At the request of Invictus Institute’s board members, I have decided to chronicle the organization’s creation – what sparked the original idea, the steps to becoming a full-fledged nonprofit, and what lies on the horizon.
As detailed in a previous blog post about board member Hamis Mugendawala, the story begins in Uganda where Kasey Beck, founder of Invictus Institute, embarked on a humanitarian trip in 2007. It was there that he met Hamis, who at the time worked in the nation’s Parliament and arranged meetings with various government officials. After a series of conversations on how to rid Uganda of poverty, Hamis, an “education guru,” in Kasey’s words, decided on that exact specialty of his: education. Personalized education, to be precise.
This settlement stemmed from an array of observations about the Ugandan education system in its current form. “Many kids in Uganda,” Kasey explains, “are part of classrooms with 100+ students. That, combined with high teacher turnover, automatic grade advancement, and other issues make it very difficult for the kids to receive one on one help.”
After mulling over different ideas for a few years, the duo decided on what is now Invictus Institute (originally named Tech Tutors). As Kasey describes, “Online tutoring made the most sense when balancing the need, the large scale effect it could have, and the costs involved.” It was during this genesis that they defined their core competency as strictly teaching, choosing to partner with outside organizations such as Agami and Beyond Intent to acquire facilities, electronic equipment, etc. In addition to lowering costs, relying on other like-minded institutions helps streamline the process of establishing a new program, for example, the one at Adventist Preparatory & JSS School in Ghana, where tutoring sessions began taking place earlier this year.
At first the tutoring sessions were a rewarding, albeit limited side project for Kasey. But before too long, the program’s benefits demanded expansion. “In 2014,” Kasey recounts, “Hamis made me aware of how much of an impact the tutoring was having on these kids…That convinced me that we needed to grow and become more sustainable, hence become an official 501(c)(3) organization.”
Beginning in April of that year, Kasey began the IRS’ Form 1023, the extensive application required for nonprofits to be tax exempt. The document is an intimidating one, demanding information on compensation arrangements, fundraising methods, and business connections, among many other things. After filling in as many questions as he possibly could on his own, Kasey then “asked for help with the difficult questions from others who have gone through the process.” Seven months later, Invictus Institute officially gained its 501(c)(3) status, and the rest is history.
While the challenge of forging stable internet connections remains omnipresent, Kasey and the rest of Invictus Institute’s board contemplate the future with hope. As they continue to capitalize on and further refine their unique skills such as volunteer recruitment and research, they are currently seeking out new members to help with an unexplored area: fundraising. “[It] hasn’t been a focus of ours yet but that is changing and we need help in that area,” Kasey confides.
Though the journey is ongoing, it has already proven fruitful not only for the pupils on separate hemispheres, but for everyone involved. For anyone establishing their own nonprofit, Kasey offers the following advice: “Put yourself ‘out there’. Talk with people who have done it and who share your passion. They’ll have great guidance. You’ll form great friendships.”