We’ve set a new benchmark for Philanthropy.
Any non-profit has 2 components: how they help people, and how they raise money.
The majority of cancer fundraising takes place through partnered branding (like Komen with ChapStick, Yoplait Yogurt, etc), or walks/runs/bike rides and races. We’ve developed a series of unique fundraising events unlike anything else that’s being done (like Tough Mudder has done for the extreme race industry).
The largest cancer non-profits are the ACS (American Cancer Society) and Komen (strictly for breast cancer). What undoubtedly started as altruistic organization have become bloated bureaucracies where top management take $250k+ salaries, and the organizations have nearly become personal pension plans. Maybe 20% of funds raised actually go to the cause, with the rest being taken up by overhead. After spending nearly 2 years as the right hand to a local cancer non-profit’s Executive Director, That experience, combined with my professional background, has informed some core operating principles for The War On Cancer Foundation (TWOCF):
- We’ve set a new benchmark for Philanthropy. We want as close to 100% of donations to go to the cause, rather than being eaten-up by overhead. So the organization will be ‘volunteer-run’ (my father and I, for example will never draw any income from the Foundation. Nobody will). But we will have paid, dedicated staff. How? By partnering with for-profit businesses that will cover the operating costs of the foundation.
- Profit-for-Purpose business model. We have our own for-profit businesses. These businesses are designed to serve as ongoing revenue streams for the foundation. When there are market downturns, for-profit businesses suffer, and non-profits suffer even more. At these times, individuals need support and financial assistance even more, yet fewer people can afford to reach into their pockets and donate. We’ll take donations wherever we can (barring any ethical conflicts) – we want to be sustainable.
- We want to keep the money that’s raised in the communities it’s raised in. The money goes farther, and donors feel more invested – they know they’re donations are going to help their neighbors, and they can actually see the difference it makes. This also brings about greater transparency, and more efficient economies of scale. How? Through partnerships (See next point).
Most non-profits are competitive – and the cancer non-profit space is cutthroat. Not many people know that some big name cancer foundations have actually sued small, community organizations for their use of the phrase “for the cure”, or the use of certain images (like a colored ribbon logo). When the majority of people donate, they don’t do it with the expectation that their money could be used to obstruct local, grassroots efforts to help people in need.
So, TWOCF has a collaborative mindset. Why reinvent the wheel?! And at the end of the day, what are we trying to do? We’re trying to help the people who need help. To that end, where there are local, community organizations doing the kind of work we want to do, we want to support them.
The problem most small organizations face is that the demand for their services far surpasses the funds they can ever raise to keep up with the need. So they’re constantly trying to organize little walks or bake sales to raise money. We want to be kind of like their “sugar mommas”! There would be strings attached (in the form of transparent accounting, money can’t be used for organizers personal salaries, etc).
But where those organizations exist, we want to help them further their work. After all, they are local – they know the needs of their community best, as well as the existing resources available. We’re all about efficiency!