Kevin Evers isn’t one to rest on his laurels. “I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit,” he says. “I’m not the type of person to be tied to a desk for eight hours a day.”
Already a successful real estate agent in the Fox Valley, a tragic event in 2015 changed his outlook on life.
When Evers and his wife were expecting their first child, they learned that their son had a fatal birth defect called congenital diaphragmatic hernia. The baby likely would not survive pregnancy, and if he did, he would not live long. On Oct. 24, 2015, their son Noah was born and died within hours.
Noah’s birth and short life transformed Evers. “Noah made me want to be a better person, so I set out to honor his legacy,” he says. “If I could inspire just one other person, maybe they could inspire another and another and so on.”
Evers found his answer in 2016. At the time, he was a member of a national group of entrepreneurs who collectively decided to look for ways to give back to their local communities. Together, they created Impact Club, a system of chapters throughout the country committed to supporting nonprofits with a high potential for growth. In short, venture capitalism for local nonprofits.
In June 2017, Evers launched Impact Club Fox Cities as the eighth chapter in the country, which flourished through 2018. However, he started to see a need for more local control, so in 2019, he decided to separate from the national group and create Elevate 920. The general idea has remained the same.
Shark Tank for nonprofits
How does it work? Think of Elevate 920 as the reality TV show “Shark Tank,” but for nonprofits.
Each Elevate 920 member commits to donating $100 every three months, which is then pooled. Four times a year, three nonprofits are invited to tell their story to a live audience. Each organization is given five minutes to speak and then members vote on who receives the money. The charity that garners the most votes goes home with that quarter’s kitty.
Evers funds all hospitality costs associated with the events, so 100 percent of each member’s donation directly benefits the selected nonprofit.
“The experience I had with Elevate 920 was amazing,” says Gina Koebke of Ben’s Wish, an organization that tackles food insecurity in Northeast Wisconsin and the winner of the December 2019 event. “Even if we hadn’t been chosen, it was still a great opportunity to tell our story.”
Ben’s Wish supplies nutritional food packs to needy children in nine school districts through its Weekend Backpack program. “The cost to feed one child for an entire school year is approximately $100,” Koebke says. “With the dollars given to us by the members of Elevate 920, we’ll be able to feed about 86 additional children this year.”
The group held four events in 2019, raising a total of $33,100. Rise Together was the first beneficiary at the March 2019 event, which brought in $7,500. In June 2019, Best Friends of Neenah-Menasha took home $8,100. In September 2019, Positive Every Day Cancer Foundation, Inc. received $8,700 in donations; and in December 2019, Ben’s Wish secured $8,800. (Impact Club Fox Cities held seven events in 2017 and 2018, raising more than $77,000.)
Elevate 920 has 92 members, primarily using social media and word of mouth to increase awareness.
“At the start, most people thought the concept was too good to be true,” Evers says. “But after hearing about it from other members and seeing the checks presented, they started to believe.”
Evers is quick to praise the club’s members. “This isn’t something I did on my own. It took trust and buy-in from members to make it run. They’re incredible people,” he says. “What we’ve been able to do is find a way to make philanthropy easy and fun.”
How to get involved
Elevate 920 membership is open to anyone. If you attend once and decide the group isn’t for you, there’s no obligation to continue. Elevate 920 will next meet on June 11 at Whistler’s Knoll in Hortonville. To learn more, you can find Elevate 920 on Facebook at facebook.com/Elevate920/ or on the web at elevate920.com.