Meet COMM Alum Marc Sirkin, Corporate Mary Poppins

Marc Sirkin-01

Marc Sirkin is the guy to call when your company is in transition or your hair is on fire. Since graduating from Florida State University in 1991 with an advertising degree, he has done a little bit of everything. He has led multi-million fundraising campaigns and expanded the social media presence for non-profits like March of Dimes, Autism Speaks and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. He launched a community network for Microsoft and directed Customer Impact for consulting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers. Today, he leads marketing and sales for SpendBoss, a new retail technology start-up.

His story starts with a website about a dog.

Sirkin explained he got into the internet during the early 90s after meeting Mark Swanson, his first real professional mentor. Swanson encouraged Sirkin to learn about the internet and building websites, and in return, would hire Marc as their first web designer. Sirkin’s dog, Jackson, became the subject of his first website, which was featured in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and landed Sirkin his first internet job.

The team built a product which became a company, Kinzan, a website creator with pre-made templates. Sirkin described Kinzan as “SquareSpace, ten years too soon”. The experience established valuable start-up skills that shaped the future of his career.

The start-up business lifestyle is not for the faint of heart. After eight years of 70-80 hour weeks, an exhausted Sirkin and his wife decided to move east, where he found a position as Director of Corporate Relations & eMarketing with the March of Dimes.

“I wasn’t sure what to make of the opportunity,” Sirkin admitted. “What was neat, was they [March of Dimes] were 5-10 years behind the for-profit world so I was able to build online fundraising campaigns and send the very first March of Dimes mass email.”

So started his tenure as a non-profit fairy godfather.

Sirkin spent three and a half years with March of Dimes before joining The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as their Vice President of eMarketing in 2004. You guessed it – he went on to raise money through online programs, furthering the non-profit’s mission.

How can one person find so many opportunities? He’s well known in the non-profit community as an energetic, passionate leader who can discern what works and what doesn’t. Aided by a deep understanding of technology, Sirkin admitted he hasn’t really applied for a job in decades. Networking and relationships have molded his career.

“My pattern is 3-4 years,” he laughed. “I’m good when things are chaotic. Once the waves die down, I’m ready to climb my next mountain. That early stage part, where everyone’s hair is on fire, is where I thrive.”

After a few years, Sirkin switched hats from non-profit to technology, joining Microsoft as the Sr. Marketing Manager of the CIO Network. As the community manager of a rapidly expanding social network of enterprise CIOs, Sirkin led the strategy to drive acquisition and engagement.

A year and a half later, Sirkin switched back to his non-profit hat, joining Autism Speaks. In July 2009, Autism Speaks was barely a whisper in the non-profit world. Sirkin’s work as Chief Digital Marketing Officer would impact the organization forever.

Over three and a half years, Sirkin built an agile marketing and fundraising machine. He increased non-event fundraising to $1.6 million for 2012, an 82% increase. Throughout his tenure, he created $3.5 million annual revenue from digital, direct marketing and e-mail channels. His focus on developing an effective “donor journey” across the organization added an additional $14 million in funding from online/digital revenue, with emphasis in mobile and social media.

In a way, he’s the Mary Poppins of the corporate world – showing up when the waves are high and moving on when the sea has settled. 

He brought Autism Speaks from a social zero to over a million Facebook fans, 100,000+ followers on Twitter and created significant engagement through these channels. Internally, he stabilized the information technology strategy for application support and vendor management.

Sirkin created a digital platform for the autism community to shine, literally. “Light It Up Blue” is Autism Speak’s awareness and fundraising event, encouraging the world to “light up” blue for autism awareness. Sirkin’s leadership led to 70,000 registered users and a community that has dedicated the month of April to Autism Awareness. “Autism Speaks U”, the college awareness arm of Autism Speaks, was re-booted by Sirkin to include managing volunteers, revamped web presence and social strategy.

Perhaps his favorite project with Autism Speaks was “Hacking Autism”. The advent of touch-enabled computing, through devices such as iPads, has revolutionized communication, learning and social possibilities for people on the autism spectrum. Hacking Autism was created in 2011 and worked to facilitate and accelerate technology-based ideas to give those with autism a voice.

“My passion is teens and adults on the autism spectrum,” he shared. “How do they fit in this world? How can technology help them cope better?”

Looking back on his journey, Sirkin discovered he thrives in chaos. 

After nearly four years of intense, challenging and important work, Sirkin left Autism Speaks full of gratitude. He spent two years with PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York City before transitioning into current role at SpendBoss. Since August 2015, Sirkin has been the Chief Marketing Officer and Executive VP of Sales. Sirkin says this phase of his career is his favorite yet.

“I put my head on the pillow knowing I was doing important work,” he shared. “But I wasn’t chasing my goal.”

SpendBoss is the culmination of everything he wants to do. SpendBoss is a retail technology start-up focused on optimizing spend management for retail operations. Being back in the startup world provides the perfect blend of opportunity and chaos and as both CMO and EVP of Sales, Sirkin has his hands full.

A lifelong Seminoles fan, Marc is proud of his collection of “Tribe” and “Courtside” program guides from his time in Tallahassee. FOn the steps of Strozier Library, he met his wife Karen almost 22 years ago. As the story goes, he and his friend Tom left Smith Hall looking for girls – Sirkin jokingly said he was going to “find a redhead,” which he did. The couple graduated in 1991 together and have two accomplished daughters.

Thus far, Sirkin is loving the challenge. Twenty four years ago, Sirkin couldn’t have predicted where his career would take him. But one thing is for sure, he is the example of where leadership, determination and innovation can take you.