraps, I became a volunteer for the American Cancer Society. Looking back, I suppose I joined because I was asked to.

My father, who was my dearest friend, had died of cancer. Watching him die wasn’t easy. Then there was my secretary — a dynamic young woman whose life was snuffed out by cancer in a few short months. These experiences might have led me to feel that you can’t do anything about cancer; but there was also my dear friend and fishing companion, Jack Holland. He was operated on for lung cancer eight years ago. Last year we went on a pretty rugged fishing trip to Alaska. Jack held his own. This year, business and the Cancer Crusade permitting, Jack and 1 hope to catch a couple of big ones off the Isle of Pines in the Caribbean.

My friend Jack is one of 800,000 Americans cured of cancer. They owe

their lives to the American Cancer Society’s nationwide network of research, service and education programs.

The Society devotes millions of dollars to research. It needs many millions more.

Most of the 30 million dollars contributed to the Cancer Crusade last year came from small donors. Business and industry failed to give their full fair share. And this despite the fact that cancer costs business and industry billions a year in absenteeism, in lost goods and services, lost buyers and in indirect costs for medically indigent patients.

Here are a few facts every business or professional man should know. Fifty thousand man-years are lost each year to business and industry through cancer disability. The disease causes more prolonged absenteeism than any other illness. The annual hospital bill for cancer is 300 million dollars a year, excluding home care and follow-up treatment. Cancer creates more medical indigents than any other disease.

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Now, medically indigent families cannot contribute to the community; in fact, they must be helped by it. Most of us absorb much of the cost of maintaining those whom illness has rendered incapable of helping themselves.

A healthy, thriving community contributes to prosperity. What’s good for the community is good for everybody.

To get back to mousetraps by way of detour, after working for the American Cancer Society in various capacities, in 1957 I served as Crusade chairman of the Illinois Division. This year I was asked to assume national chairmanship of the 1959 Crusade. I knew it was a demanding job, entailing extensive travel and time away from my business. But I wanted to contribute all I could to this great cause. I accepted the chairmanship because I consider the conquest of cancer America’s most urgent health need. And I’ll be frank to admit that I also accepted it because I knew it was good business.

The major assets of The Reuben H. Donnelley Corporation are people, our more than a million customers and our employees. If they’re in good health we benefit. The American Cancer Society helps keep them on the job.

In quite another way, my work for the Society is also good business. My public service through the Society’s Crusade has gained The Reuben H. Donnelley Corporation the kind of goodwill that money can’t buy. My salesmen tell me it helps when a customer says, “Reuben Donnelley . . . oh yes, your boss spoke at a big cancer meeting last night. He’s doing quite a job.”

My mousetrap is publishing and advertising. We keep on trying to improve our products and services. And I think we have the best public relations men in the country working for us. But there is no substitute for the welcoming warmth of a customer who knows that you are giving to the community as well as selling to it.

The Cancer Crusade has a simple, universal appeal. Cancer strikes in two out of three homes. Knock on any door, and you’ll find that some member of the family or a close friend has had the disease.

If you do something for the Crusade, the Crusade will more than repay you. You will have the rewarding experience of taking part in a great humanitarian effort—and it will show a profit in many other ways.


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