Wednesday, July 25, 2007

4/28/2007: Make a Difference to One

The story is told of a man walking along a beach the morning after a storm had passed through. The sand was littered with starfish that had been washed ashore. Down the beach he noticed a young boy picking up starfish and throwing them into the water. As he approached, he asked what he was doing. The boy didn’t hesitate as he explained that the sun was coming up and it would kill the starfish if they didn’t get back into the ocean. The man laughed and said, “There are thousands of starfish on miles of beach, you can’t possibly make a difference.” As the boy picked up another starfish and threw it back into the ocean he said, “Made a difference to that one.” -- Adapted from “The Star Thrower” by Loren Eiseley

Non-profit and cause-driven organizations operate under a type of starfish principle. They know they can’t fix all the problems in the world, but most do their best, with what they have, to help as many people as they can. Are starfish left on the beach?



Charitable organizations have three main objectives, raising money for their causes, telling their stories, and recognizing their donors and sponsors. Management and operations for nonprofits today is made more complex because of the sheer competition for the philanthropic dollar. More than ever, focus and adherence to the core mission is demanded. Following that principle: staying connected to and cultivation of the "base" or "core" donors is paramount. While some organizational donors (like foundations and corporations) are shared by neighboring nonprofits, every charity has a population that is unique to its cause. For hospitals, that population has become known as the "grateful patients." Today, it is possible that patients need and utilize more than one hospital in the course of their care. However, for a variety of reasons there is probably one hospital that is top of mind: possibly the hospital closest to home.

This explains why community is so important. Nothing that a nonprofit accomplishes can be possible without a connection to community.

"America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." Alexis de Tocqueville

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