Where Our Funds Go

A very important aspect of every 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization is its transparency into where its funds actually go. The short answer to that question is easy—our beneficiary organizations, which in 2020 includes nine nonprofits:

In past years has been the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

For our due diligence we have earned the Silver Seal of Transparency from Guidestar for 2019.

It is always our goal to pass through as much of the funds donated to Tap Cancer Out as possible through to our beneficiary organization. However, there is an oft-unspoken reality that running a business, even a nonprofit, requires an investment in operating costs. Even for a small nonprofit like us, those costs include merchandise expenses, venue rental fees, mat purchase and storage, a truck and trailer to transport all our equipment from event to event, software subscriptions, paid media (like Facebook Ads), the hosting fees for this website, marketing, travel, and more. These operating costs aren’t solely covered by donations. In fact, we cover as much of them as possible with other revenue streams, namely grants, merchandise sales, registration fees, and spectator fees.

Our pass through rates (not to be confused with an “overhead ratio“) can be derived by dividing our Donation to Beneficiary by Total Donations Received.However, I urge you not to use pass through rate or the amount of revenue spent on overhead to be your sole determinant of the effectiveness of Tap Cancer Out. Guidestar provides an insightful perspective on this called The Overhead Myth.

All our financials, including the Form 990 (2012 onward), Statement of Financial Activities (2012 onward), and Annual Reports (published each July, starting with 2014) are publicly available and uploaded for your convenience on our Annual Reports Page.

Our current pass through rate is 73% over the last 8 calendar years.

This means that in 8 years we’ve required about $0.27 per dollar donated to host our events (which act as the fundraising catalyst), operate our business, and grow Tap Cancer Out. We also use other revenue sources like registration and spectator fees to fund our operations.

Also, this may imply that the cost of hosting a tournament is “overhead” and not servicing the cause in the way a gift to a beneficiary would. However, our events themselves are very much a service to the BJJ community. They act as a way to celebrate…a way to cope…a way to remember…and a way to fight for those in the fight of their lives. No one steps on our mats whose life hasn’t been affected by cancer one way or another. Our competitors have lost family and friends to this disease. We’ve had cancer fighters and cancer survivors take to the mat. We are an outlet for activism, and while our tournaments are primarily a vehicle to raise funds for our beneficiary, they serve an important purpose in and of themselves to help heal the hearts and minds of our competitors.

We are a small but mighty nonprofit. For our first 7 years of existence we had zero employees. In 2018 we had one (for half of a  year). As of 2019 we have three full-time employees. We run as lean as possible and as we host more tournaments, we build the framework to grow our impact exponentially year after year.

How Our Beneficiary Gifts are Creating Change:

Cancer affects us all in so many different ways, and there are so many different types that it can become overwhelming. So when we created Tap Cancer Out, we decided that instead of focusing on fighting one type of cancer, we would support a different beneficiary every two years.

2012 – 2013: Leukemia & Lymphoma Foundation ($85,000 donated)


We were honored to work with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as our inaugural beneficiary organization. Our donations to both the Connecticut and Massachusetts LLS chapters benefited localized patient support and education. It was important to us to work with the local chapters since our 2012 and 2013 fundraising tournaments took place in Stratford, CT, and Danvers, MA.

“The generous donations given by all of the participants and supporters of Tap Cancer Out enable The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to provide patients and their families with much needed support as well as funding life saving research,” said Brandy Sinisi, Campaign Manager for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Connecticut Chapter. “Thank you to the entire Tap Cancer Out team and their supporters for their hard work and determination to put an end not just to blood cancers, but to all cancers.”

2014 – 2015: St. Baldrick’s Foundation ($236,000 donated)

As a partner of St. Baldrick’s, we had the opportunity to jointly fund four pediatric cancer research grants. The researchers included Dr. Colleen Annesley of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD, Dr. Jennifer Wu of Boston’s Children’s Hospital in Boston, MA, Dr. Juan Vasquez (as seen in the above video) of Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, CT, and Dr. Sun Choo of UCSD in San Diego, CA. You can read more about Dr. Annesley and Dr. Wu’s research in our 2014 Annual Report and more about Dr. Choo and Dr. Vasquez’s research in our 2015 Annual Report. We even had the honor of welcoming Dr. Wu at our 2014 Massachusetts BJJ Open and Dr. Choo at our 2016 San Diego BJJ Open to speak to our competitors and volunteers about how their research is helping improve cancer survivorship.

2016 – 2017: Pancreatic Cancer Action Network ($560,000 donated)

Our partnership with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network started with a simple idea—with a 5-year survival rate under 10% and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US, pancreatic cancer is “one of the biggest, baddest dudes in the room.” But as BJJ practitioners, who better to fight?

In early 2016 we committed to help the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network make significant strides in early detection, treatment, and improving clinical trial opportunities for patients.

As part of our partnership, we funded the 2017 Tap Cancer Out – Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Translational Research Grant, which was awarded to Timothy Wang, MD. Dr. Wang is the Silberberg Professor of Medicine, chief of the digestive & liver diseases and director of the gastrointestinal cancer program at Columbia University Medical Center. The Co-principal Investigator is Paul Oberstein, MD, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of hematology/oncology at Columbia University Medical Center. Dr. Wang and Dr. Oberstein’s project is entitled Targeting Cholinergic Receptors to Suppress Pancreatic Cancer and, thanks to Tap Cancer Out and PanCAN, their research will be funded through 2019. Click here to read the full report.

2018 – 2019: Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation ($1,365,000 donated through 2019)

If you don’t know who Alex Scott was, you should. Since before her first birthday Alex bravely fought cancer for years, all while raising money at her lemonade stand to help other children fight cancer too. Her spirit inspired many others to set up their own lemonade stands, and before her passing she raised over $1,000,000. Her parents, Liz and Jay Scott, committed to continuing her inspiring legacy through Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

Thanks to our gifts in 2018 and 2019, we have funded grants at the following institutions:

Plus, we dedicated $315,000 to ALSF’s Travel for Care Program, which ensures children battling childhood cancer have the financial assistance needed to travel to clinical trials, experimental therapeutics, or treatment innovations not currently available at their local institution.

Check out Jon’s interview with Liz below after the announcement of the partnership in late 2017: