The Fiddlehead Foundation
For 20 years now, Dr. Chuck and I have been interested observers, as many of our patients transition through different stages of life and work. Recently, we are astounded by how the economy has left such a huge number of college graduates without a job or firm plan. We also notice a growing restlessness in our patients who have finished raising their families. Another group that amazes us with their energy, are those who have reached retirement age with time and interest in "giving back" in some way.
These three groups - recent graduates, empty-nesters, and retirees - are filled with individuals ready to branch out into new territory and willing to "give back" in some way. But as far as we can tell, there are no organizations that specialize in cimply connecting people, of any age, toward well-established, important, and trustworthy causes.
With currently available options, it would be a completely random process for an individual to come upon a "cause" that they could be passionate about. The Fiddlehead Foundation was born of this need to have a "connector" organization.
In short, many people have the best intentions - they can and would "give back" - but we believe they just don't know how to get started in a phase of service to others. There is a lot of hype and scamming in this area, and even if one could get started on this kind of life adventure, how would you know who to trust?
That's where our organization will come in.... The Fiddlehead Foundation will have a unique mission. Simply put: We will connect people with gifts, to a world of need.
With that in mind, the Fiddlehead Foundation will basically do two things:
- We will develop a highly varied list of “recommended” charitable organizations that Dr. Chuck and I have personally, extensively researched for authenticity, results and sound practices. We will have stood on the ground where they are working,... spent extensive time with their founders/leaders, ..and we will have personal experience with the people and places they are trying to serve. (See the menu bar at left for Charities we are currently studying)
- We will work in a comprehensive, personal way with individuals and organizations to help them connect with each other according to the "giver's"specific life experiences, interests, professional skills or education and the charitable organizations' specific needs.
The “giving back” may take one of three forms:
1. Some people may be simply looking for a way to give financial support to a trustworthy organization.
2. Some people may want to donate their time and/or professional skills by assisting the charity’s efforts by remote means, through cyberspace.
3. Some people may want to journey to far-off lands to help in a hands-on way, for short or long periods of time.In any case, we will partner with organizations that can offer all these avenues to people and expand our reach with every passing year to include more and more well-researched organizations.
We will choose our various referral organizations with an eye towards being able to offer our "givers" a broad range of subjects areas and ways to help. Eventually, we hope to offer connections with organizations that are trying to make a difference in areas like healthcare, education, orphanages, the environment, micro-lending, animal welfare, peace, sustainable agriculture, etc.. etc...
(In fact, if you know of a fabulous organization that we should look into, please email us! Our best organizations will come from personal referrals.)
Currently, we are in the initial stages of forming the Foundation.
Chuck and I are traveling extensively in order to research possible organizations and partnerships. We are eager for feedback and insights. If you have some thoughts on this, we would enjoy hearing from you. Until our website for the foundation is ready, you can reach me at email@example.com.
THE FOUR PREMISES THAT WILL GUIDE HOW WE SELECT OUR REFERRAL NON-PROFITS:
1. The Fiddlehead Foundation will only work with organizations that can offer our “givers” a deep connection through a personalized approach.
Sadly, our research so far has found this to be rather rare. Many organizations outgrow their ability (and interest) in maintaining truly meaningful lines of connection with their individual donors. In their race to the finish line, they seem to forget where they started. But this is important. Chuck and I start from the premise that long-term change is only possible when the giving is as much of a gift to the giver as it is to the receiver. Most good organizations start this way - with a committed individual or small group who personally connected with others so well that EVERYONE involved felt like they were an important part of something bigger then themselves. In this phase the outreach expands exponentially. Unfortunately, as organizations grow, their “system” and “policies” usually become their undoing by making their donors feel like a faceless number. In our search for organizations, this has been a startlingly common finding. The key is usually good, visionary leadership that puts people before process – a rare find,... but we will find them.
2. We will only work with organizations that prove to have a track record of good leadership and an energized “corporate culture”.
An organization that changes directors frequently, or cannot maintain a motivated staff will not be a stable place for our givers to commit to. That’s why Dr. Chuck and I will have to actually visit the principals and headquarters of far off organizations before we can truly endorse them. We will meet most, if not all of their staff members. Talk to them privately to understand the dynamics of the team. After 22 years in our field, if nothing else, we understand almost every nuance of team-building. The best way to assess a leader is to spend time with people who are following them.
3. We will choose organizations that can prove financial efficiency and a very high degree of project effectiveness.
In this day of frauds and corporate excess, no one really knows who they can trust anymore. We will do our homework about an organizations’ effectiveness so our givers can trust that their time, money or efforts are well placed. Chuck and I will personally work with these organization to be able to vouch for their fiscal soundness and responsibility.
4. We will only work with organizations whose mission has short-term as well as long-term implications for social improvement.
Their mission must be more than a “response” to immediate needs. They must have some part of their strategic planning that includes strong long-term, proactive solutions to the challenges they are addressing.
If you want to learn more of about the background on this vision…
When Dr. Chuck and I were about to graduate from Dental School in 1987 we did not plan to practice as typical general dentists. We had lived abroad after college (Dr. Chuck played professional basketball in Spain) and we had decided that a global life was the one for us.
We carry both U.S. and Irish passports so we applied for dental positions with over 200 of the world’s dental related non-profit organizations. Basically, we offered our skills if the organizations could minimally cover our student loan debts. [Applying to 200 groups was no small feat in the late 1980’s. This was before computers, cell phones and the Internet. Google and email did not exist. All our inquiries were typed on a typewriter or hand written, and I can’t even remember how we found the addresses to all these groups. I still have the notebook we kept of our “mimeographed” copies of the letters. ]
Unfortunately, the only organizations able to accept our offer were 2 that were in the most dangerous places in the world at that time: Cameroon West Africa, and Afghanistan (during the Soviet conquest there). We declined both, moved to Italy to practice with an Italian colleague for a time, and eventually came back to the states to make a “normal” professional life for ourselves.
But we never lost the dream of working in a meaningful, global way. And now it seems we have taught our children to think of themselves as global citizens and stewards. We have 3 children who are very fortunate, well-traveled youth. Our oldest - Liesl, who is age 17 - is in the process of applying to some of the best universities in the world in hopes of studying Global Affairs and Behavioral Economics. She tells us that one day she wants to be prepared to lead an organization like ours. And well she might. Our children have certainly seen us studying this from all angles, reading voraciously, meeting people, following leads, and they have already spent time in some of the organizations abroad that we will serve.
It's been many years now that Dr. Chuck and I (Dr. Lynda) have been interested in the growing abundance of organizations that do good works in the service of others who are less fortunate. You only have to google "volunteer opportunities" to see the thousands of non-profits and foundations that work to improve the quality of life for people, animals and the environment all over the world. This speaks very well for the prospects of humanity. (Did you know there were 1.7 million "non-profits" in the US alone!?)
The whole gang in a pile at the SOS village in Ecuador. These kids were amazingly generous and instantly open and loving. They just stuck like glue to Dr. Chuck. These kids don't have many men in their lives, so Dr. Chuck's natural warmth was like a magnet to them. We took Frisbees and medical supplies. They thought that was all very nice, but were delightfully eager to teach us some "real" soccer. It was hilarious!.. At 10,000 feet, Quito Ecuador is not an easy transition for us flat-landers. When we took 3 steps, we were out of breath. Too Funny! We certainly must have looked like the poster children for "couch potato do-gooders". ha!
While our own drive to "give back" has grown, we have also become aware of a growing sense of urgency among others: Fortunate and skilled college grads, parents who are finished with raising children, and retirement-age people. There are three things at work here:
1. Given the current economy, we see a generation of graduates that have little prospect for immediate employment. Many are fortunate to come from families that will support them while they take on some meaningful period of "work/adventure". We applaud the fortunate families that would support a young person who is willing to get out in the world and gain experience through working for a cause. It would probably be life-changing, and most certainly it would make for a "stand-out" addition to the resume!
2. We see a great number of people who have successfully raised their children, and want to continue an active life in the service of something outside themselves. Organizations like "The Red Hat Society", The Peace Corps, United Way, and Rotary, etc... are positioned to enjoy a surge in public interest, but many "mid-lifers" will not be satisfied with those particular networks. (To be sure,.. The surge in the popularity of "Facebooking" is a natural indicator of how desperately people want to connect with others.)
3. We see up-coming retirees who may not be satisfied with the same kind of retirement that their parents aspired to. There is a coming generation who may want to remain active, giving back to a world where they found opportunity, education and good health for themselves. Dr. Chuck and I are 50 years old. We know our peers and many in the generation just above us- around age 60 to 65 - are not aspiring to spend 5 days a week in a golf cart. Many will want to stay involved and challenged for much of their retirement years.
How do we know this?... Remember; we have a fairly unique vantage point as dentists… It's a strange thing you probably haven't considered... Essentially, Dr. Chuck and I get to sit and chat, in-depth, for an hour or so with 20 to 30 people every week of our work life. I can't think of another profession that has this kind opportunity.
Now it's fair to say here that we are probably not giving people the "typical" dental experience.... We LOVE every minute with the people we see and several times each day a patient will sit up after an appointment and say something like "Hey!... That was just like having coffee with a friend!" And for us, it usually is too. We talk about everything under the sun, but our conversations tend to gravitate to shared insights about philosophy, people’s goals, their hobbies and interests. It really does give us a strange sort of “finger on the pulse” of our culture.
We are also interested in the growing popularity of books about "giving", "deeper meaning" or service to others. Oh,.. there is still room for Harry Potter and Twilight,.. but the proof is on the best seller list with the extended popularity of books like: Three Cups of Tea, (and now Stones to Schools), Banker to the Poor, Outliers, The Last Lecture. This week when I checked the NY Times best seller list for Non-Fiction, 12 of the top 20 best sellers were books related to serving others or examining the meaning of life in some way. Bottom-line: More and more, we see a tipping point emerging. Many people are realizing that their search for fulfillment may lie in finding a way that their life’s journey can include a period of meaningful giving.
We have also noticed a kind of "restlessness" in many new college grads, parents, and retired folks who were accustomed to being busy students, homemakers or professionals. Many express a longing to find some way to give meaning to another potentially rewarding stage of their lives.
Our meeting with a Wildlife Rehabilitation Team in South Africa
But where to start? How do you find a good match for your specific skills and interests? How do you know if a specific non-profit or service organization is legitimate? How do you find a cause or an organization that they can deeply connect with? Many of us have the best of intentions, but never act on them for lack of a pathway.
Initially, Dr. Chuck and I thought our calling someday would be to do dentistry in the back waters of the world. We have traveled the globe extensively since the age of twenty. There is a lot of suffering and unmet need out there for our particular professional expertise.
But the more we spoke to others about this concept of "giving back", the more we realized that a lot of people share our interest in finding a meaningful philanthropic endeavor, they just don't know where or how to start.
Our path became clearer with every conversation and our calling emerged: We need to lead an organization that will fill the void that exists between the person with the gift and those with the need. It is the perfect fit for our greatest gifts: Chuck and I are both "connectors" and discriminating "mavens": We have never met a stranger, and we are like the town criers when we find something to sing about. We get excited when we find something that stands out as truly unique and we can get others excited. Dr. Chuck could befriend anything from a soap dish to a Scoundrel. He’s very warm and magnetic. I am visionary, driven, and meticulous about detail and communication. It's been a good combination for leading our team of 14, and providing care for more than 4000 patients. Relationship- building has been the foundation of our success with our practice for 20 years. We will bring these same gifts to this wider endeavor.
The Fiddlehead Foundation has a very specific mission. If there is a reliable and user-friendly establishment that does this already, we have been unable to find it. If you know of one, please let us know so we can research its effectiveness.
Thanks for taking the time to learn about this endeavor. We’d love to hear from you. Again, until our foundation’s website is finished, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .