Podcast Episode 9: Passion for Philanthropy

When James father was diagnosed with cancer, he knew the perfect way to raise funds for research – a crawfish boil. As a southerner living in the northeast, he knew this would be a perfect way to share a bit of southern fun with his northern friends and raise money for Multiple Myeloma. Fast forward several years, Crawfish for Cancer has raised more than $350,000 and the events are held in nine location across the country. Join us for this inspiring conversation with James as he shares the secrets to his success and his motivation to grow this event from coast to coast. (


AGH: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of our DHG Podcast Series. I'm Alice Grey Harrison, your host, and I really love this venue because we get to hear from our people about the things that matter the most to them; flexibility, careers, and people. Today I am lucky enough to have James Crowell with me. He is a manager in our risk advisory group out of New York and we're talking today about one of my favorite subjects and something I'm very passionate about, and that is philanthropy. James is the founding president of a non-profit called Crawfish or Cancer, and they host events all over the country to raise money and awareness for cancer research. And James, welcome.

JC: Thanks so much for having me. Excited to be here.

AGH: Thanks, well we're glad to have you on our podcast series about this most important endeavor that you're involved with. So you've been with DHG for not too terribly long. How in the world did you land at DHG?

JC: Yeah so I joined in December. I came over from Ernst and Young in the New York office. I was really excited about the opportunity to help grow a new office and all the excitement that's involved in that. And came over through referral from one of our DHG people, someone I went to business school with. So that's how I ended up here.

AGH: Very good. And what exactly do you do for DHG?

JC: I work in a risk advisory space and risk compliance. My client is one of the investment banks. I specifically do operational risk documentation.

AGH: Very interesting. But more interesting than that is your life outside of DHG and your work with Crawfish for Cancer. Please share with us your inspiration for founding this organization?

JC: Sure. I grew up in Mississippi and had been going to crawfish boils most my life, and went to college and kept having those parties in the spring and kind of became known as the crawfish guy. At the same time my father had cancer, multiple myeloma, and as I got older I realized that we already had this established event that we could leverage in order to raise funds and awareness for cancer research. So I kind of put two and two together and started a charity.

AGH: Wow, clearly you have a very entrepreneurial spirit. I grew up in the south as well, I'm sure all of you can tell by my thick southern accent. And I grew up going to shrimp boils, so I went to my first crawfish boil in college, and I'm sure there are lots of listeners who have no clue what a crawfish boil is. Why don't you share with us exactly what goes on at a crawfish boil.

Crawfish boilJC: Well it's pretty simple, it's probably pretty similar to a shrimp boil but probably a little bit spicier I think. But you know, it's out of New Orleans, Louisiana and it's just like you think it is. It's crawfish that you eat and you boil them up with a lot of spices, corn, potatoes, sausage and sit around and eat them in kind of a community spirit. There's a lot of, just like a shrimp boil, there's a lot of peeling involved, so it takes some time to get full on it. But it's just a really good excuse to sit outside and eat with friends and have a couple of drinks and listen to music.

AGH: Yeah. It's a great fun thing to do, especially in the spring before it gets too hot and in the fall. Love doing that. So what exactly is your vision for continuing? I guess I should start with, where are you today with this organization in terms of where these events are held and what's your vision for the future?

JC: Sure. Well we started out, the first one was in New York about eight years ago and our first event we raised $1,000 and then last year we raised $125,000. And now we have them all over the country, so we're going to have nine events this year, all the way from Boston, to Charleston, to Atlanta, to Chicago, New York, D.C, San Francisco, L.A, and Charlotte. So we’ll be coast to coast. And so the goal for moving forward is try not to expand too quickly, but as we - I tend to meet people that are interested in throwing events in different cities and finding people that are going interested in organizing. We've developed a pretty good franchise model to help them put on the events.

AGH: So basically, in these different locations, you have - I'm going to really simplify this - but a guide on how you would throw this and there's local committees I guess that pull the event together?

JC: That's exactly right. We generally find a director, somebody who's going to spearhead it and then we have them put together a committee, we have a national committee that advises those folks and we forward them over a bunch of spreadsheets, as you can imagine, being consultants. And send them some spreadsheets and some other stuff and we go from there. I mean at the same time it's pretty simple; you get a venue, you get a band, and you bring in the crawfish, and that's about it.

AGH: Well I've done lots of events, and there's nothing simple about an event that brings in that many people to raise money. You make it sound very easy and I know that there are lots of logistics that go into this. I mean, just the sheer fact that you've got to get live crawfish transported all over the country. What would you say is your greatest lesson that you've learned so far about team management through your work with this group?

JC: It's about finding the right people, people who are motivated for the right reasons and who are really excited about helping. And once you have people that do that, then everything else gets a lot easier and so it's really about trying to find the right folks that are, you know, want to do it for - want to help with cancer research essentially. And whatever the task is, they'll take care of it because they're excited about the bigger mission.

AGH: Very good. So how do you balance your demanding schedule here at DHG and then this great work that you're doing outside of DHG?

JC: Well DHG's what I do during the day, and then I do Crawfish for Cancer at night. I probably spend 45 minutes every night and so you space that out over the year, it works pretty well.

AGH: I think that's one of the interesting things about DHG and our culture, enabling our people to have the flexibility to really be able to pursue some of their passions like this. Is there anything else that you would like to share with our listeners that we haven't covered? Something about the event? Where, perhaps they can get more information?

JC: Sure. If you go to, you'll see all our events and our background and lots, and lots of pictures of people eating crawfish. And also it will tell you all the different cities that we're in. Like I said, we'll be all over. So if you go on there and look you can find the events. They're starting April 16th in Charleston and then going to Chicago on June 28th, and then the fall in San Francisco and L.A. And then also our Facebook page is pretty active. We do most of our communication, probably through there. So if you just search for Crawfish for Cancer on Facebook it'll show up pretty well and go ahead and like us and you'll get all the notifications you can imagine. And then we have an Instagram, Crawfish for Cancer as well and Twitter. So if you search it on Google you'll be able to find it. And then from there I would like to just highlight that, so what we do is we just raise the money and then we donate it actually to the Multiple Myeloma research foundation, which is an elite foundation. It has one of the highest GuideStar ratings, and they fund research. And the exciting thing that they've been able to do is up until last year there were two drugs for Multiple Myeloma and this year, or this past fall, they had 10 new drugs approved by the FDA. So they've been doing great things and we're happy to be able to support them.

AGH: That's fantastic. Well James it was such a pleasure talking with you and learning about Crawfish for Cancer, and we're excited to have you on our DHG team, and it was really great to hear about your life beyond numbers.

JC: Well thanks so much, I really appreciate it.

AGH: Yes and thank you all for listening to Life at DHG, our premier podcast series. If you like what you just heard, we hope you'll tell your friends and colleagues. Be sure to check out our DHG blog for more great stories about our life beyond numbers. Join us next time for another edition of life at DHG.

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