The Keys To Founding A Successful Non-Profit: Having A Heart

What's the secret ingredient for starting, growing, and prospering as a successful non-profit? Recently, I sat down with Michelle Javian, co-founder of Harboring Hearts, a non-profit dedicated to easing the financial and emotional burdens placed on families who are impacted by cardiac disease. We discussed the lessons learned from founding a non-profit from scratch, and together we've outlined the main factors required for success:

1. Tell a personal story. Having a personal connection to the non-profit you support is crucial. You must be able to tell a story that invites your audience and potential sponsors in. At the same time, you want your current and prospective members to feel an urgency to join your organization in hopes to enhance the overall mission and vision.

As Michelle spent two years by her father's side while he battled cardiac disease, she witnessed the lack of refuge and community support for cardiac patients and their families. After her father passed away in 2008, she was inspired to co-found Harboring Hearts with Yuki Kotani. Harboring Hearts is currently the only nonprofit organization specifically dedicated to providing affordable, short-term housing for the cardiac patients and their families that travel to New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area for lifesaving medical treatment. In addition to sharing Michelle's personal story, Harboring Hearts is committed to sharing the stories of families they've helped along the way.

2. Be Passionate. Having a passion about a particular cause makes the non-profit
experience much more valuable. You must be willing to give up a great deal of your free time, so you want to make sure you truly believe in everything the non-profit stands for.

For Michelle, her passion was sparked after she realized that the combination of costly surgeries coupled with the tremendous emotional burden that parents and caregivers face, is enough to drive families into despair. After what Michelle experienced, she was driven to help provide a sense of community amongst patients and families and find ways to alleviate financial and emotional stress, so they can focus on their own health and healing.

3. Keep your eyes open for partners. There are always people, groups, and organizations that are willing to donate their money to a good cause. Networking
and promoting your non-profit through social media and other efforts will help you gain exposure and credibility, and essentially help you identify more donors and sponsorships down the road.

Harboring Hearts is currently affiliated with world-renowned hospitals that have expertise in treating serious heart conditions, including: NewYork-Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center, Montefiore Medical Center, Mount Sinai Hospital, and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. In addition to the social workers they work closely with, they've found that many physicians also want to do all they can to help patients and their families. As a result, by establishing such a strong backing from the medical community, sponsors and donors have proven to be an essential part of Harboring Hearts, helping to facilitate their programs through grants, donations, corporate contributions, in-kind donations and volunteering.

4. Don't forget the women. At ghg, we've learned through research that women
are responsible for making the majority of healthcare decisions for their families. Michelle remarked that at Harboring Hearts, the wives are most often responsible for seeking help from Harboring Hearts. What's more, a study reported in The Chronicle of Philanthropy revealed that women at every income level give to charity more often than men do--and they tend to donate more money on average than their male counterparts. In addition, let's not forget that since 1984, more women than men have died of heart disease each year. By paying attention to women, Harboring Hearts avoids missing out not only on worthy recipients of their assistance, but also a huge audience of potential donors and decision makers.

About Harboring Hearts: Since 2009, Harboring Hearts has helped cover more than $500,000 in services for families. The group also hosts roughly 12 community events a year, where recipient families can connect with each other. Nearly 3,800 people have participated in the events.

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