Since publishing, this article has been updated and republished. Read the new version here.
1. All monetary and goods donations to VLCM Foundation are 100% tax deductible.
Because VLCM Foundation has been designated by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. If you itemize your taxes, your donation can be used as a deduction on your taxes come tax-time. You can only take the deduction in the year you donate. This process involves filing a Form 1040 and itemizing all your deductions on Schedule A. You must keep your donation receipt as proof of your donation—if you were ever audited, the IRS will only accept written acknowledgment from VLCM Foundation, a credit card or bank statement, or a canceled check as verification.
(Disclaimer: Don’t take this as financial advice. VLCM is expert in all things IT and VLCM Foundation is expert in all things Huntsman Cancer Institute. What we won’t claim to be is expert in filing taxes, although we’ve got someone great doing ours. You should talk to your tax expert if you’re interested in claiming your donation as a deduction.)
2. 100% of your donation goes to research. None of it pays VLCM employees or for fundraising.
This is fairly unique among charities. Even the Red Cross uses 10% of the donations they take in for administrative and fundraising costs. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, we all have to pay the bills, but with VLCM Foundation you know that donating $100 means paying for exactly $100 worth of research costs.
The reason we can do this is because VLCM pays all the costs of the tournament from the profits the company generates in the course of providing IT solutions and services. VLCM could just write a check to Huntsman Cancer Institute for $100,000, but the tournament allows us to raise even more money than that and also to build a community of people who care about funding cancer research.
3. We have high hopes for this year’s tournament.
Because VLCM covers the cost of the tournament each year, in the past we’ve been happy with just raising more money than it costs—which is usually about $100,000. This isn’t because the donations must pay the costs but because if we raise more than $100,000 with the tournament, then we’ve done more than VLCM could have done on its own.
When we were smaller this goal made more sense than it does now, but our growth over the years has necessitated some reevaluation. We think we can do much better than that, and we want to raise at least $140,000 with this year’s tournament.
4. Beyond 2017’s United Against Cancer tournament, we have lots of goals for the future.
This year’s tournament is our 10th. In the last decade, we’ve raised over three-quarters of a million dollars for research at Huntsman Cancer Institute. With the 11th annual tournament in 2018, we’d like to break $1 million donated in total.
In the longer term, we want to expand our donor base and stabilize the golf tournament as an event. By that, we mean that we hope it will take less time and work to fill all the sponsorships and meet our fundraising goals with a bigger pool of potential donors to draw on each year. Once we’ve accomplished that, we hope to hold other events to raise money for cancer research—most likely events that would cost less for you to participate in and could attract more people. We don’t have solid plans for this yet, but we’ve considered things like a bike race or a 5K.
Our biggest hope is to help the scientists at Huntsman Cancer Institute find cures for cancer.
5. VLCM Foundation sends all donations to Huntsman Cancer Institute in one large payment in September. The money is then funneled immediately into bank accounts from which researchers can request funding.
The same might not be the case if you donated directly to Huntsman Cancer Institute. According to Susan Sheehan, COO and President of Huntsman Cancer Foundation (which handles all private donations to the institute), donations smaller than $100,000 are distributed to HCI on a quarterly basis. This can allow small donations to add together into a larger sum of money over time. $100,000 is far more useful to researchers than $100--their supplies are expensive.
When we send all your donations to the institute, they’re helpful immediately. What’s also great is the timing of our donations. Huntsman Cancer Institute gets a high volume of donations during the holiday season, but much less during the summer and early fall. This can create some issues for them, so our donations come at an important time.
6. In the past, VLCM Foundation has chosen to direct our funding toward specific types of cancer, like melanoma, but we haven’t done that in the past few years.
For the time being, unless we recognize a strong need we’d like to address in a specific area of cancer research, we choose to make all your donations to Huntsman Cancer Institute available to all researchers. This means the funding is used for the studies that have the most pressing needs, and it also means that the experts themselves are the ones who are choosing where it goes. They know best where the money should be spent, and we trust them to get it to where it’s needed most.
This makes it much more difficult for us to track our impact—it makes it absolutely impossible for us to say exactly which studies we have supported—but we’re much less concerned with boasting about what we’ve done than we are about making sure the institute’s world-class scientists have the money to do what they do best. Instead, we follow everything they do and we are absolutely sure they’re doing great things.
7. We’re reevaluating more than just our goals as we grow.
We’re also looking at our methods and working to respond to feedback about the way VLCM Foundation and the golf tournament work.
For instance, some of the prizes for the tournament winners and for the raffle are donated by local businesses. In the past, we’ve done this by literally driving around Salt Lake City and asking businesses for donations on the spot. While we’ve had some success with this method, it definitely has some issues, not least of which is that it’s time consuming and inefficient. For this year’s tournament, we tried mail. We sent letters to nearly 600 local businesses asking them to donate. We’ve gotten some great responses so far. After the tournament, we’ll evaluate how it went to decide if we should do it again or try another method.
We’re happy to continue to change as we grow, even if it means taking a hard look at some of the things we've been doing for a long time. We know that the world of cancer research and fundraising changes quickly, and we will too because we know that's sometimes what it will take to keep working toward a cure.