Tagged: fundraising

Turning those lemons into lemonade


Don’t you hate these kind of motivational posters? I do. They are corny and cheesy, but sometimes these types of insufferable cliches resonate.

I’ve been in a funk lately, a creative rut.  I work at home, I spend lots of time with a three year old, and as a freelance,  I am responsible for getting my own business. It feels like there are never enough hours in the day, and sometimes I’m like a hamster in a wheel, going around and around and not getting anywhere, coming up with the same unworkable solutions again and again.

So I  love to hear about t innovations or radically different ways of thinking, examples of ahem, turning lemons into lemonade. This article in yesterday’s NYT  provides an excellent example of this approach in action.

Remember how we have this messy, mean, non-existent, non-cohesive healthcare system in this country that refuses to provide federally funded healthcare for all?

The folks that run community health centers interface with this impossible reality every day, and they’ve come up with one way of making a dollar out of fifteen cents: using brownfields — or really polluted land — on which to build health clinics.

It’s not as crazy as it seems. The federal government allocates EPA money to clean up these sites, so it’s a creative way of getting extra government funding to build clinics. Lemonade out of lemons. You get the picture.

According to the New York Times:

[This is] a nationwide trend to replace contaminated tracts in distressed neighborhoods with health centers, in essence taking a potential source of health problems for a community and turning it into a place for health care.

And why is this extra important?

By 2015, the number of Americans who rely on community health centers for care is expected to double to 40 million from the 20 million who relied on the centers in 2010, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers.

It’s just this kind of thinking that’s needed to come up with creative, innovative solutions to the gigantic healthcare coverage in this country.

And personally, I’m inspired to think about my own goals in a new way, and to think about how to make liabilities into possibilities.

What do you think?



Starved for attention

I didn’t post here yesterday because I was hard at work writing up a piece about Call the Midwife for Bitch Magazine’s blog. If you’re interested, you can read it here.


Nine children die every minute because their diet lacks essential nutrients. They will continue to do so unless food aid changes. Visit the Doctors Without Borders website for more information.

Today is World Food Day.

There’s always something when it comes to children and food.

They can be unbearably picky. They can be greedy. They can miraculously survive on different combinations of white flour, sugar and food coloring for months and months on end.

I’m thinking about this today because my son hasn’t been feeling well.  On Wednesday he threw up in the morning, and then again in the afternoon.  He went to sleep early, and seemed okay when he woke up, but then he was upchucking all over again the next day. He’s stopped throwing up now, but he still says he feels sick. He refuses dinner yesterday night, choosing instead to languish on the couch while we all watched Lars von Trier’s not really that child appropriate  Melacholia.

When it comes to throwing up, I always worry.  He was born 12 weeks premature, which is notoriously hard on the digestive system. He was so small, just two little pounds. He had terrible acid reflux as a baby, making digestion and burping very painful. It’s been years since then, but whenever he catches a stomach bug, it brings back those memories.

It makes me obsess about food.

He’s small, and I worry that he’s losing weight. After he stopped throwing up and eased back into regular food, I bought peanut butter ice cream, and protein shakes. I scrambled some eggs with half-and-half, and took him out for French fries and a grilled ham and cheese sandwich soaked in butter. And then I worried that I shouldn’t be letting him eat meat because what if he gets E.coli? Or mad cow disease? Or salmonella?

But then I have a reality check.

In 2011, almost 7 million children under the age of five died, most from conditions that were preventable or treatable with access to simple and affordable interventions. A full third of childhood deaths are related to malnutrition.

Malnutrition is a cycle. Women who don’t get enough to eat give birth to malnourished children, and the cycle continues. Furthermore, men tend to have more access to food than women, and women are the ones who are look after the children in most settings.

Not having enough food is mostly prevalent in Sub Saharan African and Southeast Asia. In the US, we don’t worry really about malnutrition.

The number one killer of children in this country is accidents.  That’s a whole other level of worry. You can put a helmet on your child, or make sure you keep an eye on him when he’s on the monkey bars. You can buy a great car seat, and put a fence up around the pool. There are lots of things you can do to keep your child safe, and they probably won’t die from an accident.

But malnutrition? That’s a whole other ballgame.

There are 20 million young children around the world don’t have enough to eat or don’t have access to clean water; and for every child who is sick, there is a mother experiencing a personal crisis. Before I had a child, I couldn’t really understand this. But I’ve seen my baby with no fat on his little body, eyes sunken, bum like two deflated balloons. I’m haunted by it, but I know that the chances of us revisiting those days is slim.

My kind of maternal anxiety is a luxury.

Think before you pink

Welcome to October. As you probably know, it’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

That means you’ll be inundated by things like this

Breast Cancer Awareness Makeup Palette from Sephora

and this:

Tic Tacs for breast cancer awareness

and this:

Corn Chips for The Cure

Women will be racing, biking,  eating, climbing and knitting for  The Cure.

Breast cancer has become so hyper-visible that it’s hard to believe we really need any more awareness. So many of the activities related to breast cancer are just an opportunity for corporations to pay lip service to women’s health.  National Breast Cancer Awareness Month has become just a tired ritual, when women’s magazines trot out their “Five Things You Need to Know about Breast Cancer,” articles and publish yet another “profile in courage” of a woman stricken with the disease who finds that it makes her a better, kinder, more spiritual person.

Every year, about 35,000 American women die from breast cancer. That’s over 100 women a day. Treatment is still limited to “slash, burn and poison,” and we don’t know what causes it.

As I’ve written elsewhere, men tend to set research priorities and be the main clinical researchers. But one of the best known breast cancer researchers is Dr. Susan Love.

This month, Dr. Love has launched a new research initiative dubbed the Health of Women Study (HOW), and she’s asked women’s health bloggers to help her publicize it.  According to the study website:

The majority of women who get breast cancer have none of the known clinical risk factors. This means we don’t know what causes breast cancer or how to prevent it. The HOW Study is a first-of-its-kind international online study for women and men with and without a history of breast cancer.  We will collect information about your health, your job, your diet, and your family history, among other topics that can help us get a better understanding of breast cancer and its potential causes.  Periodically, we will send you questionnaires about anything and everything. All you have to do is fill them out online. It’s that simple. This is a partnership and we need you for the long haul. The more questionnaires you fill out, the more information we will have that can help us have a better understanding of why women get breast cancer.

Anyone over the age of 18 — male or female, with breast cancer or without — can join. There’s no poking, no prodding, no blood samples, no humiliating tests; just some online data collection.

This October, think before you pink .How about joining the study instead? I’ve done it. Will you?

Image credits: TicTacsand Sephora and Frito Lay

Selling Charity

In this weekend’s article in the Washington Post, author and nonprofit guru Dan Pallota asked why we can’t sell charity the way we sell perfume. It’s an excerpt from his new book.

His argument is important for people working in the health nonprofits.

He makes five key points:

  1. The for-profit sector pays people for producing value, but the not-for-profit sector does not
  2. Charities are discouraged from spending money on advertising even though it is an effective means of increasing donations
  3. Expectations for success are unrealistically high
  4. The expected time frame for success is unrealistically short
  5. The nonprofit sector is forbidden from  paying investors a financial return to attract their capital.

Something is wrong when Coca-Cola and Burger King have a potential for growth that we deny, on principle, to the Boys & Girls Clubs and the National Breast Cancer Coalition

It’s certainly true that program managers often struggle to achieve deliverables that are set out by the funding agency rather than the experts in the field. It’s impossible, for example,  to eradicate HIV in sex workers in Tanzania within one funding cycle, but NGOs must make it look like they achieved something tangible even if the reality is far more complex.

It’s also true that most fundraising for charities is done through low-yield initiatives such as social media, direct mail and the occasional benefit dinner. And although professionals can  make a living working in the non-profit sector, the gynecologist who works for Planned Parenthood will never make the kind of money her colleague earns at a private health facility.

Pallotta’s fundamental argument is that nonprofit organizations aren’t being allowed to benefit from capitalist structures, and that if the nonprofit sector were deregulated and the association with high salaries and spending on self-promotion were to be destigmatized they would be far more effective tools in the fight against global poverty and health disparities.

As he says,

Business can’t solve all the world’s problems. Capitalism can — but only if it is permitted in the nonprofit sector. If we free the nonprofit sector to hire the best talent in the world, take fundraising risks, use marketing to build demand and invest capital for new revenue-generating efforts, we could bring private ingenuity to bear on those problems and would not need to look to government to fill the gaps.

It’s an interesting proposal.

But is quality of staff really determined by money? Would more pay really attract better people or just people who wanted more money? Would deregulating the nonprofit sector really make it more effective, or would it open it to more corruption? If NGOs were motivated by financial stressors, would they only take on issues where they knew they could succeed?

What do you think?