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,
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.
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 advisorwho 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 Nonprofitshas 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
“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] 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®.
“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.”
Real clients. Real stories.
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.
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.”