About Bret & Why Start a Non-Profit

I’m Bret. I’m a 32 year old husband to a beautiful wife and father to a handsome one year old boy from Madison, Wisconsin. I love teaching, learning, serving others, and getting the important stuff done.

I consider myself the luckiest person on Earth.


My Story

My life has definitely not followed the typical path. I expect the rest of my time on this earth will be spent in some similar fashion – finding pursuits which interest me, learning how to take purposeful action, contributing to our community and enjoying life.

Every step I’ve taken has had a purpose…

  • working as a field engineer in the oilfield, strengthening my technical skills while helping Shell and Exxon produce the energy we need to live our lives, in an environmentally responsible and efficient way.
  • teaching high school students in Houston the joys of science while creating an environment of collaboration and real-world experience through Teach For America.
  • connecting patients with their medical records through an online portal I configured for my healthcare customers.
  • leading a Madison start-up to pursue a better way to clean contaminated water.

And now, starting my own non-profit and helping you start and grow yours.


Five Reasons Why I’m Not Qualified to Teach You Anything About How to Start a Non-Profit Organization

one – I have not been passionately in love with starting a non-profit since I was out of school and pursing a career. In fact, I didn’t really give two hoots about non-profit work until I decided I need to address a need through starting a non-profit in 2011. I recognized my skills and experiences were aligning into a unique non-profit opportunity. But now that I decided this is for me, I’m hooked and have devoured social entrepreneurship ever since.

two – I will never start a sentence with ”Back in my non-profit days…” Sorry. I never really had those days. Sure I’ve volunteered with non-profits. And sure I used to work with one at Teach For America. But I don’t have years of experience in non-profits. Some might look at this as a shortcoming. I look at this as a big advantage. More on that in a little bit.

three – I’m building my non-profit part-time, not full-time. I admire those who dedicate their lives to full-time social entrepreneurship. I haven’t had the desire nor means to go there….yet. So yeah, I have a day job (helping a new technology start-up get off the ground) and love it.

four – Until two weeks ago, I had no idea what a house list was. Like any specialized work, there’s jargon. I’ll admit that my lack of non-profit experience puts me at a disadvantage when it comes to ‘talking the talk’. So far, however, I’ve been able to get by. From my experience, we called a house list your email list. Or more simply the list. I might not know the terminology, but I don’t think one needs to know the jargon to understand how important some of the concepts behind the jargon are.

five – I don’t even begin to compare to these folks. Think about this for a minute – I’m going to give you advice on starting a non-profit and growing your support network?



These influential non-profit bloggers and leaders have decades of experience between them. If you have 30 minutes to spare, why not spend it with them? After all, a lot of what they have to say inspires the action I take. I’m just starting to scratch the surface. They’re already about a mile deep.

I figure that if these things haven’t scared you off by now, you are probably interested in my message and would like to know more.

Still here? Cool.


Five Reasons Why I Created “Start a Non-Profit”, & Why You Might Want To Stick Around

one – There is always something new to learn and something valuable to share with non-profits. Books, blogs, magazines, your own work — everywhere you go there is an opportunity to learn something new about non-profits (as well as productivity and purpose, for that matter). I love to learn and try new things. So a good chunk of I Start a Non-Profit is me showing you what I’ve learned and continue to learn about how to start a non-profit.

two – I’ve found success in other pursuits. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that past performance doesn’t guarantee future success. But a lot of what I’ve done previously applies to starting a non-profit. For instance, I’ve developed web sites since 2005, when I launched Science For America to help connect science teachers with excellent resources they can use in the classroom (over 3,000 visitors per month). I’ve built support networks for students to help them succeed in the classroom and life. And I’ve helped my customers deliver excellent customer service to over 200,000 patients through accessing their electronic medical records.

A lot of these skills and experiences readily apply to staring a non-profit and building a network of supporters and donors.

three – I’m bringing fresh ideas to the non-profit space. Oftentimes it takes an outsider with a fresh perspective to create a step-change in solving challenging social issues. Think of Wendy Kopp and Teach For America, or Scott Harrison and Charity:Water. I think my inexperience in non-profits is an advantage in a similar light.

If the same people are always generating the same ideas to the same problems, well, that’s going to recycle a lot of the same ideas. For many of our generations most challenging social issues, we don’t need recycled ideas. We need completely new ideas.

four – I will treat my iStartaNonprofit audience (you) like I do my customers. I’m approaching this venture like a true business. I want to provide you with valuable content. I want to get you excited about starting a non-profit. And I want to give you solid tools, tips, and tricks that you can use to make your career more fulfilling and profitable. If I’m not doing that, please tell me.

five – I want to connect. If your non-profit is already in full swing, I hope that my experiences – both my wins and my failures – can help you reach your goals.

If you’re in the early stages of starting a non-profit, you can see what it’s like, see what’s involved and make decisions on your own.

We live in a connected world, and I enjoy learning about your pursuits. Whether you are in the first group or the second, feel free to comment on this blog, or connect with me directly and share your experiences. I’d love to share you story with our community of non-profit leaders.

Please feel free to subscribe to my newsletter below and get exclusive non-profit business strategies that you cannot find here on the blog, as well as free access to two workbooks to help you get started with developing the vision for your non-profit and defining the definite major purpose in your work.