Nonprofit Organization

Crowdfunding the CareBOX way

Nicole O'Hara, special to
The CareBOX team left to right: Rhiannon Nunziato, Melissa Wilson, Jillian Domingue, Diana Dobson and Lisa Keefauver
Source: CareBOX

Despite the billions given to charities each year, nonprofit start-ups aren't nearly as successful as their private-sector counterparts.

Newly established charitable organizations often have difficulty attracting financing, and some observers say their failure rates are even higher than the large numbers of venture-capital-backed start-ups that falter yearly. However, one Texas-based organization is beating the odds while bringing smiles to cancer patients and their families.

CareBOX, a cancer charity, has an innovative approach that turns traditional nonprofit fundraising on its head. The organization touts a mission-driven business model that combines the power of crowdfunding with the simplicity of a gift registry.

Taken together, CareBOX provides donors with an easy and direct way to improve the quality of life of a cancer patient.

"Our website makes it easy to donate to patients in need. It's a 1-2-3 process that's quick and easy for the donor, but more importantly [it's] more efficient for the patient," said Lisa Keefauver, CareBOX's communications and program director.

By logging on to a donor can click on a patient's photo, read about their diagnosis and purchase items on the patient's specified "wish list," which will then be sent directly to their doorstep.

"Wish list" items include an array of essential-care supplies that are often not covered by insurance, such as hospital masks, medication cups, bed trays, shower seats, nutritional shakes and disinfecting wipes.

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The organization was founded in 2011 by Jillian Domingue, who lost three friends to cancer by the time she turned 21. After experiencing the difficulties endured by her friends, she came up with a way to ease the financial burden that a cancer diagnosis places on a family.

"I would never tell anyone that starting an organization is easy. It is incredibly hard work," said Domingue. "I would have never predicted that CareBOX would be where it is today. We are making a huge difference in the lives of individuals with cancer and it's only the beginning."

What started as a one-woman project during her senior year of college has turned into a thriving start-up, run by a team of five women and three interns out of a small office in Austin.

CareBOX's crowdfunding model is part of an increasing number of charitable organizations tapping donors online. The Network for Good, an organization that tracks nonprofit giving, said charitable giving via the internet is increasing year over year, outpacing the rate of overall giving in the $358 billion charitable giving sector. At least $1 billion in crowdfunding went to nonprofit causes in recent years, according to MobileCause, a crowdfunding platform.

The evolution toward web donations has helped organizations like CareBOX, which to date has delivered over $63,000 worth of essential care supplies to nearly 300 cancer patients in central Texas. The nonprofit has attracted donors from more than 19 states and nine countries, including Australia, Canada, Norway, United Kingdom, Italy, New Zealand, Switzerland and Hong Kong.