The Story of John Hibbs

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It’s hard to not notice our awesome customers. As a premier WordPress web hosting provider, we have such a diversity in the types of customers we see, from workout videos and food recipes, to politically charged opinion blogs,  our customers all have one thing in common: each person took the time to start something they were passionate about.


We want to share these stories of our customers’ passions because, we think they are inspiring and interesting. Sometimes, they showcase the versatility of WordPress as a publishing platform.


What better way to start off than with the story of a man who started a nonprofit on top of his day-to-day job, with no previous experience with nonprofits, because his sister got sick?


John Hibbs, founder of The Hibbs Lupus Trust, managed to step away from watching Wimbledon last week to tell me his story.


What made you want to do this?

My sister was diagnosed with lupus in 2008.  I had never heard of the disease although five million people worldwide have it. When we were looking for support there wasn’t anything, especially in our local area of the UK. I wanted to raise awareness.


What do you hope your visitors get out of your website?

The main focus is in raising funds and spreading awareness. It’s a place to find info about the disease. We also have a contact page people can use to reach us. Although we’re local we get hits from around the world because there are not a great number of charities for lupus.


How did you get started? Did you have previous experience working with nonprofits?

No, I didn’t have previous experience. I just felt I wanted to do more in supporting my sister. I thought I had the time so I started off raising money through running marathons. I started a blog first that provided a little info about lupus, but charted my training for my marathon and was mainly following my story. Then later came the official charity and the WordPress site we have today.


Had you ever run a marathon before doing it for your sister?

No I hadn’t run a marathon before. I’m not athletic.


Tell me about what the journey has been like. Has the company changed? Any unexpected challenges or successes?

There were no real challenges. I ran my first marathon in 2009, the London marathon, and have continued to run since then. We now organize cycle rides, fun runs, and walks for the community. Marathons are a way to get interest and a way to show support for my sister. We use Twitter and Facebook to help get interest. When people hear “lupus” they don’t know what it is and we want to change that.


Any results you would like to share?

We recently made a donation of £20,000 (about $30,400) to a local hospital to purchase equipment for early diagnosis. It can take seven years to diagnose someone with lupus and there is no one specific test. Unless a doctor is aware it could be diagnosed as something else so it’s important to have the equipment. There is nothing like it in the area.


Why did you choose WordPress for your website?

It’s what everybody seemed to be using. I had no real experience with websites or coding, and wanted the website to look as professional as it could be. I used a PageLines theme because of its ease of use. There was a fresh, clean design with PageLines.


I started with Bluehost as a host because it was the cheapest. As soon as we had spare money, I wanted a host who could do better and make the website faster. PageLines recommended you. I got in touch and you gave us the non-profit hosting price. I’m extremely grateful toward ZippyKid because we can use that extra money toward helping more people.


How long do you see yourself doing this for?

I see myself doing this for a really long time. There’s only been two drugs for lupus in the last 50 years. Until there’s a cure there’s a need.


What skills or personality traits do you think are most helpful in starting a nonprofit?

Really just being approachable and being supportive. I speak to community groups so it’s important to be approachable. Really having a reason to do it is important. You need to be in a position where can spend spare time and have a commitment.


I saw you’ve had some pretty impressive celebrity endorsements. Can you talk about how those came about and what that’s been like?

They’ve been really helpful. We wrote to Stephen Fry when we were launching and asked if he could do anything to raise awareness and he tweeted sending his support. We got the support of Beverley Knight, a local soul singer, when we sent her a tweet.


In 2009 we sent Sarah Brown, wife of the former Prime Minister, a tweet asking if she could raise awareness because I was running my first marathon, and now she’ll often send tweets out. She hosted a reception at Downing Street and we were the first charity at Downing Street to have a reception arranged by Twitter. This is in Sarah Brown’s biography.


That’s amazing. What was that reception like at the Prime Minister’s?

It was a great way to reach so many people. We invited about 80 people including patients and doctors involved with lupus. It made it in the local press, maybe the national press too. It was just about raising awareness. It’s so important to raise awareness to make an early diagnosis.


Any advice or words of wisdom to people looking to start a nonprofit?

Try to dedicate what time you can and make the most out of it. If you believe passionately it comes quite easily; it just takes a lot of time.


What’s the best way for us and others to help you?

 The best thing is to visit the website and learn more about lupus. If anyone wants to make a donation of course that’s great but the key thing is raising awareness and learning about lupus.


Lupus is a lifelong autoimmune disease affecting primarily women. Lupus results in fatigue and causes the body to attack healthy cells, tissues, and organs.


To learn more visit


To make a donation go to


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