Ask anyone who was close to Kara Tippetts for words that come to mind when thinking of her and they say things like “love,” “faith,” “courage” and—as one close friend described her—“grace hunter.” Tippetts, a devoted wife and mother of four children, was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after moving to Colorado with her husband and family to plant a church. Throughout her difficult journey thereafter, she continued to spread love, kindness and joy until her death less than three years later.
Keeping her beautiful, compassionate spirit alive was the inspiration for the Kara Tippetts Foundation, created after she passed away in March 2015. The mission of the foundation is to provide financial assistance to those with terminal cancer so, like Tippetts, they can experience every remaining moment to the fullest. Her family launched a YouCaring campaign, Kara Tippetts Foundation—Helping Those With Stage 4 Cancer, which raised enough money to cover all fees related to becoming an official nonprofit. The campaign, which includes several wonderful, heartfelt videos chronicling her journey (see documentary trailer and foundation videos below) continues to raise funds to benefit the first of many cancer patients the foundation will be helping.
We interviewed Dennis Thewlies, brother of Tippetts and founder of the Kara Tippetts Foundation, about his sister, the organization, the steps to becoming a nonprofit and how he utilized YouCaring to fundraise in order to complete the process.
You can read more about Kara’s life at Mundane Faithfulness, a blog run by friends Blythe Hunt, Jacob Stuart, Jill Buteyn and Kara’s husband Jason Tippetts.
Can you tell us about Kara Tippetts?
My sister, Kara, lost her battle with breast cancer March 22, 2015. Kara was first and foremost a wife and a mother, and she put her heart and soul into loving her husband, Jason, and their four children well. Kara also loved people. She would talk to anyone and everyone, and made friends wherever she went. Her interest in and love for people went beyond superficial relationships, though. She was passionate about knowing people’s hearts and regularly opened her home and gathered people around her table. She was a firm believer that sharing a meal was a means of building community.
Kara and Jason had moved to Colorado Springs to plant a church, Westside PCA, in early 2012, and she was diagnosed with breast cancer just months later in July 2012. After her diagnosis, her blog, Mundane Faithfulness, where she originally posted about motherhood and living in kindness, became a blog about looking for God’s grace to show up even in the hardest, messiest, ugliest places. It was a window into her life of chemo and church planting, and her struggle to accept her growing cancer as God’s story for her life.
Her readership grew at a rapid pace. In fall 2014, Kara was thrilled to realize a lifelong dream of becoming an author when David C. Cook published her story, The Hardest Peace, which became a bestseller. The company also just recently published another book of hers posthumously, Just Show Up, which she wrote in collaboration with her friend, Jill Buteyn, when she was in hospice.
Why did you decide to start the Kara Tippetts Foundation?
In walking through the final stages of cancer with Kara, we saw and experienced the hard times with her, but we also saw the significance of the moments of joy that she was given. She had so much support from family and friends and had opportunities to create so many special memories with her loved ones, even going on some vacations. End stage cancer will look different for everyone, and the needs will differ accordingly, but we would like to be able to offer financial assistance to families that are in that difficult situation, and let the families decide how that money can benefit them best.
What has been your experience utilizing YouCaring to raise funds to become a nonprofit?
YouCaring is an easy-to-use website that gives you a platform to get your message out and collect funds in an inexpensive way. It’s been easy for people to share the link on Facebook and other social media platforms to spread the word.
What have you found to be the most effective way to promote your campaign?
I’ve posted the link on Facebook and have encouraged others to share it as well, tagging names to spread the word as much as possible. For my personal contacts I have also emailed and texted about the site.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in the process of becoming a nonprofit?
There’s a lot of work involved in getting a nonprofit up and running. The fees can be expensive and the paperwork process is long. You also need a board to run the organization, so communication and getting everyone on the same page is always difficult, especially when we are spread geographically. Trying to pull this organization together and get it on its feet takes a lot of time and effort—on top of a full-time job.
When did you start the process of becoming a registered 501c3?
The foundation started in August 2015 and we are hoping to have it official in spring 2016.
What advice can you give others who are trying to start their own nonprofit?
Figure out the best way to make your purpose known. Then partner with people who share your vision to reach your goals. Set boundaries and hold to them.
Do you have any advice on setting up a fundraising campaign in order to become a nonprofit?
I would definitely recommend using the route we chose with YouCaring or a similar platform. We chose YouCaring because of the low fees and ease of use.
What other goals do you have in mind for the Kara Tippetts Foundation?
We’re just getting started, and our first goal of becoming an official nonprofit is well within sight. Once we’ve established that, we’ll be concentrating on getting our website up and running. The website will be the primary means by which we can communicate the goals of the foundation and how we hope to reach those goals. People will be able to read about the families that we are seeking to help, and they’ll be able to partner with us by donating via the website. We’ll be holding fundraising events in the future, and information on those and how to volunteer or be involved will be available on the website as well.
If you wanted the world to know one thing about your sister what would it be?
Kara loved life. Her motto was “Love big”— and she did. She somehow made everyone feel like they were her very best friend. She didn’t want to leave this world and her loves—Jason, Ella, Harper, Lake and Story—but she trusted in a sovereign God and his reasons for bringing her home. Not only was she secure in her heavenly destiny, but that God’s grace would be sufficient for her family after her passing. She found peace in her faith in Jesus and wanted to share that peace with everyone she met.
Visit Kara Tippetts Foundation—Helping Those With Stage 4 Cancer to donate to the cause.
Inspired to create a nonprofit foundation in memory of someone dear to your heart? Kick off a meaningful campaign and start raising funds today.