Start A Chapter

Starting A Chapter

150 million children in the world are orphaned. They live without parents either in overburdened orphanages or alone on the streets. In the U.S. alone, more than a half million children live in foster homes, 60% of whom are 0-12 years old. Research continually shows that children raised in permanent families have better life outcomes than their peers raised in foster care or institutions.

Gift of Adoption inspires adoption by making funds available to people who need financial support to complete their adoptions. The cost of adoption varies with the average adoption ranging from $25,000 to $45,000. Most people who are starting families or raising young children simply do not have that kind of money sitting in the bank, waiting to be spent. And, sadly, the fear of not being able to afford adoption often prevents many prospective adoptive parents from starting the process. Fundraising by chapters provides the money that funds adoption grants.

Why are chapters needed?

Chapter board members spread the word about adoption grants and raise funds so more kids can be adopted into permanent, loving homes. The more people that Gift of Adoption has raising funds, the more grants it can offer to prospective parents who need help funding their adoptions.

Currently, Gift of Adoption has 29 active or emerging chapters. There are 50 US states and dozens of major metropolitan areas where adoptions occur. More chapters are needed so more kids can be served.

As a national 501(c)(3), Gift of Adoption is governed by a National Board of Governors. Gifts from National Board members and members of an Investor Board fund the organization’s core operating expenses, so 100% of money raised by chapter boards can fund adoption grants.

Where are chapters needed?

Chapters are needed across the country.

Existing chapters are located in the Alabama, Arizona, California, Carolinas, Colorado, Connecticut, Metro DC, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Metro New York, Ohio, OR / Columbia River, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin

One hundred percent of all funds raised by existing and emerging chapters are directed toward funding adoption grants in that chapter’s state or region. Any funds that are not needed in a specific state or region fund adoption grants in states not yet with a chapter. This way we can help more at-risk children become adopted sooner.

What is a chapter?

Chapters are groups of volunteer leaders who form a board to become the face of Gift of Adoption in their communities. Board members raise funds for and build awareness of Gift of Adoption among their networks and among corporate and community groups.

As a national 501(c)(3), Gift of Adoption is governed by a National Board of Governors. A small core operations staff team heads up the main functions of the organization and supports the growth and performance of the overall organization. Annual donations from National Board members and members of an Investor Board fund the organization’s core operating expenses, so 100% of money raised by chapter boards can fund adoption grants.

Chapter boards uphold standards set by the larger organization and that are consistent for all chapters around the country. Our standards align with best practices and BBB Wise Giving Alliance standards for charity accountability. They include:

  • Developing and implementing an annual plan and budget
  • Keeping the fundraising expense ratio at or below $0.35 (so spend $.035 or less to raise a $1.00 for Gift of Adoption)
  • Participating in Leadership Council and Grant Selection Committee meetings
  • Raising $10,000 or more annually.

Individual board members commit to:

  • Making a personal gift of $500 or more annually
  • Raising $750 or more annually (individual chapter expectations may be higher)
  • Actively participating in board meetings and chapter events
  • Upholding chapter standards

Who should start a chapter?

Ideal candidates are smart, dedicated and kind individuals who have a passion for our cause and who are interested in leveraging their skills and networks to raise funds, generate awareness and lead a small team. They often have an advanced degree, significant work experience and fundraising capabilities that make their service to Gift of Adoption not “work” at all, but an extension of who they are.

Generally emerging chapter leaders reside in or near a big city and have both the time and the entrepreneurial spirit necessary to get a ‘start-up’ chapter off the ground.

Chapter boards may have from 5 to 25 members, with the average having 10. People who already work effectively together may choose to start a Gift of Adoption chapter board to extend the good work they are doing in other settings.

How much time does it take to start a chapter?

The first one to three board members who take on the role of starting a chapter are emerging chapter leaders. These leaders spend about 15 hours/mo. in the initial 3 to 6 months that it takes to launch a new chapter.

After a chapter is launched the emerging chapter leaders on the board and all board members who join subsequently can expect to spend about 5 hours/mo. to implement the chapter’s annual operating plan. During peak periods around fundraising events or special projects, the time commitment may extend upward a bit.

How can I start a chapter?

Contact Stacey Walstrum at to discuss the possibility of starting a chapter.

What are the steps, and how long does it take to start a chapter?

Generally speaking, it takes about 12 to 15 months to get a chapter up and running, as follows:

Month Activity Key aspects of start up phase
1 to 3 Recruit start up board members Think entrepreneurial spirit


3 to 6 Create plan. Continue recruiting to fill board of 10+ members Leverage the time, talents + relationships of founding board while referencing best practices within GOA, nonprofit community.
6 to 15 Work plan. Host inaugural fundraising event + generate press for board and GOA Implement, learn, adapt, keep momentum. Goal is to move from emerging to existing chapter status by having 5+ board members, 50+ fans and $10k raised.

The core ‘national’ staff team works closely with emerging chapter leader(s) to build their chapter board team by leveraging on-line recruiting platforms, adoption agency partners and the Gift of Adoption volunteer, grant family and donor networks to identified qualified board candidates.

Ready-to-use templates offer a donor-centered guide to building a plan which includes: PR/social media, board recruiting, fundraising and national connectivity.

The core team continues to complement local chapter board efforts in an ongoing manner by providing the following central services:

Website management and communications, marketing materials + collateral, centralized grant selection vetting and management, donor acknowledgement and thank you programs, public relations and social media programs, accounting and finance, family foundation/community foundation grant research and submissions, major gift fundraising work done together as a team.

When can I get started?

Today is not too soon to think about what you bring to the table. Consider these factors:

  1. Do you have a passion for the cause?
  2. Do you have a strong network and are you open to reaching out to members of your network to promote Gift of Adoption?
  3. Do you have four to five hours a month to devote?
  4. Do you have solid business skills that you can apply to a board role?

When you are ready to move ahead, contact us!

Who benefits?

Children in need of a family, prospective parents and society at-large benefit from the gift of adoption. Grant recipients are hard-working people who need the last bit of funding to bring home their children. Seven percent of GOA families include former military, twelve percent are small business owners and thirty percent are led by clergy or teachers.

Since its founding in 1996, Gift of Adoption has awarded more than $17 million in grants to complete the adoptions of more than 5,000 children. Last year, 70% of grants supported domestic adoptions, while the remaining 30% of grants supported international adoptions.

Priority is placed on awarding grants that help children facing what is possibly
their last or only chance at adoption including those at risk of being separated
from siblings, entering foster care, aging out of an orphanage and children who
have serious medical conditions or special needs.

GOA provides a cost-effective way to increase the number of at-risk children
adopted each year – employing the tried and true bedrock of families to raise
their children out of love and familial duty, rather than a reliance on government, or ongoing acts of charity. It is an upstream investment which minimizes future need for a wide spectrum of social services and government assistance and a win-win on both a humanitarian and economic level

When children receive the permanency, love and support that families offer, they thrive.

How do grants work?

Gift of Adoption provides the final funds that prospective adoptive parents need to complete their adoptions.

This is a completely nondiscriminatory organization, so any U.S. citizen with an approved home study from an accredited agency/attorney may apply, regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, religion, marital status or sexual orientation. Applicants must demonstrate financial need plus a commitment to funding their adoptions through their own efforts. They also need to have been matched with a child.

Because Gift of Adoption cannot fund all of the grant requests it receives, priority is placed on:

  • children in or at risk of entering foster care
  • children aging-out of international institutions
  • uniting or preserving biological siblings in the same family
  • children with critical medical needs

Gift of Adoption leaders recognize that children are in need of families all across the globe, so they fund both domestic and international adoptions.