AmeriCares is a health-focused relief and development organization that provides life-changing health programs, medicine, and medical supplies to people affected by poverty or disaster. AmeriCares provides transformative health programs and quality medical aid to over 90 countries each year, including the United States.
AmeriCares distributes aid to institutions through partner organizations in the United States and around the world. Thousands of general and specialty hospitals, outpatient clinics, community health programs, hospice residences, rehabilitation centers, and homes for children and the elderly are among the institutions.
AmeriCares also works to develop or improve existing healthcare programs that address specific health issues such as maternal and child health, malnutrition, cholera, and chronic diseases.
Stephanie Kauffman is Americares’ head of strategic partnerships. She began her career in museums and marketing before moving on to work for Universal Studios for 16 years. She then took a different path, which led her to the non-profit sector, where she is now working to make the world a better place.
2:13 Who is Stephanie Kauffman?
8:43 Differences between working internationally in the private sector vs. the nonprofit sector.
10:58 Cultural differences around the world.
14:46 The power of educating yourself on different cultures.
18:52 How AmeriCares continues to make an impact, after the news stations have moved on.
21:25 When was the time that AmeriCares Made a noticeable impact?
23:34 What is AmeriCares Doing to help displaced migrants from Venezuela?
27:01 What is the most interesting effort that AmeriCares is working on right now?
28:48 What is AmeriCares doing for the US homeless populations?
29:57 What do you hope to see change in 5 years because of the work you’re doing now?
31:10 Ways to support AmeriCares.
34:32 Advice for those interested in moving from the private to the nonprofit sector.
40:25 How to make your own social impact at the companies you work for.
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Life Saving Health Services For Those That Need It Most With Stephanie Kauffman of AmeriCares, Disaster Relief & Global Health Organization
I started this show to invite you to care more about the issues that we all face around the globe, so we can collectively improve our awareness and be better. In this episode, I have the opportunity of introducing you to a well-established not-for-profit that I knew virtually nothing about, and that is Americares. Americares is a health-focused relief and development organization that responds to people affected by poverty or disaster with life-changing health programs, medicine and medical supplies.
Each year, Americares reaches more than 90 countries, which also includes the US with transformative health programs and quality medical aid. Perhaps even more interesting and inspiring is the guest who joins me to talk about what they do. Stephanie Kauffman serves as the Head of Strategic Partnerships for Americares and has an interesting history where she started working in museums and marketing, followed by a significant sixteen-year stint at Universal Studios that started in Florida and led her to Hollywood. She then took an entirely different path that landed her squarely in the not-for-profit sector, but I’ll let her tell you that story. Stephanie, welcome to the show.
Thank you much for having me. I’m excited about our conversation. I appreciate the space and the time that you give to folks like myself and also to the great work that NGOs are doing all around the world. As you mentioned, I don’t have the traditional path into the NGO, humanitarian aid space. For the majority of my career, I was in the entertainment business, working first with Universal Theme Parks and then Universal Pictures. I was working to bring corporations and brand partners into our Theme Parks and our movies. If you were watching a movie and you saw a certain car, there’s a partnerships team behind most studios that places cars, jewelry and products as a part of filmmaking. In Theme Park, if you could only drink a Coca-Cola, there’s a reason why. There’s probably a partnership deal behind that.
I did that for a number of years. I learned so much about how to identify partnerships, cultivate relationships, unlock value on both sides for not only the studio but also for our brand partners. I was enjoying and loving that experience. Through that process, cancer had impacted my life through loved ones who were diagnosed with breast cancer. My mother was diagnosed with cancer. I got passionate about funding cancer research, which has been significantly underfunded here in the US. While I was in my career path at Universal, changes happened as what happens to many of us. Comcast has purchased Universal and was reorganizing. I had an opportunity to relocate back to Orlando and look at some partnership opportunities within our Theme Parks expansion we’re doing in Beijing. I thought, “I’ve had a great run but what’s next?”
As serendipity would have it, there was an opportunity that presented itself with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which is a foundation that was created by Avalon water of The Estée Lauder Companies that was focused on cancer research. I thought to myself, “This may be the perfect time for me to flex into a new opportunity within partnerships, which is a space that I love, but also to marry my passion around funding cancer research.” That was literally that moment of transition where life hands you a decision that either I was going to take this opportunity to stay with the company but in a different capacity or should I explore something new? That’s what brought me to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation where I ran global partnerships for a little over five years.
What excited me about that was creating partnerships that did accelerate funding for my cancer researchers around the world. What then brought me to Americares was life intervened. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 impact on several nonprofits including the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, they had to make some changes. There was some restructuring and it gave me a moment to think about, “Do I want to stay in the nonprofit space? Do I want to say in global health or do I want to go back into entertainment?” For me, the path was clear. I was excited to stay in global health.
When you go to a new country, always respect the knowledge that’s on the ground and the innovations that are happening.
I wanted to expand beyond cancer research and like many things in life, you have some friends. I had a friend who I worked with at Universal. He was with Coca-Cola. He’s now the Chief Marketing Officer for Americares and said, “We’ve created this new role to accelerate and innovate our partnerships. We’ve posted it. Let me know if you’re interested.” It is truly global health impact. It’s disaster relief impact around the world. That gives me another dimension to growing my experience for my curiosity and for my impact in the space of partnerships. That’s a little bit about my winding path into the global humanitarian aid and health space.
You’ve essentially utilized the same skillsets. I would imagine that the job hasn’t changed all that much, moving from entertainment into a not-for-profit, but the stakeholders you’re talking to have changed. That’s different.
That’s something I share with folks who come to me and say, “I’m thinking about maybe transitioning into nonprofit. What do I need to know?” A lot of the skills that I have in partnerships still remain very true whether I was in the entertainment space or within the nonprofit NGO spaces. It’s all about what partnership makes sense. Does this align with your values as an organization versus the company’s values? Do those things align? Where do we deliver value together? What is the impact that we’re going to have? That translates anywhere from a partnership lens.
However, the way that you talk about partnerships and the relationships that you have is in a much different way. In the case of my entertainment days, a lot of times, I was engaging with the chief marketing officers who were looking for a marketing play within the film, theme parks, and connecting with consumers. In the nonprofit space, when you’re creating partnerships, even with corporate companies who are looking to lean into their responsibilities as a corporation, a lot of times, that conversation is being had with the corporate social responsibility or the environmental, social and governance team.
Sometimes you do bring the marketing team into those conversations. Those conversations look a lot different. It’s not how many bottles of Coca-Cola am I going to be able to move? It becomes, how will Coca-Cola’s investment in some nonprofit will make an impact? How are we going to impact people’s lives? That’s a much more different conversation. In a lot of ways, it’s much more fulfilling when you craft those conversations with those partners.
In addition, it’s not like I got to get a filmmaker on board to place this car into the film. Conversations still happen with our programs team like, “Can this make sense? Can we make sure that the development funding opportunity isn’t way ahead of where we are programmatically? Does this line up with our values as an organization and having that additional filter?” It changes the conversation but the skillsets in terms of bridging those partnerships remain the same.
I’ve done a bit of work in the international sphere myself. One of the things that I noticed when I was working particularly in the Asian community was that sometimes it felt like my gender itself would limit who I could talk to, what meetings I could have, or if I would have to bring a male counterpart with me in order for things to feel a little better. Sometimes, even if I was leading, I might have to take the backseat. I lead from behind just because of cultural differences. I wondered, given the aim and the tilt of this show being one about social impact and sustainability, if you had some commentary on what it was like to work on a global scale for Universal Studios and how that might differ as you’ve transitioned into working on the not-for-profit side.
It’s a great observation. Certainly, as I was coming up through my career, a lot of times, I was the only woman in a room in terms of negotiating deals. A lot of times, I was seen as, “You must be the secretary or assistant.” I was very fortunate to have exceptional male leadership that made sure that I was positioned effectively in the room and worked to ensure that I was seen in that space. I realized that particularly in a movie studio environment, that wasn’t always the case for some of my other colleagues.
On an international basis, a lot of times in meetings, they would be looking to the male executive who was maybe your direct report. Several layers were removed as you were leading the group. I would have to think through how do I manage that and how do I position myself, but also be appreciative of what the cultural norms are, and navigate in order to get those deals done. It was also a lot of threading of the needles and balance that. At the same time, in some ways, I was very unfortunate that I did have some executive champions of my career that reach for some of those stories that you hear about, while I experienced it right as pronounced in my experience.
That’s lovely that you had that leadership and champion, just being able to champion that from a more senior level even to yourself then. I have been in meetings where I would present, then the person on the other side of the table would only respond to my male counterpart. They would look them in the eyes and respond to almost what I had just said, which can be a displacing type of treatment that people have to adjust to and understand the cultural norms and the cultural differences.
My background had been in anthropology, so I came to it from a different perspective. I was like, “How do we essentially get the deal done. Please, everybody in the room,” and ensure at the end of the day that we’re putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes you have to make concessions, understanding that these are cultural differences that you can’t just change overnight. It’s not like flipping a switch.
To your point, you’re not going to change certain cultural norms. Do your homework in advance. A lot of times, we do that, particularly with certain international countries that I would go to, and then I would reach my team. More than likely, they’re going to probably look to you. I would say to a male-direct report, “Here’s how we’re going to handle that in that meeting,” so that we can get what needs to be done, how we’re going to talk it through, how we’re going to script it out and role play. That’s important, especially for women in leadership. It’s briefing yourself, preparing the room, understanding what’s at play and how it’s going to be handled.
How are you going to handle those circumstances when you present and you’re the lead on the deal? Are you going to be the one who will close the deal? You get to say whether or not the deal happens. Sometimes you’ll have someone looking at your male counterpart and talking to them as if you didn’t exist. That’s where I would always coach my male counterparts. Thankfully, they were in the same game with me to then gently lead the conversation back to me. They were like, “Stephanie’s role is going to be this,” versus “Stephanie, what do you say?”
I was very fortunate in that my very awesome father always made sure like, “That’s how you set up the room to make this possible.” Sometimes, I’d have to check my ego at the door a little bit to say, “The deal needs to get done. I know what I’m dealing with. I’ve got support on the backside and we’re just going to have to navigate through that.” Eventually, it comes to the finish line at some point. I’m hopeful for my daughters that some of that pre-gaming would be as necessary as they enter the workforce.
I see it changing. I may date myself in talking about some of this stuff too. My early career was in the late ‘90s into the early aughts. There’s a level of change that has been happening on a global scale, but it often falls a little bit further behind where you’d like to see it. It’s important to approach those situations with grace and understand that people vary. They’re not coming from an American perspective. They don’t have the same media and cultural history. All of those things impact how they see one another and how they interact. When you’re working internationally, it’s important to get centered on what the culture is like that you’re going to be stepping into if you want to be successful. Ultimately, otherwise, you’re seen as some brazen American who doesn’t care how they feel.
Working internationally, I spent the time to get immersed in the corporate culture. What are the expectations of the meeting? How to conduct myself in the meetings? What type of outfits would be appropriate in terms of color? How to present my business cards? How to shake hands and if that was appropriate or not appropriate?
I was very fortunate that I did have some resources behind that. In any meeting that you’re going into, and even now in the NGO space where you may be meeting with high net worth donors. What are their expectations of our foundation partners? How do they approach their meetings? Any of that type of homework and understanding the room that you’re going into help with meetings along. I would say that because of that background, the level of respect that I was trying to show, whether that was in Asia or Latin South America. It was very much appreciated. I was able to, not always, move through some meetings where I had to deliver very direct information, direct negotiations, or direct position of power. It ended up being received fairly well.
I’m not saying it was always perfect. It wasn’t. I have a scenario where I was in a room and there were some specific matters that we needed to deal with corporate partners and some expectations and legal obligations. I had to be providing like, “This is the way that this needs to happen. Here are the American companies coming in.” They were one of our partners. I had one male executive who leaves the room. He was not going to take the direction from an American and from a female. That’s where I kept the beat going on. It was interesting, some of the younger executives in the room apologized. They explained the cultural norm in terms of age, and appreciate that what we needed to get done was going to get done. There’s an interesting shift that’s happening.
What I will say too is when you make the effort to present your business card. For example, in a way that culture is used to receiving it. In most Asian cultures, you turn it around to face them and hand it to them, holding both corners, facing them. They see the card before they grab it. When I have been in international meetings with people from China and I believe Japan as well, I got that bright smile on their faces because they weren’t as accustomed to consistently receiving that respect from some blonde White American female that didn’t necessarily have a connection to their culture. It’s important to think about.
Those details matter. They’re welcoming you into their house. When you get welcomed into someone’s house, you try to think about what’s going to be important as a guest. It’s not always about how we do it in America. It’s being thoughtful and mindful of how we approach that work in the country that you’re doing business in. At Americares, a lot of times, there’s this perception of the NGO just comes into these regions like, “We’re going to be the saviors. We’re going to tell you how it’s going to be done,” then we’ll leave.
One of the things that we’re working on to be thoughtful, and it’s a huge shift in NGO, is respecting that house. The idea of our partners on the ground who are local, what innovation will they do? What solutions are they presenting? How do we, as an NGO and a partner say, “That’s fantastic?” Take all of your learning and then help build that capacity. There’s a great connection in terms of when you go into that country, respect the knowledge that’s on the ground, respect the innovations that are happening, and then where you can add value.
Deepen engagement and enable global involvement to have the right impact in the long term.
That brings me to a later question that I drafted for you, which is around how Americares operates a little differently than some of the other large NGOs that we might have heard about. In our initial conversation, you mentioned how many offices you’re operating around the globe. I personally found it interesting when you started to talk about how you set those offices up. Please share.
For Americares, we’ve been in the humanitarian aid and disaster relief space for many years. We were started with this premise of, how do we help cities and communities around the world that have been impacted by disaster? How do we go in and give them access to medicine, supplies and emergency aid?
We have great fortune here within the US and outside of the US. As you go into disaster areas, it’s in the news for a couple of weeks and then we move on. A lot of times, disaster relief and recovery take years. Where we have looked at is where are the places that we can make an impact in the long term. I just parachute in and here’s some aid and here’s how you go one. How do we help rebuild infrastructure?
How do we help create thriving health centers so that people can get access back to get help? Without good health, children can’t go to school. Without good health, we cannot work. You cannot support your family. We’ve been very strategic and we’ve been able to create those country offices where we can have a long-term impact. We don’t want to go into a country and say, “This doesn’t work.” It’s also about where we can be complementary as opposed to an additive. We’re adding onto NGOs after NGOs. Where can we bring specific expertise in tune? The area that we have specific expertise has access to medicine.
We’re the leading nonprofit provider and we donated medicine and medical supplies. A lot of communities around the world don’t have access to that, so how can we enable that? We’re operating everywhere from Colombia to Malawi to Tanzania to Liberia to the Philippines to Haiti. We have a sustained presence in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Our corporate headquarters are in Stanford, Connecticut, which is where we were founded. We’re thoughtful about where we can deepen the engagement, where we can enable global or local involvement and have the right impact?
What I would love for you to be able to do for us is to highlight a specific story. Perhaps it’s something like hurricane relief that you were able to initiate as an organization. Maybe it’s even a simple story of a single family that you were able to positively affect that dealt with some horrendous challenges that may have been somewhat different than what we’d hear about every day.
One of the stories I was struck by was of this incredible gentleman. His name is Dwayne and he is a truck driver. He’s living in Texas. He was impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The aftermath is it destroyed his house so he was without a home. His health was failing. He’s dealing with diabetes. We worked with our local community partners on the ground in terms of immediately getting supplies. Everything from water to insulin, all of those things for Dwayne. There were organizations that could help him rebuild a house, but the reality is his diabetic condition was impacting his ability to do his job. He was going to lose his job as a result. He came into one of our mobile clinics, our free clinics. Our partners in this space are working with folks who are uninsured or under-insured and giving them access to health.
We were able to get his diabetes under control, give him access to insulin, and give him access to be able to check his condition. I’m happy to say that as a result of that, his health vastly improved. We were able to create a realistic schedule for him. He’s now driving his truck again. He’s rebuilt his house. He is married to a wonderful woman. They’ve got two stepchildren together, and it’s about how we can take a disaster and then also look at it as more than the disaster. What are the health impacts? How do we help people reach their full potential and get back on their feet? I am inspired by what we were able to accomplish for Dwayne and the life that he’s living as a result of the health care treatment that he probably would not have had access to otherwise.
That’s beautiful. In our first episode, we talked about refugees of Greece and how Love Without Borders for Refugees in Needs serves a community there. In our initial conversations, we talked a bit about what Americares is doing specifically to help migrants from Venezuela. I’d love to hear more about that and how Americares is supporting these people who have been displaced and who may not have access to the medical care they need to survive their journey.
This is another program that we are particularly proud of and highly invested in. Americares has been working in Colombia since 1985. Colombia faces a number of barriers in improving healthcare due to wide-ranging landscapes, having one of the largest internally displaced populations in the world as a result of armed conflict. In 2018, we began operating medical clinics in Colombia to provide central primary care services and access to medicine for the migrants who are fleeing the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.
These are folks who are normally not going to be covered under national government plans. With the rise of COVID-19, we operate ten clinics in Colombia where we work very closely with the Ministry of Health. As you can imagine, we’ve had to adapt our work there to manage the unprecedented demands of this crisis. We do everything to focus our efforts on providing healthcare services, PPE, helping to educate hygiene, sanitation and access to clean water. We’re also focused on predominantly women who are pregnant, who are fleeing what’s happening in Venezuela and their children. We’re also working to deliver a critical mental health service to this very vulnerable population.
You can only imagine you’re fleeing conflict and you’re in a state of limbo. Governments put you into this refugee zone. Not only do you have to worry about healthcare and getting access to healthcare and medicine. In our mind, healthcare should be a fundamental right to human rights but also, the mental health impacts of fleeing. On top of what’s your future going to look like for your family and then layering on top of that, COVID-19. We’re doing a lot of mental health service work, not only for the patients and clients that we serve in our Colombian health clinics to the Venezuelan migrant refugee population. We’re also doing a lot of mental health support services for the health care providers in those clinics, particularly as we’re navigating through COVID-19 and the impacts of that.
COVID has made our life so much more complicated around the globe. The things that were once a little simpler have been made more difficult. I imagine people in these areas may not have the same access to their personal protective equipment like masks and things like that, or the same access to being able to clean and reusable ones. The work you’re doing there is phenomenal.
We’ve provided more than 40 million protective supplies, including PPE and disinfectants on top of medicine, supplies, training, and mental health support during this crisis. We’re grateful and thankful to our donors and our partners and giving us the capacity to be able to do that work.
If there’s one thing that you’re currently doing with Americares that put spring in your step in the morning, what is it?
Health equity has always been the lens of what we do. It’s about delivering health to populations who are not a part of the discussion and conversation. What I’m motivated around, particularly in COVID-19, is how do we create equity for communities around the world? How do we specifically create vaccine equity?
Here in the US, we have two million people who rely upon free and charitable health clinics for their care. They become trusted partners. They’re currently not a part of the dialogue as to where vaccines are going to be administered. Americare is at the forefront of having those discussions with the Biden administration on how do we make sure that these free charitable clinics are being a part of vaccine rollout and creating equity.
We’re also looking at while the COVAX facility for vaccines is going to cover a lot internationally, there are a ton of gaps. As I mentioned with Colombia and Venezuela, those Venezuelan migrants are not a part of the vaccine national rollout. Where can we play a role to fill those gaps? Everything from storing vaccines to figuring out how to work with partners to procure a vaccine to administer it so that we can not only have equity, but also this notion of making sure that everybody is safe from this so we can move into whatever the new normal is. I’m very focused on how we can create that health equity.
It’s emergent. That’s the right now moment. I wonder if there is anything that you’re doing in particular with the US homeless populations around that particular effort?
Within our global health network and here in the US, we have over 1,000 health clinics. A lot of times, what we are doing is working with several partners within the homeless communities to give them access to water, PPE, sanitation and hygiene to help curb this trend, and working with our clinic partners and providing them with grant funding to help them do their work.
We also believe that if we have partners in key areas, particularly in the key states like California in terms of what those experiences are, how do we help build that capacity for those local partners? How can we give them the funding that they need to help serve those populations who are not going to be included in PPE distribution and sanitation? We have worked with sanitation. The things that we’re doing with our health partners will give them access to fresh water and clean water.
Let’s look five years down the road. In your ideal world, what would be the change that you would have achieved with Americares?
The needs are great around the world as with many things and the humanitarian aid space. A lot of this can be solved through impact investing and finances. I hope that five years from now, we’ve been able to double our support from corporate and foundations to accelerate our work. I’m hoping that we’re making those investments and making those impacts.
I hope that we can continue to work to help communities prepare to respond to disasters. I know this sounds like something that I always talk about. I’d love to be able to see that we are closing the disparities that exist in healthcare for communities who’ve been left out of the conversation. For me, running strategic partnerships, I’m looking forward to doubling and tripling the types of impact investments that we’re going to see out of corporations and foundations to help us start that fund.
If somebody wants to get involved and support the work that you’re doing with Americares, how would they go about doing that?
There are a couple of different ways. I would encourage anyone to go to Americares.org. I do want to preface that a lot of our volunteer opportunities are having specialized because we are a health response organization. We’re always looking to mobilize our emergency response responders. That’s everyone from doctors to nurses to EMTs. There’s an interest, particularly as travel restrictions hopefully start to pave, where we can mobilize that roster to provide health care opportunities and health care access around the world. We would encourage anyone to reach out.
There are a lot of different ways that you can support Americares. We’re looking forward to the day when we can be back in person. We’re putting together emergency relief kits. That’s always a wonderful thing that we love to engage our donor community around, and helping us to prepare those things. I would encourage folks to go to Americares.org. You can reach me there and we’d love to find the right place for you to help and support the work that we’re doing.
One of the things we often say in the show is that it doesn’t have to be a Herculean effort. It could be paying forward some of your skills or just saying, “I’m here. These are my skills. I can support you in this way if you need it.”
That’s 100% the way that you can support an organization. One of the things that I like to dispel them is that it’s right, and I know that the nonprofit industry doesn’t always do the best job around this, but you’ll see like, “So-and-so foundation gave $10 million.” You’re like, “What is my $5 going to do?” Let me just say that that $5 may be the moment that enabled medicine to reach somebody who has not had it or would not have had it otherwise. As an industry, we need to do a better job of talking about the impacts of where everybody else can support. $10 million gifts are phenomenal.
They may be what runs the nuts and bolts of the organization.
Lots of the conversations is $5 gifts or $10 gifts. Those add up. There is a moment in time when that $5, $10 or $20 gift best support time. It created a pivotal moment that allowed us to have a breakthrough. Someone was asking me like, “What can the nonprofits do a better job of?” I talk about the investments that are being made at a high level but make sure that you’re honoring and creating storytelling around this every day. You are truly making a difference.
Create health equity for all the communities around the world.
Perhaps take a page from what people are doing in the political space, where they say their average donation is X dollars. AOC has been a proponent of that, saying that her average donor is less than $20. If you take that $10 million, perhaps that’s one of the high-end things that keeps the lights on and the office running and all your employees paid, but the work that’s getting done on the ground is being paid by those grassroots efforts and the $5 here and there donations. There are recurring donations that many people choose to make to their favorite charities. That is what essentially creates the opportunity for them to continue putting positive change out there.
It’s got to be the blend. Everybody has a role to play. I’m always so thankful.
One of the things that I wanted to talk about before we wrap the show up is any advice that you might have for someone that is interested in a pivot, perhaps from a for-profit company to a not-for-profit sector or to the social impact sector. Some for-profit companies are rooted in giving back. I don’t want to put them off in the same field, but if we’re to consider making that shift and going to work for a more cause-oriented effort, what does that look like? How do you make that shift? The knowledge that you could share from your own experience would be valuable.
A couple of things. Number one, just like any job search, be specific about what you are interested in. If you tell me that I’d love to switch to a nonprofit, what does that mean? What are you passionate about? Do you want to make that your job? If you are passionate about pets, dogs and animals, you want to give that space if that is something you wanted to move forward. Number one, know what your passions are and where you can add value.
Number two, sometimes I will hear like, “I’ve learned, I’ve earned and I want to return it.” A lot of nonprofits are unbelievably sophisticated professionalized. You think about what skillsets you bring to the table that’s going to advance that work. If you understand partnerships and engagement, that’s fantastic. If you have a communications background, what can you bring to the table to elevate those nonprofits work?
Number three, research the nonprofits that you’re interested in. Get to know who they are as an organization. Understand their mission and where you would fit in. Understand the help of that organization. What I appreciated about Americares when I was pursuing this opportunity to join Americares is they have a strategic plan on their website. I was like, “This is great. This shows me what they’re looking to accomplish in the next five years.” Their financials are on their website.
Any good nonprofit worth being a part of, whether you’re looking to invest as a donor or you’re looking to join as an employee, needs transparency. Nonprofits should have their IRS 990 statements. That’s their financials. All of that is on their website and easy to access. That will give you a sense of how healthy the organization is financially and also shares the expense ratios where they’re investing those dollars. I would recommend that you do that research.
Finally, if you’re thinking about making this change, like anything else, network. Start reaching out to those nonprofit leaders that you’re fascinated by their work. Get to know them and request interviews Get your name out there. Volunteer or offer to be on their advisory council. That will give you some depth and breadth into the nonprofit space. There are many tremendous opportunities out there. If you decide to make the pivot, it’s fulfilling to do the work that I’m able to do every day through partnerships. Be focused and passionate, and understand the type of nonprofit you would want to make a contribution to.
That’s all very good advice. I would add to that something that you’ve mentioned in interviews. Sometimes the not-for-profits you might be interested in may not have the proper fit for you. One thing that I’ve found to be successful in my own career and networking experience is to ask for what’s called an informational interview. I like to get to know your not-for-profit and how you do the work you do. Say, “I’m interested in being in a role similar to yours at some point in my career. I could use your thoughts.” Offer to buy them lunch. The reality is right now, we don’t have as much of that liberty with COVID but you could still meet over Zoom. You could send them a $5 gift card to Starbucks and you can both enjoy your coffees virtually.
I do informational interviews all the time. One of the things that I believe, particularly women’s issues, women in leadership is a passion point for me. I’m a big believer that if I get somebody who reaches out to me and says, “I’m interested in exploring this or I have a friend.” I’m always willing to give up my time to create that informational interview and help guide somebody if this is going to be the right career opportunity trajectory. I’ve been fortunate that people have done that for me. I believe you have to pay that forward. That’s fantastic advice. As for the informational interviews, you’ll find 9 times out of 10 people will say yes.
Even in my own rules, use those as an opportunity to keep an eye on where it might have an opportunity within the organization. “We got this funding and we have this need in this one area. Would that person be a fit for that?” Maybe they’d be interested. That’s great. The volunteering aspect can play into that plan too.
If it happens to be a not-for-profit, you’re able to volunteer some of your experience in a trial effort like, “Is this something I want to do or somebody I want to work for?” Perhaps that’s a foot in the door. It’s almost like an unpaid internship that takes a few hours out of your week. Especially if during this time of COVID, you’ve been impacted by the loss of a job, perhaps that’s something you might consider doing. It will add to your resume.
I know sometimes these gaps in employment can look bad and we feel like it’s a negative reflection on ourselves. You could even just take this opportunity to say, “What charities would I want to get involved with? is this an opportunity for me to think that through.” Perhaps it’s even working with Americares? I would love to offer you the floor. If there’s any question that you wish I’d asked that I haven’t yet or anything that you would like our audience to walk away from the interview thinking about. What would you have to say?
Thank you for your time. I would encourage your audience to continue to be invested in the great work that nonprofits are doing locally in your community. Take the time to get to know that, line it up with your passions, and figure out ways to get involved. The impact that you can have at a local level and at a national level cannot be understated.
I would also like to put out there that the lines between mission-driven organizations and even corporations in terms of their social impact are starting to work. If you’re in the for-profit space or the private space, take a look at what your company is doing in terms of their social impact where you can play a role in terms of furthering your company’s social impact, how you can leverage their incredible resources, and volunteer to be a part of those efforts and getting involved.
If the company that you’re working for is maybe not quite there yet, look to where you could play a role in creating social impact at the companies you work for. All of us have an opportunity to make an impact in what we do every single day. If you’re on the nonprofit side, it’s working with great donors to bring them back together. For the private side, I would highly encourage you to take a look at what your company is doing. Figure out where you can play that role and have an impact yourself.
I completely agree. It’s something I’ve taken almost every job I’ve had, even if it was just being the recycling nut that said, “Can we take all these single-use papers and turn them into notepad tablets so we can all use them?”
I would encourage everyone to think about small acts. Sometimes, it had the most transformative impact. Know that anything that you can do with space does have an impact. Think about whether that’s instituting recycling at your company, offering putting up bicycle racks so that people can lessen their reliance on cars to get to work, the things that you can do to maybe improve mental health and health impacts in self-care. All of those things will have an impact and that impact ladders up to some big transformations. We’re seeing it a lot with COVID-19. I don’t think anybody wants to go back to maybe normal, but a new normal in terms of all the impacts that we’re having on people’s lives are going to transform us for the better.
I couldn’t agree more. Stephanie, I want to thank you so much for your time. It’s been my pleasure to have you on, learn more about your path, and also everything positive that you’re doing with Americares. I’ll look forward to keeping in touch as I observe this journey and perhaps even contribute a bit of fund myself. I’ve got some meager donations I can make on an annual basis while I’m paying for grad school but I’m raising two boys.
My hats are off to you. That is extraordinary. Thank you for what you’re doing to give voice to folks like myself to share our stories so that we can all care more and be better.
Thank you. I’d like to invite our audience to act. That action could be as simple as sharing this episode with people in your community. You could even go to Americares.org and see how you might be able to get involved. To find suggestions like this, visit our action page on CareMoreBeBetter.com. There, you’ll find causes and companies that we encourage you to support.
Some of them are NGOs, not-for-profits. Others are cause partnered organizations that go ahead and put more of their profits into great social impact strategies. There, you’ll find all sorts of suggestions and I invite you to join the conversation. Be a part of the community we’re building. You can follow us on social spaces @CareMoreBeBettr and on Clubhouse and Twitter @CareMoreBeBettr. You can set us a DM on any of these platforms or an email to Hello@CareMoreBeBetter.com. Thank you now and always for being a part of this show and this community because together, we can do so much more.
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