SWAM, Swim With a Mission, has been helping veterans since 2016, but now they want to revolutionize the veteran service industry
Newfound Lake, NH: Non- Profit organizations aimed at helping veterans are a treasured part of America. Although government sanctioned organizations like the Veteran’s Administration are helpful in many ways, they are simply overwhelmed with veterans that need help.
Many veterans then turn to non-profit organizations for help. Hunting trips, Equine (horse) related therapy, even creative programs that use art as therapy are just a few of the non-profit organizations that exist.
But just about every one of them have the same problem in common- a fight the get funding, donations and support.
Most get buy somehow- through partnerships, an influx of steady donations and government grants. Others must limit their therapeutic services because they simply run out of money.
But there’s one non-profit organization that has a unique problem- they are growing so fast and getting so many donations, they’re challenged with what to do with all that money.
This non-profit, Swim With a Mission, aka SWAM, is that non-profit. They have blown up so fast, they’re options on how to use the money is their only challenge.
That’s a great problem to have.
Meet Founder Phil Taub
LET sat down with founder of SWAM, Phil Taub, to discuss how his organization got to that point, why he even started a nonprofit to begin with, and what direction they may be going.
So, our first question was, why? Why start a non-profit when things are going well professionally.
Phil told LET:
“Around 2016, Jeb Bush (former Florida governor and brother of George W. Bush) called me and said he will be campaigning in New Hampshire. He asked me to help him an organize an event at a local VFW or American Legion to speak to a crowd of veterans.”
Phil readily admitted he had never been to a VFW or American Legion before that conversation and didn’t even know where they were. He had to look them up.
But when Phil physically visited the VFWs and American Legions in the area, that is when everything opened his eyes. Up until that point, he was only used to interacting with veterans who were successful personally, professionally and even emotionally.
Phil told LET:
“As Jeb Bush was on stage speaking, I would be in the back talking to veterans. And I was horrified to hear how hard it was to get the basic stuff that they needed.”
After that experience, Phil’s conviction to help the veteran community began.
Swim With a Mission
Phil and his wife then started asking questions like why are there so many struggling and homeless veterans?
They were already donating to a variety of veteran charities but wanted more out of their efforts. They wanted to know exactly how they are helping.
So, they decided to create a simple non-profit that would raise money by hosting a swim event. Phil said:
“We said, ‘let’s just do something that nobody else is doing’- that’s the key thing. There are a lot of 5K’s, cycling races- a lot of great stuff out there. But there are very few swim races.”
But before their first event even took place, they were confronted with a unique opportunity.
Navy SEALs & Green Berets
As Phil and his wife were planning and preparing for their first swim event in 2016, they ran into a group of Navy SEAL’s while they were in Florida. It was” by pure accident” as Phil called it- and he was instantly taken aback.
The SEALs were in the middle of a demonstration that included parachuting in with their service dogs to raise money for the SEAL community.
Phil saw an opportunity and went after it. He said:
“I went up to the group of SEALs and said ‘Hey you guys want to come to New Hampshire if we do a fundraiser up there, will you come?’ And they said ‘yes’.”
Staggering Fundraising Numbers
Phil and his wife put all the pieces together for the first swim event, held it with the SEALs and it all went way better than expected.
“Our goal was to raise $50,000 from that [first] swim race. And we raised $450,000. At that moment we were like ‘wow.’”
The event is held annually and with the same group of SEALs on board. But Phil and the SWAM team wanted to add more activities to capitalize on their growing event. The SWAM event has now evolved to become a 3 day, 5 event fundraising campaign that raised $2 million in last year’s event alone. Their event now includes another elite group, the Green berets.
“We then added a paintball event and that event alone raised 900,000 last year!”
In total the SWAM event has raised more than $10 million since its inception in 2016- all with just a once-a-year event.
Unlike other non-profits that have challenges raising money, SWAM has a problem with ‘what do we do with all this money.’
They typically give it out to a variety of services they know use the money responsibly, like organizations that train service dogs. Phil and his wife know exactly how the money gets spent and how many more dogs are training with the donation.
But they recognized a problem every veteran already knows.
Many government backed programs and organizations are compartmentalized and it is very easy for a veteran to get lost in the shuffle.
It is not a linear system that takes a veteran from stage 1 all the way to ‘completely rehabilitated.’ Veterans struggle in different ways and in different severities. So, it’s easy to get lost in a system.
“We have no coordination between the VA, the state of New Hampshire, and the 40 or so veteran service organizations and amongst themselves. The VA literally did not know who the veteran service organizations were. Most have never met each other.”
SWAM holds annual summits where all these organizations get together.
“We literally introduced everybody to each other.”
“We created ways for them to hand off veterans to each other so when one of them gets them, nobody lets them [the veteran] go.”
Long Range Vision
Phil and his team continue looking at ways to improve the system. In fact, there plans are so grand, they are looking for ways to create an entirely new system for other states to emulate.
Their plan, which is a work in progress, is to build an entire community for veterans to reside in and include all the veteran service organizations to operate in.
This is just one of the many different directions the non-profit SWAM is looking to head towards.
Right now, the sky is the limit and so far they are well on their way and beyond.
The only question that remains now is- what will they accomplish next?
Check out one their videos.
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