Beginning with the End in Mind – Advice for Non-Profit Professionals from Mindy Derr

One must begin with the end in mind.

This is my most consistent advice for professionals seeking to build a career in the non-profit space. Ask yourself: How do organizational leaders perceive their legacy in the role of leadership? What is the Executive’s  mission, vision and plan for perpetuity?

I founded Fore Hope, Inc. in 1989 for my father, Guy. Fore Hope was a small grassroots non-profit organization utilizing golf as an instrument for health recovery. My dad became ill shortly after retirement and his spirit was crushed. Dad was an avid and proficient golfer.

His aptitude and love of the game have carried over into our family heritage. The Derr family is known for golf!

After my service with the Boy Scouts of America in northern Ohio, I decided to start Fore Hope with a focus on therapeutic golf for those with chronic health conditions and disabilities.

Thousands have been served in the 32 + years since our founding and that continues today. Fore Hope was absorbed by the OhioHealth Healthcare System in Columbus, Ohio in 2017. Fore Hope was the first ever grassroots therapy golf program…originating on a card table, to travel among the ranks of a nationally recognized golf program. Fore Hope now resides within the OhioHealth Neuroscience Center for Wellness.

Giving up “my child” (Fore Hope) was not easy. However, as discussions ensued with OhioHealth, I felt the comfort of knowing that our organization would go on, serve more people and keep alive my dad’s legacy. Fore Hope had a niche and remained true to the mission of therapeutic golf. Fortunately, OhioHealth recognized the value of our services, unique offerings and that our organization was an appropriate fit for their wellness programs.

Fore Hope became a new family within OhioHealth and the “start over” within a healthcare system was daunting but exciting as well. Today, I remain an Advisor to OhioHealth Fore Hope.

Populations served throughout our Fore Hope history were those aging and with brain injury, cancer, MS, Parkinson’s, stroke and other injuries and illnesses. Golf is magic and improves balance, cognition, mobility, self-confidence, and fosters socialization. The joy that comes with hitting a little white ball is incredible as one focuses on the accomplishment and not the deficits in his/her life. Golf is a validated tool for Recreation Therapy and improves quality of life!

I know first-hand how illness can change one’s life. My recent diagnosis of MS was difficult to comprehend and yet, knowing that I could walk and play golf again gave me the much needed HOPE to move forward each day.

Over the years, Fore Hope provided services to adult day care and assisted living centers, inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation settings, Recreation and Parks and schools. Fore Hope offered outdoor programs at local golf courses, golf ranges and putting areas. Our estimate is that 10,000 persons have been a part of Fore Hope programs along with care partners and families.

Lessons in Leadership from Originating a Non-Profit

I have learned so much over the years with Fore Hope and would like to share a little bit about the “secret sauce” of operations and delivery in a non-profit world. Leadership must be that…lead by example and have the ignited passion that excites those around you…your staff, board, investors and your clients. One must be a risk taker, and yet be a “quantified risker.”

Non-Profit leadership must have the ability to see the big picture and yet be effective in detail. Community trust arrives through exemplary services and brand recognition. Validation of the wonderful work of the organization is necessary and begets resources that encourage growth and wider community outreach. Funding for programs arrives in a myriad of ways, but the  best way in my opinion, is the awareness of mission need, connection to services provided, and the involvement of potential investors. Investors/donors want to realize their gifts make a difference in transforming lives, hence, the reason for being.

The view from 30,000 feet?

Fore Hope began with the end in mind and we reached for the stars. We shared the big picture and built consensus among the masses.  Fore Hope staff and board searched for those

like-minded partners to forward the mission and continue to serve. Mission perpetuity, like OhioHealth Fore Hope as a stellar example, transcends all the struggles and ultimately

“gives back” to those who invested over the years. Our organization wanted the public to see, feel and know, that this journey of non-profit impact prevails and continues to enhance community wellness.

Remember, without cause, there would be not effect. One’s legacy as a leader, is one withstanding.

 

Melinda “Mindy” Derr
Ohio State Alumna,  Class of 1981
Founder and Advisor – OhioHealth Fore Hope