The Children’s Tumor Foundation (CTF) has never set its sights small. The organization was inaugurated in 1978 with the mission to end neurofibromatosis (NF) – a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves, leading to a variety of debilitating conditions. Though considered a rare disorder, NF affects 1 in every 3,000 babies born, which translates to 2.5 million people worldwide. Over the past four decades, CTF has steadily grown in size and strength to the point where it can now fight to end NF across the entire globe.
For most of its history, CTF has focused on raising funds to support NF patients and advanced NF research throughout the US. The group’s efforts have been impressive in that regard. In 2017 alone, CTF raised more than $5 million from individual donors and another $3 million from corporate sponsors, of which 82% went to fund NF research, advocacy, and public support. Thanks to the nonprofit’s long track record of effective fundraising and efficient spending, Charity Navigator (an independent nonprofit evaluator) has given CTF a four-star rating for eight consecutive years, putting them in the top 2% of charities evaluated.
A lot of organizations would be perfectly satisfied with that success, but not CTF. Leaders inside the organization knew that if they were going to fulfill their vision – ending NF for good – they couldn’t isolate their efforts on one part of the globe. There are patients and families who need help on all continents. There are also labs and researchers that can make a valuable contribution from outside the US. Bringing everyone together wouldn’t be easy, but CTF has never backed away from a challenge. With characteristic ambition, CTF made it a goal to become an international nonprofit.
Expanding Across the Pond
Establishing a presence in Europe was an obvious decision for CTF. The group already funded NF research conducted in Europe and had cultivated a number of productive partnerships over the 40-year history of the nonprofit. Formalizing those partnerships and establishing a Europe-based fundraising arm was the natural next step, but that doesn’t mean the process was easy.
Unlike in the US, where setting up a nonprofit is relatively straightforward, establishing one in Belgium (where CTF Europe is based) involves far more hurdles. According to Belgian law, international non-profit associations must be authorized through royal decree, which is as complicated as it sounds. They also face the same hurdles as any new nonprofit – recruiting staff, establishing operations, starting outreach, and cultivating a donor base. Compounding all these challenges, CTF staff based in the US were handling most of these efforts remotely, requiring them to shoulder their existing workloads along with the needs of the European entity.
By late 2018, CTF Europe became a reality. It exists as a separate entity from the original CTF, but the two groups continue to share resources. More importantly, they have an overlapping mission. Now that CTF has a presence on two continents, it’s equipped to coordinate stakeholders, access fundraising streams, and support research initiatives more broadly than it ever could have before. In that way, CTF has done what all nonprofits hope to do – extend their assistance to all who need it.
Embracing the Next Phase of the Mission
Becoming an international nonprofit creates new opportunities and new challenges, namely in terms of fundraising. Operating globally creates higher administrative costs. More importantly, fighting NF worldwide requires more funds than the group has ever raised in the past.
Undeterred, CTF has set ambitious fundraising goals for the near future. A large percentage of the group’s resources come from fundraising walks. As many other nonprofits have learned, this type of event is ideal for generating participation, raising awareness, and encouraging donations. This year, CTF aims to raise over $1 million from each of its walks, in addition to more aggressive (and strategic) fundraising efforts in other areas. It’s an ambitious goal for any nonprofit, but given CTF’s tireless commitment to the cause, it’s a realistic goal as well.
JMT Consulting has been a partner with CTF for more than five years now, and we are honored to be a part of their international expansion. Our team worked closely with accountants inside CTF to implement software for financial management and budget planning. With those new tools in place, CTF was able to refine its finance function and improve its fundraising efforts, becoming the kind of organization equipped to make a global impact. If and when researchers discover a cure for NF that enriches the lives of millions, CTF will be recognized for leading the effort. Until that happens, JMT Consulting will provide all the support we can.
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