Swim Across America, Inc.

Making Waves To Fight Cancer

aka Swim Across America   |   Charlotte, NC   |


We provide early-stage grants for cancer research, clinical trials, and patient programs that will lead to new treatments for patients and families fighting cancer.

Ruling year info


President & CEO

Mr. Robert Butcher

Main address

8508 Park Road #389

Charlotte, NC 28210 USA

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NTEE code info

Cancer Research (H30)

Fund Raising and/or Fund Distribution (E12)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

We identify early-stage funding opportunities for cancer research, clinical trials, and patient programs that likely wouldn't be funded.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Grant Program

We are able to award cancer research grants through several funding sources; individuals, families, and corporations donate to our Cancer Innovation Fund (CIF). We have agreements with NCI and community hospitals ensuring 100% of our CIF grants fund intended research projects. We have a Grants Committee (MD/PhD experts in oncology) who vet, score, and recommend projects. We serve as the watchdog of the grant ensuring efficiency and progress. Our community charity swims allow survivors, families, and volunteers to participate and generate donations. These donations stay in the community to fund research and patient programs at a beneficiary hospital.

Population(s) Served
People with diseases and illnesses
Non-adult children

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Percent of participants who generate the minimum $400 in donations.

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Grant Program

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Context Notes

80% of participants in our charity swims generate at least $400 in contributions. Our goal is to sustain this level.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Through the 1970s, a typical cancer treatment plan would include surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation. While these treatments might save a person, or delay further cancer complications, these treatments oftentimes have a drastic and negative effect (emotional, financial) on the quality of life for patients and their families.

In the 1980s, a small circle of cancer pioneers was seeking funding for a revolutionary concept that the immune system could fight cancer. The immune system as a cancer treatment was considered speculative and dismissed by most of the medical community. Established organizations and commercial companies weren't willing to provide seed funding for the research. No reputable organization was willing to invest dollars into immune system research as it was considered fringe medicine.

Enter Swim Across America. Established in 1987, SAA was willing to take a risk. Our founders were intrigued by the idea that the immune system had the potential in treating cancer. So beginning with our first charity swim in 1987 and through the 2000s, SAA granted the proceeds from our charity swims into immunotherapy research, and clinical trials, at hospitals such as Memorial Sloan Kettering and Dana Farber.

In 2011, our decades of funding belief were rewarded when the FDA approved immunotherapy treatment ipilimumab (Yervoy). In 2014, the FDA approved immunotherapy treatment nivolumab (Opdivo) for melanoma with further indications for non-small cell lung cancer, malignant pleural mesothelioma, renal cell carcinoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, urothelial carcinoma, metastatic colorectal cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, esophageal cancer, gastric cancer, and gastroesophageal junction cancer. In 2016, the FDA approved immunotherapy treatment pembrolizumab (Keytruda) for colon cancer with further indications for melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, head and neck carcinoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, large B-cell lymphoma, urothelial carcinoma, gastric cancer, esophageal cancer, cervical cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, Merkel cell carcinoma, renal cell carcinoma, endometrial carcinoma, and triple-negative breast cancer.

Our hospital partners regularly present to our Grants Committee ideas to advance treatment for sarcoma, leukemia, lymphoma, central nervous system, carcinomas, detection, and pediatric cancer (which is woefully underfunded). With the proceeds from our charity swims, we continue to provide grants for immunotherapy research, targeted therapy, cell therapy, CAR T, genetic testing, and new detection research. The advancement and sharing of this research have the potential to help nearly 20 million patients living with cancer experience a better outcome (less toxic) and better quality of life.

Through our Cancer Innovation Fund, individuals, family foundations, and corporate donations have the opportunity to do more. CIF grants can fund intentional projects per a donor's wish.

We have a signed agreement with every NCI and community hospital we provide a grant. The agreement ensures that 100% of our grant will be awarded to an intended project. This allows Swim Across America to serve as a watchdog/steward for grants and on behalf of donors. Our Grants Committee is comprised of renowned MD & PhDs who vet and recommend the most promising cancer research and patient programs for funding. Our Grants Committee also reviews progress reports to ensure goals and progress are being met. Our donors may choose to remain anonymous or publicly acknowledged (i.e. The ABC Family Cancer Research). We honor donors' wishes.

We are an expert in Cancer Innovation Funding (CIF):
1) Oncologists and corporations such as Merck have given public credit to Swim Across America for being an important (non-government) funder that played a critical role in the FDA approval of immunotherapy and other advancements.
2) Our agreements with research hospitals ensure maximum efficiency that 100% of our grants fund approved projects. Our donors are protected knowing that SAA is a watchdog over their donations and our grants.
3) More than 500 research oncologists previously funded by SAA from many cancer specialties graciously give their time to our Grants Committee. Our GC identifies, vets, and recommends promising projects and research leaders for a higher probability of success.
4) Our board of directors and other partners are eager to match CIF grants thus allowing for contributions to increase in multiple.
5) CIF donors get a personal relationship by meeting and touring the labs where the research and progress are occurring.
6) We aren't limited to one cancer type, our interest is in the most promising research that can lead to advancements in detection and treatment options.

Our decades of funding immunotherapy research and clinical trials was rewarded with the FDA approval of Opvido, Yervoy, and Keytruda.

We have also helped donors maximize their contributions. For example, In 2021, Ted Beisel passed from pancreatic cancer. The Beisel family wanted to make a donation that would support pancreatic research and early detection of pancreatic cancer. The Beisel family donated $150,000 to our Cancer Innovation Fund. Our board of directors contributed $50,000 on behalf of the Beisel Family. The Lustgarten Foundation contributed $400,000. The Beisel Family donation of $150,000 has been leveraged into $600,000 that is funding these pancreatic projects to honor Ted Beisel:

One (1) research project to better understand the correlation between cell metabolism and pancreatic cancer.
Two (2) team science awards with a specific focus on early pancreatic cancer detection.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We act on the feedback we receive

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    Staff find it hard to prioritize feedback collection and review due to lack of time


Swim Across America, Inc.

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Swim Across America, Inc.

Board of directors
as of 02/02/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Pam Ryan

Goldman Sachs

Term: 2021 - 2023

Board co-chair

Hugh Curran


Term: 2021 - 2023

Matt Vossler

Bob Coakley

Evan Vosburgh

Kimberly Wilson-Wetty

Evan Vosburgh

Jamie Mannion

Kevin Shine

Jack Salerno

Burt Zweigenhaft

Doug Towne

Tony Sibio

Pam Ryan

Hugh Curran

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 10/10/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


No data

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity


Sexual orientation

No data


No data