Chris Geib of The National Pediatric Cancer Foundation: “Give back and get involved!”

Give back and get involved! There are thousands of great causes. Figure out your passion or what means the most to you. If you can’t donate with dollars, you can donate your time. Both are valuable to nonprofit organizations. As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had […]

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Give back and get involved! There are thousands of great causes. Figure out your passion or what means the most to you. If you can’t donate with dollars, you can donate your time. Both are valuable to nonprofit organizations.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Geib.

Chris Geib has integrated his experience and entrepreneurial spirit into creating change in the nonprofit world. Chris has transitioned from a volunteer role at several nonprofit organizations to his current position as Director of Development at the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation (NPCF).

Chris purchased On the Rocks Bartending while in college at Florida State University. The mobile bar business traveled to events, weddings and nonprofit fundraisers. Unbeknownst to him, this would be the catalyst for his involvement in giving back and kickstarting his journey to his current role at NPCF.

Chris realized his strong passion for helping children and wanted to do something bigger than donations and discounted services. His first nonprofit committee role was for an event at Children’s Home Society in Tallahassee, which led to a board member role from 2012–2016.

Chris later became VP of sales for a startup company that manufactured retail products. He continued to focus on nonprofit partnerships, and after moving to Tampa in 2016, was introduced to NPCF. His company’s products resonated with fishing enthusiasts, so he joined the NPCF as a committee member for Fishing Funds the Cure — helping to create the pilot “Virtual Fishing Tournament” that is now a nationwide initiative.

Through his relationship with the NPCF, he decided to make his passion a full-time career. Since joining the nonprofit in Jan. 2019, Chris has built and created programs with little limitations. NPCF’s CEO Dave Frazer sat Chris down the first week with one major instruction — think outside of the box and take these programs to a national level.

The best example is the nonprofit’s Brewing Funds the Cure program. With the foundation of the program already in place, Chris turned it into a national initiative with over 50 partners in nearly every state resulting in more than five times the amount of donations for pediatric cancer research. Even with limitations posed by the recent pandemic, the program continues to grow including expansion into coffee partners brewing for a cure as well!

From running a bartending business that introduced him to nonprofits, to creating a program at a nonprofit involving the brewing industries, his career path is proof that everything happens for a reason. And for this reason, Chris was placed in a position to raise awareness and funds for some of our most vulnerable — children battling cancer.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I had the opportunity to partner with NPCF at my previous company, which opened my eyes to the organization at a deeper level. When I started, Brewing Funds the Cure was a program that NPCF thought could take off, but there just wasn’t enough staff dedicated to the project. I was handed a blank canvas and went to work, designing a program that could scale quickly. Eighteen months in, we’ve grown from a few partners to nearly 100, working with the craft beer industry, restaurants, bars and new to 2020 — coffee partners. The hospitality industry is so welcoming to the cause. Is there really a better way to support pediatric cancer research than with a cold beverage or coffee?

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization or initiative?

The most interesting twist is probably the serendipitous nature of how I made my way to NPCF. I was at a Fishing Trade Show in Columbia, SC working an exhibitor booth. I had just moved to Tampa in 2017, and NPCF had started a program called Fishing Funds the Cure. Dave Frazer (NPCF CEO) was walking the floor and happened to visit our booth. Casual conversation turned into a coffee meeting the next week to discuss a partnership, which led to me jumping on as a committee member. I presented the idea of creating a “virtual” fishing tournament to benefit NPCF. We worked together to pilot this event in 2018 and felt that we were on to something unique. Conversations then began about me joining the team in a full-time role as we began planning for the 2019 virtual event to launch nationwide. I’m here all because of a fishing show in South Carolina!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Working in development, I work with hundreds of contacts, sending out email after email and answering call after call. I was in the middle of an email marathon to the sales team and addressed one of them with the wrong name … honest mistake. I replied to apologize but received an email back that scared the heck out of me — basically saying he was offended and would not support us. I panicked and frantically tried to figure out how I could fix this … when he texted me “Ha-ha, I am just messing with you. We love NPCF, let’s chat this afternoon to discuss this project!”

All jokes aside, this experience taught me to double check names, spellings, etc. before any correspondence!

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

There are a variety of ways to get involved with NPCF. Some of our programs include Brewing Funds the Cure, Fishing Funds the Cure, Walking Funds the Cure, Fashion Funds the Cure, and Playing Funds the Cure. No matter the interest, we’ve been able to connect with partners who believe in the mission of raising awareness and focusing on pediatric cancer research! With only 4% of the national budget going towards childhood cancer research, it is imperative that organizations such as NPCF and our partners focus on that message! The NPCF has been able to fund over 26 million dollars in research, and we currently have over 20 trials and other research initiatives taking place through our hospital network.

One example of like-minded partners is Mike Hess Brewing Company, our California partner making our signature Rising Hope IPA for Brewing Funds the Cure. The owners have a daughter who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 2018 and is now in remission. But the fight continues to raise funds for pediatric cancer research. The husband and wife team ramped up efforts in 2020, packaging 1,500 cases (200 barrels) of Rising Hope to sell in Costco and donating over 45,000 dollars to research.

Our research initiative, the Sunshine Project, is comprised of over 25 leading hospital partners that agree to share information with each other to fast track these initiatives. National Pediatric Cancer Foundation is the hardest-working dollar in pediatric cancer research. Our donors know that funds raised are being used to further our mission. In fact, eighty-seven cents of every dollar raisedfunds research and medical trials. We are proud of our dedication to fiscal responsibility, receiving the highest rating nine years in a row from Charity Navigator, putting us in the top 3% of all charities nationwide.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

It is our mission to find better ways to treat every child fighting pediatric cancer. Data shows that 80% of children with cancer have a survival rate of five years or more. The National Pediatric Cancer Foundation focuses its research and clinical trials on the other 20% — the more aggressive cancers with a dismal prognosis and no standard of care. Ninety-five percent of the children who beat cancer will have major health defects because of the toxic treatment.

Our collaborative model is effective. Two of our Sunshine Project doctors talked about their respective projects. One worked with Metformin — a traditional drug used in the treatment of diabetes; the other worked with a traditional chemotherapy drug. The doctors decided to combine the two drugs in a clinical trial setting and found that they were able to reduce the dosage of the chemotherapy drug while maintaining the efficacy, but were also able to reduce the negative side effects traditionally associated with chemotherapy treatment. A win for us? The long-term negative effects associated in children was also reduced. We are determined to use our resources to discover treatments and find a cure for childhood cancer.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

  1. We need more awareness for pediatric cancer research, starting with the support of the community to help spread the word and join us in our efforts.
  2. Pediatric cancer hits every demographic, religion, etc. and does not care about politics. We need to come together as a society. Supporting critical research for kids battling cancer can be something we all can agree on.
  3. The government spends billions on cancer research, but only 4% of government dollars is dedicated to pediatric cancer research. This needs to change, and it starts with legislation.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

When I think of leadership, it’s about leading by example and inspiring others. It is vital for a leader to understand his or her team’s various personalities in order to effectively connect with them. The end goal: to inspire and help them reach their full potential. Leaders must work WITH staff and partners, put in as much (or more) effort … or else the communication will fall on deaf ears.

The best example I have is making sure I’m not tunnel-visioned with only the initiatives on my plate. With more than 13 different programs we offer, it can be easy to stay in a bubble. I may not be in the day-to-day planning, but just by talking about what they are trying to accomplish, I learn there are ways to help. Be that advice, connection or extra set of hands at events. The idea is for it to be contagious. It allows teams to build continuity and foundation, that ultimately continue our mission.

What are your “five things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

This list can be applied to all careers, not just nonprofit:

  1. Find a mentor. I wish I pursued this earlier on. Younger versions of ourselves think we know it all, but looking back, there is so much we didn’t know or couldn’t expect.
  2. Pay it forward and become a mentor. You can use your experience to help others, giving you additional accountability and responsibility to grow professionally.
  3. Take courses in fiscal management, personal and business. Being a part of small businesses and startups, I have seen the effects this education can have. No matter the value of a product or company, if you neglect the management of finances, it can derail any situation.
  4. Don’t sweat the small stuff! Every day is not going to be sunshine and rainbows, even if you love what you do. Always focus on what you can control and don’t wrap yourself up on things that you can’t. This is easier said than done, but a great lesson to go back to.
  5. Give back and get involved! There are thousands of great causes. Figure out your passion or what means the most to you. If you can’t donate with dollars, you can donate your time. Both are valuable to nonprofit organizations.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Children are the future. If we do not focus early, we are not doing our job in shaping how the next generation will live. We need to create a movement with a concerted effort that helps all children. From medical treatments and clinical trials at NPCF, to education, mentor programs and more, there needs to be a focus on doing better for the kids. This starts with business leaders and passionate people.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Today, I gave everything I have, what I kept, I’ve lost forever.”

This quote was given to me from a coach a long time ago. Simple, yet powerful words. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. You may not get the chance again.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.

I would have to say Coach Krzyzewski from Duke. He is a great example of what a leader is, from motivation to teaching life lessons to molding young men. His teaching goes way beyond basketball, and I think an hour picking his brain would be absolutely fascinating and inspiring.

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