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How to Go From Startup Nonprofit to a $1M Organization

By Elizabeth Chung

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

In its first two years, Vs. Cancer raised 1.5 million dollars, and you can too.

Founded in 2013, Vs. Cancer is an organization committed to saving children’s lives by empowering athletes and communities to fund lifesaving childhood cancer efforts. Their work, which funds both national childhood cancer research and local pediatric oncology programs, has served over 50 children’s hospitals and 40,663 children.

To find out the secret behind Vs. Cancer’s success, we hosted a webinar with the organization’s CEO and Founder, Chase Jones. Here are a few of the key tools and lessons that helped him grow his nonprofit, along with a link to the full webinar below.

1. Invest in the Tools Your Small Nonprofit Needs

After founding Vs. Cancer, Chase realized that he could not effectively manage online donations, nurture donor relationships, and track data, all on his own. Practices like relying on a Google Doc to track donor interactions, or typing out individual donation receipts couldn’t equip Vs. Cancer to achieve growth or sustainability. He soon identified three tools that small organizations need for growth and scale:

1. Online Fundraising Platform – Not only can the right online fundraising platform help your organization manage and boost online donations, but it can also help to build a community that fundraises on your behalf. For Vs. Cancer, the ability to create individual fundraising pages for each sports team excited and empowered participants to personally take action for the cause.

2. Online Email Marketing – In order to cultivate donor relationships, you need to send relevant communications. Using an email marketing tool like MailChimp can help you segment your communications to reach out to your supporters in a more personalized, meaningful way.

3. Constituent Relationship Management System (CRM) – By using a CRM like Salesforce, you can aggregate all your data in one place to better understand your supporters’ giving habits, trends, and individual histories with your organization. This allows you to make data-driven decisions to improve the way you engage with donors, without tripling your staff size.

2. Personalize Your Pitch for Every Audience

The quick elevator pitch is important to every nonprofit’s fundraising efforts. Even more important is for young nonprofits to establish trust with their audience quickly and excite them to get involved. In order to create a personal connection that resonates, you should modify your pitch to match each audience you speak to.

In Vs. Cancer’s case, for instance, half of the funds they raise go toward local children’s hospital programs. When Chase gives his 10-second pitch, he makes sure to mention the local hospital by name that the organization will be giving back to. If he’s in North Carolina, he’ll mention Duke Children’s Hospital. If he’s in San Diego, he’ll bring up Rady Children’s Hospital. By tweaking his pitch each time to reference how Vs. Cancer is impacting a specific community, Chase brings the organization’s impact closer to home, helping each audience to feel a personal connection to the work being done.

3. Focus on Face-to-Face Interactions

Vs. Cancer startup nonprofit

For startup nonprofits, meeting supporters in person is an unparalleled form of outreach, compared to phone calls or emails. By having as much face-to-face interaction with its fundraising community as often as possible, Vs. Cancer is able to create meaningful connections that build stronger relationships and rally support around the cause. In fact, the organization raises at least $1,400 more at the fundraising events they physically attend, compared to those they do not.

Learn From Vs. Cancer’s Experience

These are just a few of the tips and insights found in the webinar. On top of sharing more personal experiences and lessons learned, Chase also answers a ton of questions from the audience about growing his startup nonprofit, including:

• How he differentiates his organization from other nonprofits
• How he started to expand his organization outside of local community
• How he communicates his work’s impact and administrative costs to donors
• His first step to getting the word out beyond his core supporters
• When (and how) he chose to reimburse his staff as a startup nonprofit

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