By Mike Gruley

This week, I sat down with Aubrey Huff, the Campaign Development Manager, Hero Squad, formerly Students of the Year, at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She shared her wisdom about how professionals in all industries can live out their core values, what it means to find meaning in your career, and how The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) makes a lasting difference for cancer patients and their families.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is a perfect example of an organization with a well-defined mission and a clearly defined set of core values.  The people they attract, like Aubrey Huff, are those who create an aligned and unified culture, and drive success for the organization.  

Mike: Who is Aubrey Huff? Can you share a bit about your history and how it led you to your role at LLS today?

 Aubrey: “So, I actually come from a background in finance, specifically in the banking industry. When I realized that the path I was on didn’t fit well with my future aspirations, I went back to school and got a Master’s degree in Public Administration. This helped me discover that the nonprofit sector was where I belonged: I took on a role in development and fundraising for an animal shelter and from there, went to the YMCA as the Membership & Marketing Director. Now, I’m very proud to be part of LLS, which is such a great organization. In July of last year, I began managing my own campaign called Students of the Year, which is a philanthropic leadership development program for high school students in the Greater Detroit Metro area.”

Mike: It sounds like throughout your career, you’ve been aligned with organizations that attempt to do good in some way. How do your personal core values align with the mission of LLS?

 Aubrey: “Both my campaign, Students of the Year, and LLS more broadly, aim to not only find a cure for blood cancer, but to improve the quality of life for patients with cancer and their caregivers. Students often participate in the campaign because they know someone who has been impacted by cancer, which unites them to the mission and the community of people working towards a specific goal. For me, what I do comes down to the health and well-being of others: I stay in the nonprofit world because it’s extremely gratifying to know that my work makes a direct impact on someone’s well-being. When I’m successful, it affects an individual life, not just a product.”

Mike: What are the most gratifying aspects of your job?

Aubrey: “When I hear the success stories of someone who is cancer-free. It also comes down to the little things. For example, LLS provides financial assistance to any cancer patient who contacts us: The patient automatically receives $100 (and during COVID, our partnerships helped us increase that amount to $200). That $100 could be used to buy a wig for someone who’s lost all their hair. It’s something little, but a purchase that makes them feel good about themselves. Such a small sum, that $100, can bring light back to their face. I find real gratification in tiny moments or services that we provide which make a massive difference.”

Mike: What types of people work at LLS? Do you need to have a personal connection to an organization’s mission in order to find it fulfilling?

Aubrey: “As the largest nonprofit dedicated to blood cancer research in the United States, we have employees from a wide variety of different backgrounds. Many of them do have a mission connection or know somebody who has been impacted by blood cancer. However, LLS has actively funded a number of different treatments which serve patients with other types of cancers, from pancreatic to colon to breast. So, people who work for (or volunteer with  LLS don’t necessarily have that one blood cancer connection, but just like anyone else, they likely know someone who has been impacted by some type of cancer.”

Mike: What advice would you give to someone who doesn’t feel a strong connection to the core values of their job or industry?

Aubrey: “It’s crucial to remember where you started from, and to reevaluate what it is that drew you to where you are now. You had asked me about core values, right? Really spend time thinking through and identifying your core personal values. Then, ask yourself if you’re finding those values in the company that you work for or the job that you do. Maybe the nonprofit sector isn’t right for you, but you might be able to find steps that you can take to figure out how to bring your values back into the goal and purpose of your current career.”

Mike: If someone is interested in supporting the mission of LLS, what steps could they take to become involved?

Aubrey: “We always welcome donations, but LLS also offers internships, volunteer opportunities, positions on boards or leadership teams, and more. We have different campaigns running all year-round, so there’s a variety of ways to get involved. If you’re interested, you can speak with Campaign Director Sarah Belote by emailing sarah.belote@lls.org.

Also, if you know a go-getter, high-achieving high school student, we are currently recruiting for our Students of the Year program, in which students sharpen their skills in marketing, financial literacy, and leadership by leading campaigns to fundraise for treatments and cancer research. Students can learn more and find a campaign in their area here.”

Thanks for all you do and for sharing your time, talent, and expertise, with us, Aubrey! If you’d like to touch base about aligning your career or your organization with a set of core values, feel free to send me an email any time.