Why I came on board with WCK’s mission, and how we're laying the groundwork for sustainable funding from compassionate investors.
How Colin sold me on WCK
It was a sunny Friday morning on July 28, 2017 when WCK founder (and my friend of 35+ years) Colin Worth shared with me his latest passion project. He wanted to create a foundation to support the families of kids with cancer in B.C. It felt like déjà vu – about 30 years earlier, we had been board members for a society supporting teenagers in the care of the Ministry of Children and Families. I suspect Colin’s plan was to “sell me” on joining the Board of WCK as the “money person.” It would be the easiest sale of his life.
I learned that for every dollar spent to support families of kids with cancer in Alberta, B.C. spent about 12 cents. That while B.C. is a world leader in the research and medical treatment of childhood cancer, we are far behind the curve in non-medical support. That families felt pretty much on their own when it came to navigating even the most basic challenges of the childhood cancer world. Little did Colin know that he had me at “Bob, I need your help.”
The financial challenges of starting any new charitable foundation are daunting, no matter how worthy the cause. You need great people to get it off the ground. How do you attract great people without great amounts of money?
For the first couple of years, we leaned heavily on friends, family, and amazing, generous people. People that had walked the walk of supporting kids and families in the battle of their lives. We built up a small but sufficient stash of cash that took us through the first couple of years. In my naivety, I thought it would be easy to raise all the money we would need – “Who could say no to supporting children with cancer?” But it wasn’t so easy. Here are two challenges we faced:
Our small beginnings
Most businesses do charitable giving, but they can be risk averse when choosing their causes. While their philanthropy might come from the heart, they are aware of the secondary benefits – building a positive culture among their employees and showing their community-mindedness to their customers and partners. Supporting a brand new, lesser-known charity comes with some risk. Are the funds spent wisely? Is it the best bang for our buck? Could they embarrass us or damage our brand?
When I google “Cancer charities in B.C.,” there are 1.8 million hits. Which one to choose?? Many businesses will go with a safe option. It’s totally understandable. A business cannot go wrong by supporting one of the dozens of long-established charities doing amazing work.
It’s taken time to build businesses’ confidence in our credibility. Thanks to the persistent hard work of our amazing staff, volunteers, and partners, it’s finally happening! The consistency that runs through everything we do, and how we do it, has been key to this success.
The value of our staff
For decades, potential donors have carefully analyzed charity financial statements looking for the smoking gun of high administration costs. They calculate the ratio of salaries to overall expenditure, and if the number is too high for them, they move on.
That might make total sense for some charities, but what if your programs are directly delivered by your small core team of employees? We have had some potential donors turn us down over an ideological calculation.
Donors who get it
Thankfully, many others dig deeper to understand how the support to families is delivered, and why. We have a highly skilled and dedicated staff team who bring the WCK vision to life in thoughtful and creative ways. And we believe they deserve to be paid appropriately for the incredible work they do. We are always looking at how best to present our financial results, to provide a transparent and meaningful understanding of how we spend money.
Almost six years have passed since that first conversation with Colin. Despite our small beginnings, and due to the value of our staff, WCK has successfully established itself as a credible and critical cornerstone of cancer care in B.C.
Foundations and corporate donors have supported us, clearing the path for even more support from their peers. Dozens have organized fundraisers of their own in support of WCK. And – most gratifying – families of kids with cancer and other blood diseases in B.C. overwhelmingly appreciate our role in supporting them on their journey.
The next ten years
If you are a business or personal contact of mine, please accept my apology in advance. Over the next decade or so, you will likely be inundated by social media shares, email appeals, casual conversations, and powerful anecdotes as I share my journey with WCK.
I will continue to tell you that my involvement with WCK will be the most impactful thing I do in my lifetime.
Ten years from now, will the families of children with cancer and blood disorders in B.C. have all the support they need? Will they have healthy meals whenever and wherever they require them? Will they have the social connections for their emotional health?
Will families have the mental health support they need, all the way from the moment of diagnosis to well beyond? Will they have a safe place to relax, unwind, recharge, and reconnect with their families?
Will WCK be the one-stop, “soup-to-nuts” resource for families facing childhood cancer and blood disorders? I hope so. If not, I’ll probably stick around longer.
Our programs make a difference every day,
and so can you.
WCK collaborates with businesses and organizations to provide the care and support that families navigating cancer and blood disorders deserve. Join our community today and make an impact every day.
We’d love to hear from you. Use the link below to send an email to our team. We look forward to making more great things happen with you!