Case Study 

Christina Sermak, Chief of Staff
for the Chief Philanthropy Officer
City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center

Career Laddering

Published: August 2018


City of Hope is a leading research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. For nearly 100 years, our pioneering research has brought the world closer to cures. Designated as an NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center and a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, City of Hope’s research and treatment protocols advance care throughout the nation.

In 2015, City of Hope wanted to create a plan to retain and harness its fundraising staff and talent. To do this, they hired KDD Philanthropy (whom they still work with today) to help create career progression pathways for the development officers, and provide career ladder workshops to help development officers achieve leadership roles within City of Hope’s division of philanthropy.

Process of Working with KDD Philanthropy

Kathy Drucquer Duff worked with Christina Sermak, Chief of Staff for the Chief Philanthropy Officer, to formalize the career ladder plans and provide a supplemental training program. This included revising all the individual job descriptions for the entire organization, and creating an onboarding foundation to support the changes and enhancements to Kathy and City of Hope were making to the existing program.

Kathy and Christina created career progression paths for all staff, from administrative coordinators, mid-level managers and leadership personnel. These individual career plans included all the information staff needed to progress, including experience, education and expectations from their manager. Staff members were then provided workshops so their individual career planning would become a part of the larger Office of Philanthropy culture. Additionally, Kathy created 30, 60 and 90-day template plans for managers and employees to set up expectations and goals.

The development skill training occurred as part of regular Fundraising Essentials Bootcamp trainings that Kathy presented to nearly all City of Hope development officers and staff.

Christina was impressed with the energy and enthusiasm Kathy brought to Professional Development trainings and her approach to working with staff.

Kathy is a great collaborator and team player. She transitions so well between being a consultant to a team player that it never feels like she’s not on the team. She is a great partner for City of Hope. She’s positive and thoughtful, and also wants staff to achieve. She’s always looking for the best outcomes. I love Kathy’s willingness to try new approaches, and her flexibility to meet our needs is really valued.


Christina shares the professional development workshops and fundraising bootcamps have been extremely helpful, especially providing the baseline development training and creating common terminology among City of Hope development officers.

She really brought us all to an equal level and a baseline. We’re now progressing in our journey and we’re doing more with accountability.

What’s so great about Kathy is she produces results. At the end for the day, of course she’s a nice person; but she produces results and gives us the outcomes we’re looking for.

Kathy continues to be a trusted consulting partner with City of Hope, three years after the initial project began. The longevity of this relationship speaks volumes about how City of Hope believes Kathy provides exceptional benefit to the organization and its Office of Philanthropy.