Announcing the appointment of Barbara Pfeiffer as our new pro bono CEO at the opening session led to a great buzz during our conference. We’ve been barraged with questions ever since. Many people anxiously approached me to find out if I am ill and if I am okay with the change. I know that in the world of nonprofits, the appointment of a CEO can signal the replacement or exit of the founder. As I have assured those who worried and asked, my health is fine and I am not planning to leave the organization anytime soon. The changes are part of a calculated and strategic plan to take FORCE to the next level. The second question I have been fielding is how I feel about the change. This is a change that I embrace; I feel as though the cavalry has arrived.
When I founded FORCE it was to fill a large gap in support and resources for people with a BRCA mutation or hereditary cancer. When I left my career as a veterinarian to run FORCE as a full-time volunteer, I made that choice based on the fact that there were many veterinarians out there, but there was only one organization for people affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Since then, I have never (or hardly ever) looked back. The first five years of FORCE I did most of the work solo with the help of other dedicated volunteers. But due to the great needs of our community and the lack of resources and support, the work soon became consuming, and at times, overwhelming. And now, having a CEO will allow me to focus on what I love and what I do best: developing programs and promoting research to benefit our community, while allowing those with a business background to handle the day-to-day aspects of running the organization.
In her welcome address, Barbara Pfeiffer said:
“To stand here today as the CEO of this amazing organization is an incredible honor for me and I want to thank Sue for providing me with this opportunity. So why do we need a CEO? Many of you in this audience have probably connected with Sue Friedman at some point. This connection might have been via an e-mail for information or a phone call to discuss support for your particular situation or a message board post looking for a research clinical trial. Sue has essentially kept the doors open and the lights on for the organization–dealing with everything from our website to our positions on critical issues facing our community.
As we have continued to grow our community needs have grown too. The need for more advocacy, education for health care providers, collaborations with researchers, AND directing research are unique and more critical than ever and it’s imperative that FORCE takes a larger role and becomes a stronger voice in these issues.”
The fact of the matter is that since Barbara came on board as a volunteer five years ago, she has gradually volunteered her way up the ranks. During that time she has helped build an incredible infrastructure and successfully expanded our volunteer programs. Behind the scenes, she has worked diligently donated her time to develop our strategic plan and assure the sustainability of the organization.
I welcome the official appointment of Barbara. Her role and her goal is to make sure that the lights stay on at FORCE. And I will do everything that I can to assure that our community continues to have a voice and place to go. As I told Barbara before the conference, at our very first staff meeting in the 12 years of our organization’s existence, “I could have been spinning my wheels for another 12 years and would never have grown FORCE to this point.” Appointing a CEO is the path to a sound and stabile organization. Barbara has my full support and I hope she has yours. The bottom line is that FORCE is bigger than me, it’s bigger than any of us, and as a community we must do all we can to assure that FORCE remains here to help and support the next generation of hereditary cancer survivors and previvors.