Concept to Completion

Last week Sandy Goldstein spoke to us on her humanitarian work; her presentation was titled, quite modestly, “Conception to Completion.” Sandy’s original title, “One Person CAN Make a difference,” was suggestive of her remarkable capacity to “recognize a need, figure out a solution, and make it happen.” As per usual, Sandy’s slides are available on the Forum’s website.

If Sandy has a soundbite, it is “conceived by one, completed by many.” Sandy has conceived of projects to help Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans, refugee children in Asia and South America, homeless people on the Peninsula and in San Francisco, migrant workers in Pescadero, Hurricane victims in Haiti, Syrian refugees, and American Indians in Arizona. Her modus operandi involves the following:

Sandy conceives of a need based on her exposure to the news;

She translates the need into a project in which many individuals can each contribute in a relatively small way;

She looks for types of objects that are no longer needed by their owners (e.g., stuffed toys, books sitting unread on bookshelves), or for source materials that can be donated (e.g., yarn that is considered “overstocked” by its owners);

A prototypical project can be replicated across many individuals (e.g., many individuals can contribute books or toys, or knit scarves);

For each individual, the task can be defined as modest in scope, so as not to induce “donor fatigue.”

Each project can be advertised in local media;

Where possible, clubs and church groups, as well as individuals, are mobilized. Seniors are especially targeted during the outreach phase. (Not surprisingly, according to data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, seniors—when they volunteer—contribute many more hours than any other age grouping.) In addition, for her stuffed animal and books project, Sandy found schools on the internet, contacted teachers and principals, sent sample flyers, and collected donations at schools. Thus, her skill set includes a considerable degree of organizational savvy.

Sandy runs her operation out of her home, with virtually no monetized administrative overhead. As far as I can tell, only rarely has she spent money, and I believe that was only to get books delivered to New Orleans libraries after Hurricane Katrina. She is the linchpin of her organizations, picking up finished items at senior centers, accepting finished work and items at home and giving out yarn to volunteers, storing items in cleaned, used garbage bins that she induced her local sanitation company to donate.

Finally, Sandy organizes friends and relatives, and others as well, to help her, and benefits from a like-minded individual who in effect “just showed up” to contribute several days a week of her time, on an ongoing basis.

In Sandy’s view—one I suspect shared with many members of the Forum—her efforts have created win-win experiences for recipients, seniors, and children, as well as for Sandy and her associates. I came away from Sandy’s talk mightily impressed. Her energy, compassion, and organizational effectiveness are quite special. Is this on the scale of the Gates Foundation’s funding of research to eliminate malaria? Of course not. That’s OK. To me it is enough that Sandy identifies needs, figures out ways to help needs get met, and then “makes it happen.” Furthermore, it’s not as though she’s fighting off the Ford Foundation to get books to New Orleans. Kudos to Sandy Goldstein.

I TOTALLY agree!!!
If you want to read the whole presentation…Concept to Completion.