Build It Right, Right from the Start. Have a vision 3 years out and think about the software, tools website, and team you will need to grow and expand. Take the time to research the newest approaches and study the nonprofits that are growing the fastest and learn what they are doing. We selected a CRM, donation engine and website platform that would expand and scale as we grow. It needed to be easily updated and always look current and professional.
Aspart of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bob Shaw.
Bob is an advocate of motivational self-improvement, and a passionate technology leader. He is the proud husband of Deb for 33 years and her teammate in the start-up of Champion the Challenges. He is a former President and CEO of a private network and security access company that was successfully acquired in 2013. He is a keynote speaker and executive coach for start-ups and high growth public companies.
Thank you so much for doing this with us. Before we begin our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?
Igrew up in Pennsylvania and spent most of my career in California’s Silicon Valley as an entrepreneur in the technology and IT networking space. This provided the opportunity for me to travel the world, averaging 300,000 air miles a year, and work with a diverse set of global cultures and teams. This resulted in building and growing a private technology company with many of the largest businesses around the globe as customers. We had a successful exit from the world of technology and now Deb, my wife of 34 years, and I have been focused on creating a global foundation serving stroke survivors. We enjoy two wired hair fox terriers who make our home special and smile every day.
Can you tell us the story behind why you decided to start your nonprofit?
Deb survived three strokes over the 2016–2019 time period, and we quickly became immersed in the world of medicine and rehabilitation. We made many amazing discoveries. We quickly determined there was a big need to reimagine the way rehabilitation is conducted in the world, and our focus started on stroke rehabilitation to show success.
We researched and reviewed what was working and areas of improvement within the healthcare and rehabilitation system that Deb experienced. While she is still in rehabilitation and our research is ongoing and growing, we have learned a lot in a short period. We spoke with doctors, therapists, caregivers, spouses, and technology companies inventing products for stroke survivors. We reviewed over 300 rehabilitation websites, purchased and read 50-plus stroke-related books, and reviewed existing nonprofits in the world of stroke. Additionally, we tried every type of stroke rehabilitation therapy we could find, investing 4–5 hours a day, 6 days a week using them. These included such experiences as healthcare virtual reality (VR), cranial-acupuncture, quantum neurology, water therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), acupressure therapy, traditional OT and PT, etc. The bottom line is we determined that there are a great set of therapies available. Yet, there is a wide gap we could help fill by connecting the survivors, therapists, families, and caregivers to all the available therapies since most were unaware they existed.
Can you describe how you or your organization aims to make a significant social impact?
The data is discouraging when you understand the facts behind stroke rehabilitation. The national average is that out of 24 rehabilitation sessions covered by most major medical insurance, survivors typically only attend 7–9 and then stop for many reasons. This can include loss of interest, perceived lack of progress, no support structure, a disconnect with the therapist, transportation issues, and so on. Additionally, there are many types of rehabilitation technologies and methods that many survivors never experience because they simply aren’t aware of them. We also uncovered the fact that many spouses, caregivers, families, friends, and colleagues, who are critical members of the rehabilitation process, are not sure how to stay engaged with the survivor’s rehabilitation. As a result of all these needs, “Champion the Challenges” has reimagined the stroke rehabilitation world. We created a website and movement that starts to bring all of the missing pieces together. One location everyone can visit and see some of the many options they might explore on their healing journey. For example, there is a lot of rehabilitation that can take place at home between therapy sessions, yet it is an untapped opportunity. We created several quick-read booklets that spouses, family members, caregivers, and friends can work on with survivors to help them continue to stay engaged in improving. Additionally, there are breakthrough technologies such as Healthcare Virtual Reality (VR) for stroke survivors that very few survivors or therapists are aware of, yet we found it to be effective for Deb on her journey. These are just a few examples of how we are bringing the level of awareness to these therapies providing access to the newest and innovative ways to reimagine the stroke rehabilitation journey.
Without saying any names, can you share a story about an individual who was helped by your idea so far?
We just received amazing feedback from one of the local stroke centers in northern California that made our nonprofit available to their survivors, therapists, and caregivers. They provided the following quotes and feedback:
“We have never seen such an inspiring set of booklets and stories that family members can share with survivors.” We feel like someone really understands what we need to keep motivated and going!” “Champion the Challenges” really gets what stroke survivors need. They offer positive ideas, inspiration, and action that I can take right now, today! –Stroke Rehabilitation Therapist
“We were not aware that cranial acupuncture was even a therapy that existed. We are now exploring it and we are excited to continue our therapy. Thank you “Champion the Challenges.” — 2020 Stroke Survivor
“Deb’s videos, positive attitude, and inspiring ideas are things I practice at home and look forward to what she is coming out with next. “Champion the Challenges” is my daily motivation to keep pushing forward.” — 2021 Stroke Survivor
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- Start a Company Champion Program, this relates to an innovative way to educate society and make more of the population aware of the early warning signs of a stroke. The idea centers around including a short 10-minute health educational program for employees in business as part of their normal onboarding when they join, and then a quick annual check-up. You could provide them with snappy educational sessions on the early warning signs of a stroke and that they simply need to be a “Champion” and call 911. It will be a benefit to the business and the employees can use it in their personal lives with family and friends, as well as with business colleagues or customers. Just like most employees receive CPR training and other programs, this could be added as part of a short health segment. You could also have famous people that have survived a stroke be “Champion the Challenges Figures” (e.g. Sharon Stone, Olympian- Michael Johnson, Randy Travis, Deb Shaw, etc.) of the program for awareness that a stroke can impact anyone, anytime.
- Be a Congressional Champion, this relates to an innovative way to have each congressional leader be a champion of a national cause that the country is working to minimize. This would be a cause they feel passionate about that they become the point person for the nonprofits and those that need help or guidance. This would help bring awareness, and I believe, keep a positive feel-good relationship with elected officials and their constituents. Stroke awareness and education could be one of many causes that this idea could benefit from.
- Be a Champion, Give Me a Ride. This idea addresses the fact that many stroke survivors can’t get a ride or transportation to rehabilitation sessions. Either the vouchers they are given are too few, or in many cases, they need to wait 1–2 hours for the right public transportation. So, they simply decide that therapy isn’t worth it. This idea would encourage Uber, Lyft, and other private and public companies to offer hassle-free transportation to stroke survivors for therapy and doctor appointments as a quick, service-oriented way — free of charge.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Inspiring and motivating a team of people to passionately work toward a common goal. As a leader, you need to balance the skill sets or hats you wear to keep the team engaged and passionate depending on what they need at the time. I have found that having a balance between being a coach, cheerleader, mentor, and teacher can help the team achieve their goals. The best outcomes are achieved when the team can say “look what we accomplished!” You can smile and thank them as their leader.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 things a person should know before they decide to start a nonprofit”. Please share a story or example for each.
- Relentless Passion Is Necessary, like everything great in life and the world, it doesn’t always come easy, and a nonprofit is no exception. When things get difficult or tough, you need to have a relentless passion to drive forward, so nothing gets in your way or causes you to consider changing your mind. For example, just getting the nonprofit 501(c)3 approval can take 6–12 months, and the necessary paperwork and details require a clear focus and insight.
- It’s a Start-Up, plain and simple, you are starting a business. Other than the fact it is a nonprofit, everything else is exactly the same. You need some seed money to get going. You have to be resourceful, creative, team-oriented, and entrepreneurial to build your dream and keep it going and growing.
- Branding Is Critical, you can have the greatest ideas and intentions in the world, but if you can’t market it and build momentum, it makes it hard to achieve your goals and desires.
- Build It Right, Right from the Start, have a vision 3 years out and think about the software, tools website, and team you will need to grow and expand. Take the time to research the newest approaches and study the nonprofits that are growing the fastest and learn what they are doing. We selected a CRM, donation engine and website platform that would expand and scale as we grow. It needed to be easily updated and always look current and professional.
- Think Big, Different & Ask for Help, you will sometimes be surprised how willing people will be in helping you succeed if you paint a big picture of where you are going and ask them to help. Sometimes life just comes down to asking for what you want. We have been building a team of experts and industry leaders as company advisors and friends who want to see our nonprofit positively impact the world of stroke.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your nonprofit? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he’s a CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, and Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at the Emory University School of Medicine. I’m reading his book “Keep Sharp” Build a Better Brain at Any Age. Dr. Gupta says we are equipped with the technology to rewire and physically reshape our brains. “Neuroplasticity & Neurogenesis.” What you choose to focus your attention on rewires the brain from a structural and functional perspective. Stroke survivors as well as everyone will benefit from reading his book. This is what we all need to read and do to “Keep Sharp” as we all age, no matter what the challenge or disability. The brain is the driving force of all of us!
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson” Quote? How is that relevant to you in your life?
“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve” — Napoleon Hill
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success in your mission.
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