How would you describe your current / anticipated day-to-day role as Founding ED?
Right now, most of my time is dealing with minutia: bank accounts, donor software, Quick Books, accounting, paperwork, etc. The most exciting part of my job is finding partnerships and watching our mission turn into actual programming. But, as we all know, there is a great deal that must be taken care of behind the scenes to make sure that the work can be done. Of course, development and fundraising are always big concerns. This is a new realm for me, so I find myself thinking about fundraising for hours at a time. Asking people for money is a tricky conundrum. I find that I am getting better at accepting “no.” No means that the donor is just not connecting with your message yet, which is ok. Move on and try again.
What about your anticipated “social impact/outcomes?”
At no previous point in time in the history of civilization has the whole food, plant-based message been more important. Current health statistics in the United States are shocking. Lifestyle-related diseases such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes are associated with the deaths of roughly 1.4 million people each year. We are in the midst of a national health crisis.
Our anticipated impact goals are easily stated: The Esselstyn Family Foundation wants a future in which preventable and reversible lifestyle-related diseases are eradicated and members of the public are empowered to take control of their own health.
Measurability in Y1 and Y2 will mostly be focused on a number of partnerships and clients served. In the long term, we plan to do extensive data collection around changed attitudes about health, healthy eating, and nutrition. It is important to note that simply changing attitudes about healthy eating and whether it is possible or not can drive significant change. As well, for our partnerships that choose to engage in biometric screenings, we will collect data on cholesterol levels, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and weight.
As well, we are super excited about embedding Human-Centered Design principles into our work. That is, we plan to gather extensive feedback, via interviews and site visitations, from participants about the challenges and hurdles in their lives that prevent them from making healthy food choices. This data collection will assist us in our work and, more importantly, allow us to problem solve on a local level. We are looking into partnering with an organization that specializes in the design of health-related initiatives and measuring social impact.
Once launched, what do you envision as the main obstacles ahead for executing your nonprofit mission and how do you plan to overcome them?
I see the main obstacle as effective fundraising. We have an amazing team of educators and a compelling vision for how to meet our goals. The challenge is being able to fully articulate that to interested donors and convincing them to believe in you, especially in the early years of formation. There are a lot of non-profits out there trying to get folks to eat better. How can we differentiate ourselves and convince supporters that we are different and, in turn, worth the risk? Hopefully, our interest in collaborating (instead of competing), offering our programming for free, and human-centered approaches will resonate with donors.
As a nonprofit leader, what’s non-negotiable for you?
My non-negotiable is values. We have a rock solid set of values we have committed ourselves to from which we will not stray.
We believe in Prevention; Inclusivity; Compassion and a Spirit of Generosity; Integrity and Science; Respect and Collaboration; Active and Meaningful Engagement; and Accountability.
If we stick to these, we will be successful. The plant-based movement is evolving and there is a lot of pressure to “soften” the message (allowing for plant-based meat and dairy substitutes that are unhealthy.) Since Integrity and Science are core values for us, we are not willing to soften our message to include a “meatless Monday” or “junk vegan” approach to improving health and rescuing the planet. The science does not support incrementalism as an effective method. However, at the same time, we need to maintain Compassion and Generosity in our work. We must meet folks “where they are at” and listen to their concerns about nutritional changes. In short, we do not want to soften our message, but we do want to honor the human factor and each individual’s health journey. To me, strong values and clear mission ensure success.
How can our readers learn more about / help the Esselstyn Family Foundation?
Our website is under construction as we speak. Once that is live, people will be able to get more information and specifics about our work. Of course, I am always eager to hear from anyone and everyone interested in our work. I can be reached at [email protected]. There is a basic donor link already in place HERE.