Grassroots Engagement — The Start Up Nonprofit

Craig Pinto is a former kicker for the New Jersey Revolution Arena football team, (2008-2010). He is a two-time Guinness Book of World Records record holder for most field goals kicked in 12 hours and 24 hours, both achieved during charity events raising awareness for Celiac Disease.  He received his B.A. at NYU and is also a M.S. candidate in Fundraising and Grant Making at NYU. 

Celiac Disease is something that is close to his heart, as Craig has been living with Celiac Disease for over 12 years, after also being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease as a 12-year-old. In 2011, he started the Kicking 4 Celiac Foundation, which is dedicated to raising Celiac Disease awareness and education. K4C is the only foundation in the country that offers scholarships to students with Celiac Disease to help off-set meal costs that are dictated by the gluten-free diet.

He has a passion to give back to the community, has been a guest speaker at various events, and was recently featured on TLC’s NY Ink to tell his story about living with Celiac & Crohn’s Disease. Craig has also appeared on ABC, Bravo, News12, and as a guest multiple times on the SiriusXM radio shows “Dr. Radio” & “BroadMinded” to raise awareness and education about Celiac Disease and the Kicking 4 Celiac Foundation.

The thought of starting my own non-profit sounded easy. However, in reality, engaging supporters turned out to take a tremendous amount of time and dedication.  

From the start, tha task was anything but easy. Though there may seem to be plenty of people who show interest and are supportive of your cause initially, one quickly learns that it's a challenge to find people who will be as devoted to your cause as you would like or hope, no matter how great your mission may be.

Board selection is the most critical component of getting off the ground in a timely and well-constructed manner. Friends are great for support, but do not always prove to be the best of choices when creating a board of directors with a focus on the mission of the organization. With hectic schedules and not enough time in the day to make sure everyone is engaged, board members can lose their initial fervor. For a start up foundation such as my own, the Kicking 4 Celiac Foundation, each event became increasingly demanding in the amount of effort needed to get people engaged, donating and participating. Without an active board, raising money for events, getting sponsors, or just having people show up you may find that it can quickly and painfully fall squarely on your shoulders. If you didn’t expect to be handling every single aspect of a foundation, you will now!

A solid base of “event-specific” donors and participants is important as well, especially for a newly formed organization. Many nonprofits will host a multitude of events, but it becomes important not to saturate your constituent base. In our case, we have three separate events, at three different price levels. Though we may have some people in our donor base interested in more than one of the events, it has become more gainful for us not to flood our dinner participants with our golf outing invites, or have our 5k runners receive invites to events that would be of no interest to them. We make every effort to engage people who will want to participate and donate to our cause but not flood them with constant invitations.

My best perspective has come over time in understanding that people do not have to be present to support what you are doing, and although they care. they likely will not be as dedicated as you are to your own cause. Of course you will want every event to be a sell out, but realize that your organization is one of many, and try to be creative in your approach to keep your supporters engaged.

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