SightLife Executive Wins National Award

SightLife Executive Wins National Award

The American Marketing Association (AMA) Foundation has named SightLife’s Senior Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs, Amy Pearson-Wales, the 2021 National Nonprofit Marketer of the Year. This annual award honors extraordinary leadership and achievement in nonprofit marketing and is one of the highest honors bestowed on marketers driving “best and next practices” in the industry.

“Amy is a tremendous leader and deeply committed to our mission, but her adaptability and ingenuity were especially impactful as our organization navigated the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said SightLife CEO Claire Bonilla. “Amid a period of extended ambiguity, Amy leaned into the unknown to deliver results that helped keep SightLife whole.”

When COVID-19 first hit, Amy led her team to develop a lean, agile marketing strategy that proved critical to SightLife securing government and philanthropic relief funding. These monies helped bridge the pandemic’s fracturing impact on our organization, ensuring our work in donation, sight restoration, and blindness prevention could continue – even in a virtual, socially-distanced world.

“I am deeply honored to receive this recognition and so proud of what our SightLife team accomplished in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Amy. “After elective surgeries in the U.S. were temporarily suspended in early 2020, we dug deep to sustain our best-in-class tissue donation and recovery services, but nothing compares to the efforts of our U.S. eye bank staff and global health teams in China and India that are on the frontlines – whose extended dedication amid a truly difficult time for our organization inspires me daily.”

One area of focus for Amy over the last year has been crystalizing and amplifying SightLife’s story of impact. While SightLife tirelessly advances our mission of eliminating corneal blindness through an array of innovative programs and services that save and restore sight in the U.S. and internationally, Amy credits Austin Nagasako, a senior leader on SightLife’s Donor Operations team, for helping her better understand the totality of our work.

Although SightLife’s eye bank footprint extends across the U.S., the largest percentage of our operations and, moreover, employee base is concentrated in Washington state, where we not only serve as the state’s only cornea recovery agency, but also as the initial screening coordinator of musculoskeletal (e.g., bone, skin, tendon) and cardiovascular (e.g., heart valves, veins) tissue donation for the state’s only organ and tissue recovery agencies, LifeCenter Northwest and LifeNet Health. Since these tissue grafts can be stored for several years, our annual work in musculoskeletal and cardiovascular tissue donation helps meet the potential future transplant needs of more than 160,000 additional Americans. 

This impact, alongside SightLife’s innovative work in family bereavement care and eye health systems strengthening, helped Amy solidify SightLife’s unique value proposition to key elected and publicly-appointed officials – from the Metropolitan King County Council to Washington state’s congressional delegation and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

At the end of 2020 and in early 2021, Amy partnered with other leaders in the organization to strategically position SightLife and then successfully secure not one but two different multimillion-dollar Paycheck Protection Program grants from the SBA, which senior congressional staff have described as “rare”. Amy also drove engagements with the King County Council that secured $282,000 in local relief funding fueled by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Stimulus (CARES) Act of 2020 and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021. These monies helped SightLife stand up a distributed workforce, among other digital transformations required to sustain our mission. They are also supporting the upgrade and optimization of our Donor Operations Communications Center, which advances nearly 200,000 high-stakes telephone calls in service to donation each year but has struggled under the weight of inefficient and outdated technology systems during the pandemic.

Amy’s impact didn’t end there. In collaboration with our philanthropy and finance teams, she has helped SightLife raise over $500,000 in unrestricted funding and social impact loans. Amy also oversees corporate communications, including the curation of SightLife’s twice-monthly internal All-Staff Meetings, which continue to keep our employees informed, connected, and uplifted across the different geographies where we work.

But we’re still not out of the woods. While government and philanthropic relief funding have been critical to keeping us solvent and our SightLife family whole, the ebb and flow of COVID infections in the U.S. and internationally pose continuous challenges. Fortunately, Amy has cultivated new champions within regional and federal government who now recognize and appreciate the truly unique value that we provide in service to our mission – locally and globally.

SightLife is grateful to the AMA Foundation for recognizing Amy’s exceptional leadership contributions over the last year. The AMA Award also acknowledges the relationship of storytelling and strategic advocacy to organizational success, which Amy will discuss at the Annual AMA Nonprofit and Cause Marketing Conference on August 12, 2021.

About AMA

The American Marketing Association is the world’s premier professional association for marketing professionals and deemed an essential community and leading resource for nearly 1.3 million marketers worldwide. Launched in 1937, the professional organization serves as a forum for connecting like-minded individuals to foster knowledge sharing and relationship building; to be a trusted resource for marketing information, tools, education, and training; and to advance marketing practice and thought leadership.

About AMA Foundation

The American Marketing Association Foundation (AMAF) is the philanthropic arm of the American Marketing Association. The AMAF champions individual marketers who are making an impact in the profession and community. They recognize marketing visionaries who have elevated the field and support the next generation of marketers who will transform the profession.