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Quitting your job to start a nonprofit & other ways to follow your heart

When Beth Wilmes had completed intense treatment for breast cancer in 2017, she was anxious to put the experience behind her and get back to her job working in sales, one she always had enjoyed. But cancer brought her an awakening, and Beth quickly realized her old job was no longer a good fit. Her priorities and values had shifted, and she felt a calling she couldn’t ignore: start a nonprofit to help other women battling her disease.

“That [idea] was really born out of my own experience,” Beth says, “finding out that cancer is just as much, if not more so, an emotional experience than it is a physical experience. Mental health is not something that is given a lot of thought in cancer care, and I wanted to change that.”

Making such a major shift in her career seemed risky. At the time, Beth and her husband, Gary, Thrivent clients in Wentzville, Missouri, had three young kids. Quitting her job meant cutting the family income in half. She worried about how they would manage this, and she knew she wouldn’t do it unless she had Gary’s support. When she presented the idea to him, he considered it a few days before giving her the affirmation she had hoped for.

“He came to me and said, ‘You know, I think you can do this. And I agree, it’s what we’re being called to do. I’m with you.’” Soon after, the seeds for her nonprofit, Faith Through Fire, were planted.

The business started with just a handful of breast cancer survivors and volunteer mentors. Over time, Beth created partnerships in the community and added other support services, including a podcast called Besties with Breasties, a book to help patients get through treatment, a partnership with Build-A-Bear Workshop to benefit kids of cancer patients, and the creation of Respite House, a place where patients can escape the pressures of treatment and reconnect with themselves and nature. Today, Faith Through Fire serves more than 100 patients a year.

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A Leap of Faith | Beth’s Story | Follow Your Heart with Thrivent

How to start a nonprofit

If you’ve felt the call like Beth to start a nonprofit, it’s an ambitious undertaking but it’s made easier by taking a thoughtful approach.

  • Focus on the work you want to do. Be clear about the goals of the nonprofit and what you hope to achieve.
  • Find a financial advisor who wants to understand and prioritize what truly matters to you in life. Thrivent’s purpose-driven financial planning process—where money is a tool, not a goal—starts with a conversation about values.
  • Consider how your personal finances can help you achieve your goals. Create a comprehensive financial plan to help you determine if and how you can reduce your household income and still meet your goals. During their process of creating a financial plan, Beth and Gary found they were willing to make some tradeoffs to make the nonprofit possible. Thrivent has several tools to help you create a budget, including Money Canvas, a free coaching program that helps you see where your money goes and find motivation to spend and save more mindfully.
  • Approach this endeavor like you would any business. Refine your mission, your unique offering and your strategy for serving people and attracting donors. Start by networking in your community and finding organizations that are doing similar work. You may find existing organizations you can support, or you might discover a need that isn’t being met. You also need to consider legal, financial and practical logistics. The National Council of Nonprofits has some helpful resources.

Working with a trusted financial partner

Beth had the vision, passion and drive to create and run her nonprofit, but she and Gary needed financial advice to actually make it happen. They didn’t want to sacrifice the work they had already done toward creating a secure future for themselves and their children, so they contacted their Thrivent financial advisor.

“When I came out of cancer . . . I very quickly realized that I didn't have the luxury or the time . . . to be aligned with organizations that didn't share my values,” says Beth. “So it became really important to surround myself with people that understood where I was coming from, and Thrivent fit in with that perfectly.

"It really felt like Thrivent understood what we were striving for.”

Together with their financial advisor, Beth and Gary developed a thoughtful plan and budget that allowed them to live on one income and continue to honor their long-term priorities of saving for retirement and their children’s education. It would have been tempting to let one of the priorities slide until some future date, but doing so might burden their kids with unmanageable student debt or create a shortfall in retirement savings.

“Thrivent helps you focus on the things you love,” Beth says.

How Thrivent benefits of membership help nonprofits

Beth also discovered two Thrivent programs that could help her nonprofit: Thrivent Action Teams and Thrivent Choice®. A client with membership can organize a Thrivent Action Team to raise funds, provide a service or host an educational event. Thrivent supports the effort with seed money, digital tools and support materials.

“[Thrivent Action Teams] are just an amazing resource,” says Beth. “And it just really speaks to [Thrivent’s] values and how they invest in their community.”

Through Thrivent Choice, eligible clients with membership can contribute to organizations and causes they care about. They also can influence how Thrivent distributes some of its charitable grant funding through Choice Dollars®. Faith Through Fire applied for and was approved to be enrolled in Thrivent Choice. They are now included in the online catalog and eligible for Choice Dollars grant funding and fee-free donations through Thrivent’s online giving platform.*

 “We were so thrilled when we found out that we got added to the list,” she says. “We were a smaller organization [so we] never thought we'd be considered. We’ve seen significant funds come from Thrivent clients who have decided to make us the beneficiary of their generosity.”

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Real clients. Real stories.

Whether it's their faith, families or communities, Thrivent clients use our financial advice for something bigger than money. Watch their stories and get inspired to follow your heart.

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Other ways to give back

You don’t need to start a nonprofit as Beth did to give back and make a difference. There are alternative ways to increase your generosity, and Thrivent can help you with them.

Consider a career change. You might be able to put your current skills to work in a way that is personally more fulfilling. Look for job opportunities with organizations that reflect your values and passions. Consult with your financial advisor to help you review your budget, goals and priorities.

Volunteer in your community. Working full time, you may find it difficult to find the hours to volunteer. But check with your employer: Many companies (including Thrivent) offer paid time off for their employees to volunteer. For Thrivent clients with membership, you can organize a Thrivent Action Team to amplify your impact. You can connect with others who want to get involved and give back through Thrivent Member Networks—regional groups of Thrivent clients that help connect like-minded people in your community to serve.

Donate to charity. To amplify your impact, take a strategic approach to charitable giving and make it part of your financial plan. You also can amplify the impact of your gifts with Thrivent Choice. Anyone can use this online giving platform to make a personal donation to organizations enrolled in Thrivent Choice. Thrivent pays the processing fee. Eligible Thrivent clients with membership can direct Choice Dollars to their favorite enrolled organizations and nominate organizations to be part of the program.

As Beth and Gary discovered, following your heart isn’t just about doing something that’s satisfying. It’s also about honoring what you are called to do without giving up financial security. Finding the right balance starts with having a financial advisor who understands and supports your heart for service and can help you.

“The biggest thing I've learned through working with Thrivent is that you can accomplish anything you want to,” says Beth. “It's just about finding the right road, the right path, the smart moves. That has opened us up to new possibilities, which is really exciting. It’s having the knowledge and the team that you need in order to make those dreams come true. It’s the freedom of knowing that you can make major life changes and that there's always a path forward.”

* Thrivent will pay up to $300,000 in online processing fees per calendar year for personal donations made through Thrivent's online giving platform.

Member benefits and programs are not guaranteed contractual benefits. The interpretation of the provisions of these benefits and programs is at the sole discretion of Thrivent. Thrivent reserves the right to change, modify, discontinue, or refuse to provide any of the membership benefits or any part of them, at any time.

The Thrivent Choice® charitable grant program engages Thrivent members in providing grants that support charitable activities, furthering Thrivent's mission and its purposes under state law. All grant decisions, including grant recipients and amounts, are made at the sole discretion of Thrivent. Directing Choice Dollars® is subject to the program's terms and conditions available at

You should only purchase and keep insurance and annuity products that best meet the financial security needs of you and your family and never purchase or keep any insurance or annuity products to be eligible for nonguaranteed membership benefits.

The client’s experience may not be the same as other clients and does not indicate future performance or success.