THIRTY-THREE DOLLARS AND thirty-three cents. That’s how much it will cost each of America’s small businesses to permanently change one of our nation’s great nonprofits. It’s just as easy as it sounds.
In 2018, I was honored to be named the West Michigan Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s “Man of the Year” by raising nearly $33,000 for the cause. Through the ten-week fundraising period, I spent a lot of time meeting survivors of blood cancers. My only connection with the cause prior to that point had been my cousin Ellie—who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia when she was in high school—but I quickly learned how much the disease had touched nearly everyone around me in some way. It was an eye-opening experience and it bonded me to their mission forever.
LLS is a vital and irreplaceable organization. Though it’s a nationwide nonprofit, it touches nearly every local community. I spent some time studying their history and learned that as a direct result of their efforts, survival rates for certain types of blood cancer have quadrupled and nearly all of today’s most promising cancer treatments were advanced by their research. Since its founding in 1949, they have made a cumulative research investment of $1.2 billion and changed the expectation of what it means to be diagnosed with blood cancer.
At a certain point during the campaign—during which I was also working on this book—I calculated that a one-time $33.33 donation from each of America’s 30 million small businesses could match nearly 70 years of LLS’s research fundraising in one day.
Think about that.
$33.33 is all but a rounding error, even for small companies. For us, that’s six pints of beer. Or two pizzas. I imagined it through the lens of our small business neighbors. It was eight ice cream cones from Furniture City Creamery. One pair of sandals from Mieras Family Shoes. Two #3 combo meals from Two Scotts Barbecue. One T-shirt from The Mitten State. Five specialty juices at Malamiah Juice Bar. And so on. And so on.
I spent the 208 pages of Dough Nation making a case for entrepreneur-driven small businesses being America’s most trusted entity, and illustrated their combined giving potential. We now stand at the precipice of a great opportunity to realize that potential. The intersection of America’s most numerous business type and the largest buying generation ever to walk the earth provides an opportunity to direct America’s wealth in an extraordinary direction.
We are calling on the small businesses of America to join together to help our nonprofits actually accomplish their goals. Whether it’s curing blood cancer, providing services for wounded veterans, granting wishes for sick children, or one of the myriad other challenges America’s nonprofits confront daily, the chances of achieving this have never been more real. As we learn from The Parable of The River, the last phase of meaningful work is a change in perspective, not effort. This insignificant $33.33 sum proves that giving on a meaningful level doesn’t require any amount of accumulation. These 30 million individual gifts joined together can become as much as $1 billion, and each year that goes by can see a different cause infused with enough cash to actually move the needle on its mission, not merely chip away at it. The price tag ensures this effort doesn’t have to come at the cost of ignoring any other responsibilities.
The world doesn’t need more nonprofits. It needs to better serve the ones it already has. And small businesses can do exactly that. Cause by cause, we can secure our place in America’s history by allowing nonprofits to fulfill their missions. We can liberate them from their burdensome fundraising challenges and bring their important work to its tipping point.