RamStrength: Helping cancer patients

Michelle Boyle is the co-founder and executive director of RamStrength, a Fort Collins nonprofit dedicated to helping individuals in our community affected by cancer with financial assistance, scholarships, and other basic needs that become difficult after cancer enters someone’s life. I asked Michelle to share some of her insights and experiences in running a fast-growing nonprofit.

Question: What is the background of RamStrength?

Answer: The Lubick Foundation/RamStrength is going on its third year as a 501c(3) nonprofit. Born out of my desire to help and support my younger brother Marc Lubick when he was battling a rare form of cancer, my friend Tasha Ballard and I founded Ramstrong as a team to compete in the 2006 Livestrong Challenge. We were able to gather incredible community support, raising $83,000 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation and having the largest team the Livestrong Challenge had seen that year. Since then, the momentum of community support has continued to grow, sparking numerous successful events and fundraisers, increased volunteer support, the creation of the Lubick Foundation and raising over $200,000 annually. Now our team has evolved into RamStrength, which is our Lubick Foundation’s 501c(3) nonprofit program focused on serving Northern Colorado cancer survivors and their families. We are dedicated to supporting these patients so no one has to decide between cancer treatment and their basic needs.

Q: Tell us more about the mission of RamStrength and who you serve?

A: The basic-needs program provides assistance to Northern Colorado cancer survivors with mortgage and rent payments, car payments, and unforeseen auto repairs, monthly bills for utilities and groceries, transportation to and from chemotherapy appointments, medical insurance premiums, prescription or lab co-pays, and counseling services. In addition, scholarships and financial assistance are awarded to CSU students surviving cancer. Services and event programs include sponsorships for local children surviving cancer to attend summer camps, cancer survivor support groups and programs.

Q: What do you feel are the absolute basics that need to be in place before an organization can really successfully raise funds for a cause?

A: In order to really successfully fundraise for a cause you need the following components: 1) A cause that resonates with the community. Nearly everyone has been affected by cancer so people can relate to our cause. 2) A clear and focused mission that sets you apart from other organizations that have a similar cause. RamStrength is the only cancer nonprofit in Northern Colorado that helps patients with all types of cancer to meet their basic needs. 3) A solid group of volunteers who are passionate and committed to the cause. Our organization has two part-time employees, but it could not survive and thrive without our dedicated volunteers. 4) Finally, you need to have strong collaborations with other successful organizations. RamStrength partners with both Poudre Valley Hospital Foundation and McKee Hospital Foundation to implement our basic-needs program. We also partner with Colorado State University and the Department of Athletics to help increase cancer awareness locally and on campus, and to spread the word about the numerous ways RamStrength can provide support. We work with the Colorado Eagles hockey team and created the “EagleStrength” Initiative. Funds are raised by generous Eagles fans to “Fight Cancer in Eagle Country.”

Q: How has social media and technology changed fundraising?

A: Social media and technology has changed fundraising by allowing nonprofits greater avenues to reach out to a much broader and larger audience to share their story. By utilizing social media, nonprofits can engage their audience on almost a daily basis, and in some cases, in real-time as events are in progress.

Q: What’s been the most successful online campaign you have seen for raising money and what was unique about it?

A: One of the more successful online campaigns that I have seen and had the opportunity to participate in is Colorado Gives Day. This program is unique because it sets a specific date and a time frame of 24 hours where donors can give to a wide selection of registered charities within the Community First Foundation. It also has an incentive fund established by a corporate partner, FirstBank, that helps to leverage donor dollars that day.

Q: How do you feel corporations should support philanthropy, and what examples of this support have you seen in Northern Colorado?

A: I believe corporations have the opportunity to play a key role in the mission of a nonprofit. Whether it is financially sponsoring an event, providing endorsements, donating in-kind materials, or employees volunteering their time, nonprofits rely on this type of support from their community. It seems like every day I hear a story about the generosity of our Northern Colorado business community supporting a nonprofit.

Q: How might nonprofits become more self-sustaining?

A: Nonprofits can become more self-sustaining by diversifying their revenue stream so the organization does not rely solely on one source of funding. Nonprofits should strive to obtain funds from several sources such as special events, corporate donations, individual donations and grants.

Schwartz is an ePublishing consultant and can be reached at KindleExpert.com


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