Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

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Giving Thanks…and Guidance

Monday, August 5, 2013 10:09 pm

As my internship at the LIVESTRONG Foundation has drawn to a close, I cannot help but look back at this summer and feel extremely thankful.

First of all, I’d like to thank the WFU Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship who made it possible for all of us to chronicle and share these amazing internship experiences.

I’d also like to thank the caring, innovative, intelligent, talented colleagues that I have been fortunate enough to work with at LIVESTRONG. These individuals have proven to be lifelong teachers. From an entrepreneurial standpoint, these people have been able to create an organization that thrives in the face of cancer. They have such amazing spirits that are truly dedicated to the cause.

The group of people I feel I have learned the most from, however, is the clients. My mentor recently shared the “numbers” with me at our weekly meeting. She said I was able to interact with 500+ clients during my time the Foundation. My jaw literally dropped when she shared that information with me. I never would have imagined being able to help so many people in such a short period of time. What an honor!

To end, I thought I would share a bit of what I wrote in a letter to the LCNC’s incoming Fall Intern. I believe these words capture my sentiments for this past summer:

“Although I may not know your personal background, I can attest to the fact that you are here because of your story. Every individual here at LIVESTRONG has one. The beauty is that even though our stories are different, they have driven us toward a unique passion. You will realize immediately that everyone here is united by that passion and that makes this place truly special.

I know that right now it may seem overwhelming, but I know you can do this. I won’t lie; working in the LCNC isn’t always easy. It will be difficult to hear the painful realities that exist for our client’s. These people, their stories, are a sobering reminder of our organizations purpose. They are also however, the reason LIVESTRONG thrives. The lessons you learn from our client’s will stay with you forever. Cherish these moments. They will not only strengthen your passion, they will make you a better person.”



Friday, July 26, 2013 5:13 pm

What does it take to be a leader? From my time at the LIVESTRONG Foundation, I would say it takes balance.

Balance. In order to successfully lead an entrepreneurial organization everyone knows you have to be willing to put forth a great deal of effort. You cannot simply expect your dream to become a reality by just sitting back and managing others. You have to be proactive and include yourself.

On the flipside, however, is that must allow the rest of your organization to follow. An organization in which employee aspirations are constantly given the chance to flourish creates not only a positive following, but also a productive one.

LIVESTRONG Foundation’s current CEO, Doug Ulman, is a stellar example of balance. This man is an entrepreneurial genius. From my desk, I’m able to watch as he makes his way through the building every day. He is wholeheartedly invested in the day to day happenings of this organization. I do not think I have ever seen him NOT in motion. This man is always moving.

What is even better, though, is that I have also been able to see the trust he puts into his fellow colleagues. He realizes their strengths and asks them all to run with him in this entrepreneurial race. No one here is just a figurehead. These people are truly dedicated to their cause of helping people affected by cancer.

For the LIVESTRONG Foundation, balance is shared success. We share success because the real success is a found by a life changed.



Embracing the Challenges

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 8:00 pm

When an organization becomes as well-known as the LIVESTRONG Foundation has become, one major challenge seems to overpower the rest. With increasing exposure, the message can get lost in the shuffle.

To the public, LIVESTRONG has become a brand that they associate with certain ideas: cancer, the yellow wristband, a certain cyclist, fitness…etc. These ideas certainly do pertain to the overall picture of the Foundation, but they do not portray it in its entirety.

I have to admit, though, that this may be the best problem to have as a NPO. Having the ability to reach an abundance of clients who truly need your services is obviously a goal for any organization. Being able to say that LIVESTRONG has reached millions of people is an astoundingly wonderful feat. My only issue with such grand outreach, however, is that I am not sure if the public really understands what work is being done.

I have found that a lot of people will proudly wear the products that promote LIVESTRONG. They may have even donated money to the cause. Unfortunately, they are unaware of the hundreds of programs and departments (discussed in my last post) that are made possible because of those donations.

I can understand the confusion. This organization literally functions in so many different areas that it is hard to designate one of them as the superior. I am not sure how exactly to ameliorate this particular situation. Honestly, if the biggest challenge is that we are doing too much good that it is confusing people…it may be a challenge worth embracing.

Embracing the challenges, sounds like LIVESTRONG to me.



Culture and Departments

Monday, July 8, 2013 9:32 pm

As I’ve explained in past posts, The LIVESTRONG Foundation functions as a family. Having a tightly-knit organization does not mean it is one that is small in its outreach, by any means.

The company is focused on several different areas of functioning, each of which aids the group as a whole. The departments are divvied up to focus on Programs, Shared Services, Development and Fundraising, Government Relations and External Affairs, and Marketing.

Within each of these five departments are several sub departments, each focusing on a specific area of expertise within that department, Navigation Services, where I intern is designated into the programs category. Other designated programs included in that department would be Advocacy and Engagement (which includes grassroots volunteering programs), International Programs (engage those abroad), Public Health/Education (empowering the cancer community), etc. Those examples are not even close to naming off the entirety of that single department’s responsibilities!

As for the other four departments, they are each equally powerful in their respective fields. The Shared Services department functions as a sort of human resources branch. This portion of the organization dedicates itself to ensuring a steady and efficient process throughout Headquarters.

Development and Fundraising, which include Team LIVESTRONG and the Major Gifts Program, is responsible for the creation of the organization’s core funding. They are able to cultivate donor relations and continue to sustain them with a never-ending stream of promotional ideas for the Foundation.

With Governmental Relations and External Affairs, as well as, the Marketing department, the connection to the community at large becomes extremely important. There is a strong focus on maintaining a positive portrayal within the cancer community (patient, doctor, and researcher), as well as, the media, which reaches a broad spectrum of the world as a whole. Marketing upcoming events to the community, as well as, the LIVESTRONG brand, creates needed revenue and exposure for the non-profit which leads to its functional success.

With a strong infrastructure within this organization, I’ve been lucky enough to gain further insight into how a non-profit, and business for that matter, becomes self-sufficient.




A History Lesson.

Monday, June 24, 2013 9:06 pm

As I have now passed the halfway-mark of this internship, I can honestly say that I feel like a true member of the LIVESTRONG family. I suppose this would be the proper time to relate the Foundation’s history for those of you who are not familiar with it. In 1996, when Lance Armstrong was first diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer, he confronted his diagnoses with the mindset of a survivor. As he took charge of the situation he was faced with, he searched for any form of useful information he could get his hands on, and fought back. In time, he beat the disease.

Upon his triumph over cancer, though, Lance came to the realization that he had a new purpose to serve, as a survivor. He made it his duty to share his story and to help others find a path through theirs. The LIVESTRONG Foundation, formerly The Lance Armstrong Foundation, was established in 1997 and has since done everything in its power to assist those affected by cancer.

Due to the widespread success of the Foundations’ campaign and fundraising efforts, the sheer number of people reached has been astounding. That’s not to say that hardships have not been faced. It is absolutely no secret that this year has been an interesting one for LIVESTRONG. From my vantage point, however, all I can see is stability.

There is a respectful understanding of the Foundation’s history. History is important; it gets you to the present. The present, though, is how we move forward into the future. The future of the LIVESTRONG Foundation remains clear to me; it is one that continues to lend an open hand and heart to all. The future will create a world full of survivors.



Grassroots Fundraising: Bringing in the dough for the NPO

Thursday, June 13, 2013 8:37 pm

This week, in the spirit of entrepreneurial networking, I will be shamelessly plugging the LIVESTRONG Foundation’s Summer Intern Fundraising Contest.

Grassroots fundraising. As the name suggests, you are starting from the ground up. In an effort to teach us the basics of fundraising, LIVESTRONG has released its interns and provided us with a platform to gain support. The guidelines are fairly simple and have allowed us to be creative. There’s even an informative video!

While grassroots fundraising may seem to be an unlikely contributor…it is actually the bread and butter of an NPO. While large fundraising efforts and big-name donors do bring in a lot of funds, the grassroots fundraising brings in the dough from the everyday community. In my opinion, you don’t want an NPO to simply be a name that is out of reach for the community it seeks to cater to. People like to feel like they can contribute. People like to be involved in the fight. So let them!

Our events are in the beginning stages of planning and our time-frame is drastically reduced (in comparison to the previous semester-long internship). Keeping this in mind, I’ve decided that the best way to begin raising support is to simply get the word out.

Make an effort to reach out to the communities around you. We are all natural-born networkers, if you find you have a passion for a cause, then share it. Whether it is approaching a contact that may seem to be a long shot, reaching out to your closest family friends, or writing a blog post directing the Wake Forest community to your donation site, the key is to make your opportunity known.

So here’s your chance, Wake Forest. While my own event is still under construction, you can help with the donation process RIGHT NOW. Check out this site for more info on how to get involved!




The LIVESTRONG Family: A Foundation

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 12:34 am

These past two weeks at The LIVESTRONG Foundation have really flown by. I find it hard to imagine myself not knowing these people. When spending time at a place like LIVESTRONG, the bonds created within the workplace are seamless. From my mentor to my fellow interns, I have found that each and every person involved in this organization not only has a story, but has one that allows them to connect to the rest of us on a deeper level.

I spoke a bit last week on the heart of LIVESTRONG being the driving force and I firmly continue to stand by that statement. Day in and day out, I am finding myself truly inspired by the work my mentor, Indira Castillo, does. She does not simply see this job as a paycheck, it’s about the people. Indira listens to the needs of each client with a willing ear and invests in their story wholeheartedly.

As proud as I am to be her intern, though, I am even more proud to say that the rest of the organization performs with the same ideals in mind. Looking into the structure of an NPO, it cannot be the same as your average profitable agency. There has to be more. I have been able to discern that at the core, there must be a) A cause that is deemed worthwhile, and b) A dedicated team that has the will to support it.

When I think of the “Foundation” part of this organization’s namesake, it seems more than fitting. The LIVESTRONG Foundation is support in its most pure form. Support, however, is not just for the cause; it is ingrained within the community of colleagues.

Even the organizations newest ambassadors, us interns, have been able to pick that up rather quickly. LIVESTRONG is everything a non-profit should be, it promotes a community of people you feel fortunate to know. These people make you a better person by their simple presence. I already find myself growing because of them.


The LIVESTRONG Foundation: Why I wear yellow.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013 8:32 pm

Cancer. The simple presence of the word changes everything.

Whenever you read that word, someone always comes to mind. You thought of that person because cancer has altered the course of their life, and maybe yours, in a dramatic way. For me, that person is my dad.

To introduce myself, I grew up in Wichita, KS with an incredibly loving family surrounding me. When I was 8 years old, my father was diagnosed with a form of eye cancer. After fighting that battle and being in remission for a few years, we thought that he was in the clear. Unfortunately, cancer is unpredictable in its nature. By the time I was 12 years old, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Today, he is cancer-free but remains disabled as a result of the tumor. His mind and memory have forever been changed by the presence of cancer, and that is a daily battle in itself.

It is for this reason that I choose to fight back.

To be honest, before I had taken the time to look at, I had a very misinformed idea of what it meant to LIVESTRONG. I knew there was an athletic aspect to the fundraising, but I had no clue where the money was going.

As my interest for the cause developed, I realized that the majority of funds are sent straight into programs that benefit those dealing with cancer. After I saw how these programs affect these people’s lives, I knew exactly where I wanted to spend my summer.

This summer, I will be interning at The LIVESTRONG Foundation. Most of my time will be spent in the LIVESTRONG Cancer Navigation Center. Here, navigators give recently diagnosed patients and their caregivers the resources they need to handle the diagnoses. From financial questions to emotional support and even fertility issues, the LIVESTRONG Foundation is able to provide each client a roadmap for life’s practical problems that unknowingly arise from cancer.

I look forward to interacting with clients and gaining insight into what goes into creating a non-profit organization and, more importantly, how it is sustained.

During this first week, I have learned that The LIVESTRONG Foundation works because of its heart. The people here are united for a common good, and because of that, the efforts they make create constant growth. I am so proud to be a part of this organization and cannot wait to see what this summer has in store for us.

Elaheh Ziglari
Wake Forest University ’14
Politics and International Affairs
Humanities and Sociology double minor

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