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CoMO's Buddy System: A Member's Perspective

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

26 September 2017

“…And it gives the wrong impression that we can do it all alone. None of us can. The whole concept of the self made man or woman is a myth.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger, University of Houston Commencement Speech May 12, 2017.

Not many people would put the, “Terminator,” into the grouping of, “wonderful comments about nonprofit management,” but this article aims to do just that. On May 12 2017, Arnold addressed the graduating class of the University of Houston with the above remark. His speech focused on the importance of needing and appreciating the help and support of others. It is easy to see how this simple piece of advice could be applied to individuals - after all, we have all received help at some point in time. But it is the assertion of this non-profit executive that as leaders we must all apply this mentality to our organizations.

In every interaction we have on behalf of the organization we represent, we should be looking at those moments for the potential to grow in some way.

Be it criticism from an outside source, the knowledge of a medical professional, or the praise of your work; behind each statement lies an opportunity to learn, grow, and develop. However, it can be hard to consistently identify and implement these moments into our organizations and thus we often seek formal partnerships, arrangements, or other mutually beneficial relationships that allow all parties involved to grow or continue the work of their individual mission.

(Mutually beneficial relationships in nature: when oxpeckers feed off the lice found on a zebra's back, the Oxpecker gets dinner, and the Zebra stays clean and itch-free!)

For myself, I spend approximately half of my time as the Executive Director for the Mollaret’s Meningitis Association looking through my contacts, conducting various Google searches and using other forms of interaction to identify and flesh out what a beneficial relationship could look like between my organization and other organizations or individuals. The underlying importance of this can be unclear until you apply this principle to experiences we have all had as individuals. For each and every member of CoMO, we all had tremendous help to get where we are as individuals. There was a moment in time where all of us couldn’t do anything for ourselves. Our caregivers had to teach us to eat, to walk, to talk and to do every other little thing that we now only think of as second nature.

As leaders, we must consistently apply these same concepts to how we go about growing our organizations. Some of us, like myself and the Mollaret’s Meningitis Association, are in our infancy stages. We must learn how to develop ourselves, how to obtain and keep volunteers. Others are in their teenage stage. While you understand the basics, it is still a challenge to figure out exactly who you are and how you fit in this ever growing and complex world. And finally, those organizations who are in their mature stages looking to find new ways to develop their image and continue to make even larger impacts. Each of these life cycles look to others for ways to reach their next stage and their next accomplishment.

CoMO, the Confederation of Meningitis Organizations, addressed this need for mentoring and development quickly and with grace. As the Executive Director at the Mollaret’s Meningitis Association I was happily, and very luckily, placed into a partnership with the Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada.

(The Global Conference 2015 – the place where CoMO collaborations and partnerships come to life!)

The continued conversation, interaction and partnership with Greg Hum and his team has allowed myself as a budding nonprofit executive to talk with a matured organization on all matters ranging from Board of Directors Strategy, acquisition of Medical Advisory Board Members, and varying other topics that have tremendous impacts on the foundational nature that comes with any startup nonprofit. But these relationships do not need to stop at the pairing of mature and newly formed nonprofits. The communication between two nonprofits at the same lifecycle stage can allow for collective brainstorming and situational resolution that is more effective due to the third-party perspective.

Even beyond formal partnerships, the CoMO regional calls allow for multiple organizations to provide insight on topics that can face any organization at any stage. It is important for leaders, new or experienced, to allow the input of others to be heard and analyzed to ensure we are thinking in the most innovative and strategically sound way possible. You never know who you could help with a simple statement of how you look at an obstacle. Your organization is facing similar obstacles as others, both new and experienced. Provide your insight, ask questions. Use the tools provided to you through partnerships, alliances and memberships.

We owe it to those we help to never stop finding a new way to improve!

“Remember that your goal is to find the best answer; not to give the best one you have.” –Ray Dalio

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Mollaret's Meningitis Association is a non-profit, international member organization created by and for sufferers of mollaret’s meningitis. Their goals are to provide quality information about the disease, support to those suffering from mollaret's meningitis, and to provide outreach and advocacy to raise awareness of the disease.

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