Advice for Women Whose Hearts Are Bigger Than Their Wallets

Becky FawcettAs anyone who has children knows, raising them isn’t cheap. But even before bringing a child home, adoptive parents often drain their bank accounts.

That’s why Becky Fawcett founded HelpUsAdopt.org. “Many go to the financial ends of the earth,” she says. “They cash out retirement accounts, use credit cards, sell houses and move in with relatives.”

To bring her two children home, Fawcett and her husband spent $103,000. But before going the adoption route, they, like most adoptive parents, had tried infertility treatment (undergoing five cycles of IVF and three miscarriages), which their insurance didn’t cover. All in, the couple emptied out their savings and used an inheritance to enlarge their family.

Still, Fawcett put up $25,000 as seed money to start her organization, and eventually closed her public relations firms so she could devote herself full time to helping would-be parents cover the financial costs of adoption. Since its launch in 2007, her non-profit has given out 230 grants and over $2 million. Next month, it will award another $100,000.

“When I originally wrote the business plan and showed it to people, they told me, ‘don’t do this—it will take over your life,’” Fawcett recalls. “But I was so grateful to be a mother, and once I knew that there are thousands out there who can’t afford the high adoption costs, I had to help,” she says.

Here, to assist people who want to found their own non-profits, she shares what she has learned from starting hers.

#1. Do some basic homework.

“First find out if someone is already doing what you want to do. There’s no point in duplicating efforts—or segmenting donations. There are over a million non-profits registered in this country. Perhaps you can donate your services instead of starting another organization.”

#2. Don’t quit your day job right out of the gate.

“I kept working at my PR firm for several years while getting my organization off the ground. Looking back, I think it helped a lot that I had that income and felt able to focus on results instead of on fundraising. Results are how you attract funding.”

#3. Dust off your old phone book.

“Chances are you aren’t going to have all the skills you need to put the pieces together. And if your friends, family, colleagues and neighbors don’t have the right skills, you’re going to have to ask them if they know people who do—and if they would ask their contacts to help you. In my case, when I needed a lawyer to fill out a 100-page application, it was the husband of my best friend from high school who found someone who did nonprofit law—and would donate his time. He’s still our pro bono attorney.”

#4. Be prepared to be surprised.

“The people who don’t have a lot of money are the ones who are most generous. At least that’s been my experience. It’s a beautiful thing. People from my past, who I never would have imagined would help me, send checks when they hear about what I’m trying to do.”

#5. Believe.

“Tune out the naysayers. Ten years later, I still run into them. But you have to ignore them. It’s not always easy. But it’s up to you to keep believing in yourself and your mission.”


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