American Heart Association

Improving Talent for Non-Profits

The Organization

Established in 1924, the American Heart Association (AHA) is a non-profit organization that funds cardiovascular medical research, educates consumers on healthy living, and fosters cardiac care in an effort to reduce disability and deaths caused by cardiac disease and stroke. The organization's mission is "To be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives."

The Need

Like most CEOs, Cass Wheeler (now retired) associated the results that AHA could achieve with the organization's talent, and concluded that he would need to raise performance bars in order to successfully accomplish goals, including spreading awareness that the #1 cause of death for women was not breast cancer, but heart disease.

No. of Employees: 450 at time of case study
Industry: Non-Profit


  • Improved from 25% to 95% A Players hired and promoted to upper management positions
  • $50 million more raised in the next year for AHA programs

"Topgrading saves lives."

- Cass Wheeler, CEO (retired)

How AHA Improved Talent

Wheeler contracted with Topgrading to:

  • Assess and coach corporate leaders and 15 regional executives
  • Train all of AHA's managers to use Topgrading hiring methods
  • Interview candidates for senior positions

As a result, AHA tripled their hiring success throughout the organization. The percent A Players hired and promoted to upper management positions improved from 25% to 95%, and the organization was able to raise $50 million more in the next year for their programs.

After retiring, Wheeler wrote Have a Heart which showed how, with Topgrading, AHA was able to hire and retain A Players, paying managers at rates comparable to for-profit companies.

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