One hour from now, our alpha patient is landing in Seattle for treatment. Many people want to understand who we are. Here is an introduction.
Rooftop 519 developed from our belief that very sick or injured children all over the world are frequently left to die or suffer because their access to hospital care is limited or non-existent. We exist to bridge the gap for these children, helping them to travel from their community to the place of their healing, and then back to their family.
We are compelled to help these children because it is the most obvious of human responsibilities we have to our creator. We serve these children, their families and all who are a part of the healing process in love.
Patients apply through our partner organizations in other countries. We target children ages 2-12 who have orthopedic, cosmetic, maxillofacial, blast trauma, burn trauma and benign tumor issues. We are being asked to consider cardiac care. Our target is to treat cases that require between six weeks to six months of care. Our expectation and motivation is to create transformational community impact because of this medical work.
Each child needs hope. Rooftop 519 was named after the story in Luke chapter 5 verse 19 where a paralytic man is lowered through the roof by his friends to be healed by Jesus. We are those friends. We use our abilities and resources to get kids to the healer. Our mission is “Healing the sickest kids in the world in the name of Christ”. It excites me to think that 2000 years after the paralytic’s story, we can still live the adventure of bringing someone to the Healer.
Like the paralytic’s friends, we know that our challenges are immense. It is no easy task to carry a child to health. With a tenacious spirit we will rescue those kids. When the doors and windows are closed, we go through the roof.
We’ve had a recent breakthrough at Rooftop. Our alpha patient, a term used to identify our first patient, has received the green-light for travel. We will buy her ticket tomorrow. Exodus, a 13 year-old burn victim, is traveling to live in Seattle for the next five months. Her scarred and deformed skin is being replaced with grafts from her legs. This won’t just give her mobility and beauty; it will give her life.
It’s not being melodramatic to describe her in this way. Americans are unexperienced with children who look like Exodus. Our culture isolates us in an unrealistic cocoon of beauty. Even the ugly among us could be considered attractive in many countries. Exodus’s injuries are too bothersome for most to lay eyes upon. If her injury had happened in the U.S., she would have received immediate medical attention. One year after her injury she would have hardly had any reminders of the pain inflicted by a terrible fire. In Liberia, with scars like hers, she has very little hope of working, playing or possibly even marrying.
I have a really difficult time expressing the emotions I feel of this girl. She is my daughter’s age. As I type this through tears, I try to picture myself in Exodus’s parents shoes. Hopeless and helpless, they are praying for a healer. They can’t take out a loan to pay doctors, and they can’t just show up at a hospital without cash in hand. There is no cavalry for rescue and no possible solution within reach. The sheer frustration of these two parents has the potential to drive them insane. It would crush me.
Now they all have more than hope. They have an excitement I can’t even begin to imagine. Exodus has a passport, a visa and thanks to some generous donors, a ticket on the way. A family in Washington is excited to welcome her into their home. Doctors in Portland are ready. It’s been about 18 months since we began dreaming about helping kids like this. Only by the strength of God have we come this far. We will treat Exodus. We will have a story to tell like non other. We will radically change her family and her community in Monrovia. To God be the glory.
One of my favorite questions I ask while getting to know someone is, “What has been your greatest experience during your time working at x company?” I asked that question of one of my neighbors last night, a wonderful man approaching his 90th birthday.
He hemmed and hawed a bit, but he shared how he had placed a Christian statue in front of his office. Stretching back in to his mind 60 years ago, he talked about how he had dedicated his business to the Lord and knew that his ultimate accountability was not to man, but to God. His statue was a bold and prominent display of the godly values he lived in his paper manufacturing business.
As I dug in a little deeper, he shared that his favorite value was integrity. It was one of those things that was so critically ingrained in his being that he didn’t even think about it anymore. “We always did the right thing,” he shared with confidence. “I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror knowing that we did the wrong thing.”
“One of our biggest customers was a bakery in the Mid-west. We realized we over-charged them by $10,000. We just sent them a check. They called us up and said, ‘What the #$*! is this?’ We told them the story, and they worked with us for the next 40 years.”
Warren Buffett summed it up this way, “Integrity, intelligence and energy. Hire someone without the first, and the other two will kill you.” Thousands of years before Buffett, Moses penned the following in Deuteronomy 25:13-15:
Do not have two differing weights in your bag—one heavy, one light. 14 Do not have two differing measures in your house—one large, one small. 15 You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. 16 For the LORD your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.
Anyone who consistently lives a life for the Lord, pursuing righteousness and honesty, will live a life of meaning and purpose. Healthy relationships are more important than money, fame or power, and God uses those relationships to bring true purpose to our lives.
When I was about 22 years old, my neighbor gave me some tools. Among them was a $200 engine hoist that he purchased from Costco. I worked for Costco, and knowing their return policy, I eyed a two hundred dollar “reward” for my find. With a bit of trepidation, I hauled it off to the store for my bounty.
Several weeks after the refund, I brought my store manager the $200 in cash and asked to give the money back. I ran out of justification for my action (hey, if they don’t want to give me a refund, they wouldn’t give me the money). It may seem strange, but this was a defining moment in my adult life. I had to make amends… I hoped for mercy and prepared for the potential loss of my job. I told him the story, handed him the cash and asked for forgiveness. His response was, “Are you kidding me? Do you know how much guts it takes for you to do this? Keep your money and don’t do it again.”
I Samuel 12:1-4: Samuel said to all Israel, “I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. 2Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. 3 Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the LORD and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.”
Acts 20:32-35: “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
Do what you say, say what you do, do the right thing.
In this short blog, I’ll share an introduction to some of the things I’ve learned in my years of working with donors who have a passion for the work of nonprofit organizations. Whole books are written on the subject, but I will address just a few fundamentals in my blog. This is fresh in my mind because our board at Rooftop 519 just asked me to share a presentation on how to appeal to a donor or potential donor for funding. Today’s post relates to my recent article on Starting a Nonprofit.
The population of the U.S. is far more generous than other people groups. This isn’t because of our wealth, as we have had a history of compassion and philanthropy for centuries. I believe our biblical foundations for philanthropy as a Christian nation has created an environment for blessing, and we are currently reaping the benefit of our forefather’s stewardship.
Americans donate more each year than Portugal, Greece, Finland, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, Australia, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Italy, Spain, Netherlands and China combined. We contribute exactly twice as much as the next most generous population: Germany. There are other statistics that show we have drastically declined in our generosity (percentages of per capita and GNI giving are both on the decline in the U.S.), but we are still a very generous people. We have contributed in excess of $300 billion each year for at least the last three years.
People give to their passions. The key to helping advance an organization or cause is connecting people to that organization around their passions. For instance, it’s easy to ask a carpenter who loves his church, his community and his children to volunteer his time and talent to build a swingset for the children of the church to use. It probably creates a lot of joy for the pastor or lay leader to ask the carpenter to donate some or all of the work necessary to complete the project. Couple his work with other people of complimentary passions (a gardner, a concrete worker, a sign maker and a landscape retailer), and you have the makings of a wonderful “barn raising” party that will create a tremendous amount of synergy and accomplishment.
In the same way, financial resources can combine to do something synergistically that cannot otherwise be done. This requires someone to present a case for support to a donor for a financial contribution. An appeal like this is never singularly minded (we never just want money). The best appeal is to someone who would fulfill their passions and receive joy and purpose in their gift, as well as their giftedness. Money should never be the central theme of any relationship.
The process of determining who to ask should always start with careful understanding of your organization’s Guiding Principles. Trying to connect a potential donor to something that does not match their passions is a miserable thing to do. Asking our hypothetical carpenter to design a flyer for the local kenel club, assuming he doesn’t use Photoshop and care much about dogs, is a totally unrealistic appeal. Likewise, philanthropists are limited in their investment interests.
Here is the Board of Directors Presentation I gave this Friday that explains the roles of directors and the CEO as it relates to funding your organization. The introduction is borrowed heavily from Dr. R. Scott Rodin’s “Four Theological Foundations for a Capital Campaign”.
Whether you are raising money for a mission trip or a youth sport, you have to understand that people give to people for people. The power of matching passions is usually connected to a story that gives a compelling illustration of your mission in action. In the powerpoint above, Dr. Rodin shares the five rights of an appeal: The right person ask the right donor for the right amount for the right project at the right time.
One of our core values at Rooftop 519 is “Relationship is the Prize”. Understanding the relational nature of fundraising helps to break away from transactional thinking. Fundraising is an essential part of any nonprofit, but it is never the primary reason for a relationship.
I would love questions about nonprofit fundraising in the comments section. I’ll do my best to respond quickly.
I have a lot of experience in nonprofits. In my 36 years of life, I’ve volunteered over 10,000 hours and been employed over 13,000 in church and para-church organizations. Ten years ago I graduated from the University of Washington with a minor degree and a certificate in Nonprofit Administration (which I actually thought I wouldn’t use until I retired from Costco, but that’s another story). Hands down, the most common question I get from people who hear about what I do is, “What does it take to start a nonprofit?”
An email from a friend-of-a-friend recently arrived in my box with this very question. This man asked me the question because he is burdened with doing something that has a greater purpose than just making money. I am a little leery about anyone who wants to do something because it is the opposite of what they’re currently doing, but I took the time to answer his question, and I let him know that I would have a more complete answer in my blog. Here it is.
The U.S. doesn’t need another nonprofit (writes the guy who’s started three, and is currently working for a start-up). There are currently 1.6 million 501 (c) (3) organizations in the U.S. This does not account for all of the unregistered community organizations and churches. We have nearly every niche filled, in most cases, multiple times.
Everyone wants to live in their passions and values. I believe the best way to do this is to find an existing organization that matches the purpose you seek to serve, even if you merely volunteer to do so. Clothing banks, homeless ministry and all kinds of community service can typically be facilitated through a church or community organization. If you exhaust all possible opportunities to piggy back or serve within a current nonprofit, then consider my advice below.
Starting a nonprofit requires more paperwork, collaboration and back-end office work than most people would think. It is idyllic to think that you can spend 90%, 80% or even 50% of your time doing the program you seek to serve. Running the operations is an incredible task, especially during the start-up process. Here is a checklist of things to do to start a nonprofit in the U.S.
You should budget at least $3000 to pay for your filing fees and legal fees. The IRS form 1023 alone costs $850 for most nonprofits. You will also need Directors’ and Officers’ insurance (D & O insurance) to protect the board and officers from personal liability. This can run anywhere from $1000 to several thousand dollars, depending on the amount of liability coverage you desire.
Nonprofits are businesses that are set up to receive donations and avoid paying certain taxes. It takes a business plan, including financial plan and/or proforma. Most nonprofits depend heavily on philanthropy. The difficulty in funding a nonprofit, especially a new nonprofit, is always underestimated. This is something I drive home with anyone who asks the question about starting a nonprofit. I have had several occasions to explain to people that their pyramid model fundraiser of “1000 people who give one hundred dollars” doesn’t work. People give to people. More accurately, people give to friends, then to experts, then to organizations. Peer-to-peer fundraising is the best form of engaging someone’s passions. The ability to develop a case statement and use your case to raise capital is both an incredible privilege and a daunting task.
I heard once that the higher a case is identified within the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the more difficult it is to fund. This seems very logical to me.
A side note, I actually met a nonprofit executive who told me that she was frequently over-funded. They had to find creative ways to use the money they were given, and they rarely solicited funds from the community they served. If you’re curious, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and will share what type of organization this is.
There are a lot of great resources for people who are starting nonprofits, and I never want to be the Eeyore that stops someone from accomplishing their calling or purpose. The world is a much better place because of the nonprofits that allow people an avenue for service. If you must start a new organization, do your homework. Cover your relationships in prayer. Intently seek the Lord’s purpose to be lived through your ministry. Get sound counsel and know that it will take a much greater effort than most people could ever imagine.