(LifeWire) - If someone you care about has been diagnosed with breast cancer, you may be wondering, "What can I do to help?" You have offered your moral support and your sincerest sympathy, but you may want to do something more tangible.
Aside from being a good listener, one of the biggest things you can help with may be a practical matter: finances.
Starting a Nonprofit
Friends and family can pitch in a few dollars here and there, but if your friend is in a real monetary crisis, you can provide substantial help by establishing a nonprofit group to legally request funds from the general public. It takes some time and planning, but the return on this investment of time can be remarkable.
Before you organize your first fundraiser, you will need to address your legal obligations. To begin a nonprofit group, the Society for Nonprofit Organizations recommends the following steps:
- Choose a name and a group of people you trust to serve as a board of directors
- File articles of incorporation with your state (contact your state to find out the appropriate office for this)
- Apply for nonprofit status with the IRS by following IRS Publication 557 and completing Form 1023
- Find out from your state how to officially register your organization
- Check to see if further arrangements are needed to raise funds in your city
- Apply for a bulk permit for nonprofits from your post office to help with mailing costs
- Hire an attorney to review your paperwork and provide legal advice
Once all the paperwork is out of the way, it is time to plan your fundraiser. You might choose to go with an ongoing fund drive, or with a special event to honor your friend. Additional ideas you may want to consider include:
- Working with a local company. Many companies offer their products or services for sale through nonprofits. Whether it is boxes of doughnuts or car wash vouchers, you may find that working with a well-known company does wonders for your cause.
- Taking it outdoors. A day-long golf tournament or a quick 5K can be a great way to raise funds around a sports event
- Encouraging local involvement. Rent table space to locals who want to sell their crafts or baked goods on a sunny Saturday. In addition to participation fees, encourage vendors to donate a portion of their proceeds to your friend.
Think of activities your friend enjoys and work with those. An all-day concert for the music lover? A used book sale for the bookworm? Be creative.
Spreading the Word
Even the most flawlessly planned event will not succeed unless people know about it. Beyond fliers and word of mouth, there are lots of ways to get people talking about your effort and making plans to give.
- Build a website. Numerous online resources can help you build and name a web site. Include photos of your friend and a brief description of her situation, as well as information about the events you have planned. Add a PayPal "Donate Now" button for people who may be unable to attend the event but would still like to contribute.
- Use online social networking. Set up accounts for yourself on MySpace and Facebook and post bulletins about your upcoming events. Ask your online friends to repost the events so that the message spreads quickly.
- Contact local media. You can prepare a news release about your event that includes all the details and the background story about your friend. Or, if you know of a reporter or columnist who specializes in human interest stories, call or e-mail them directly and explain what you have planned. A well-timed news story may be all the publicity you need.
For Immediate Help
Establishing a nonprofit and planning fundraisers takes time. If your friend needs more immediate help, the local department of social services can recommend groups prepared to help in just this sort of crisis. Other resources may include:
- Your friend's workplace, which may have a financial assistance program
- A foundation associated with her treatment center that can help with mortgage or utility payments
- A church or civic group that can help with child care and household chores
Every one of her friends is probably also wondering how they can help. Get on the phone or send a mass e-mail and ask friends and family members to send you whatever they can. You may choose to present a check to your friend, or to purchase gas or grocery gift cards for her to use.
While visits from distant family and friends can lift her spirits, she may not be up to having guests around all the time. Offer up your guest room so that her visitors can save money, while helping her too.
For Financially Secure Friends
Raising funds in someone's name is a great way to honor what she is going through.
- Organize a group of friends to walk in her name at a cancer-related fundraiser like the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
- See if her treatment center has a foundation that can help other patients with your financial support.
- Donate to the American Cancer Society to support cancer research and advocacy.
American Cancer Society Staff. Medical Insurance and Financial Assistance for the Cancer Patient. Cancer.org. 14 Nov. 2007. American Cancer Society. 23 Apr. 2008.
SNPO Staff. Starting A Nonprofit Organization. SNPO.org. 2007. Society For Nonprofit Organizations. 23 Apr. 2008.
Susan G. Komen Staff. "Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Komen.org. 2008. Susan G. Komen for the Cure. 23 Apr. 2008.