Diabetes Diluted

Are we watering down our nonprofit effectiveness?

Michelle Alswager BioBy Michelle Alswager

April 2011 —Ten years ago when my son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, the diabetes educator came into our hospital room with a business card and said, "You should really reach out to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF)." And I did.

I met a young mother of twins; both children suffered from the disease. She helped me set myself on a path of raising funds for research and awareness for the cure. Back then I had only heard of JDRF and ADA, the two "kingpins" of the diabetes charity world. But over the years, I've been part of many other organizations and became very immersed in the realm of diabetes and sports. If you have ever met someone who likes marathons, or thinks doing an Ironman sounds like a good idea, then you also know that these people have very strong wills, insightful ideas, and the ability to run with them. I call these friends Type A Type 1's.

There's been a trend in our small community—growing every day unfortunately—to branch off and to micro-size the diabetes nonprofits out there. It makes me wonder, are we diluting ourselves out there and doing less good?

Mind you, I am just as guilty as the next person. There were a few bigger diabetes and sports organizations out there when I decided to create Triabetes under the nonprofit organization Insulindependence. Rather than start a whole new nonprofit with the same overall goals, I felt it was better to house the project under a parent organization, a great one at that. But as I stand aside, I'm watching athlete after athlete have their own ideas: Their own blogs, nonprofits, and a new mission that looks exactly like their nonprofit neighbor.

Dissatisfaction with the direction of the bigger nonprofits keeps forcing these smaller organizations to appear much like a trendy pop-up restaurant that makes great food for two weeks and then goes away. Unfortunately, in our case, it just creates confusion and a diluted community.

So now I stare at my blank page knowing darn well the editors are going to say, "Well, Michelle, do you have a solution?" What comes to mind—and again, even for myself—is to keep your egos in check, people. Not just the individual athlete or individual donor, but the huge nonprofit. Sometimes the corporate ego can be much bigger than an individual's.

We all mean well, at least I hope so. And it leaves me with words once spoken to me from a past JDRF board president in response to my ego raging about the downfalls of the national office of a "kingpin." He said, "Michelle, don't throw away the organization just because you don't like the management. Be the change." Jon Nordenberg isn't exactly Gandhi, but what the heck? It makes sense, doesn't it?

Can't we all just get along? That's my point.


dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.

Last Modified Date: July 02, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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