3 weeks in, a Big Vision and a Shoestring Budget

3 weeks in, a Big Vision and a Shoestring Budget

3 Weeks in, a Big Vision and a Shoestring Budget 

It has been 3 weeks since I accepted the position as CEO at the Cancer Alliance Network, but it seems that the intensity of drinking through a firehose has not really diminished yet. Some would say, “welcome to the world of non-profits where you and your staff have to wear many hats and nearly do the impossible on a monthly basis.” Some would even say this is normal, but when you come from a background in wealth management and financial services, thoughts on money are a bit skewed, it can be a revelation. 

Getting my bearings and lay of the land has been an exciting, yet interesting experience so far. There is the current state of the organization and the envisioned ideal of where we would like to go. In other words, there are several items that must be addressed to get on the path to where CAN wants to go. Some things fall under administrative, others under technology and a few that are intangible.  

I have been involved in supporting many nonprofit organizations with talent and treasure during the last 10 years and there are usual challenges faced by many of them. Financial limitations, limited staff, need for more funding and the “It” Factor that separates them from the rest of the pack. One of the often-overlooked items is purpose, or the why

I would argue that any organization’s why is the singular most crucial factor that will dictate the potential trajectory of the organization’s culture and growth. This is the key concept driving companies such as Apple, Ferrari, and Starbucks. They have successfully transitioned from marketing what and how they create their innovative and respective products but have touched on why they exist. They emote a passion for what they offer and their focus on why they do things the way they do have created loyal followers and clients.  

Our why is on display wherever you look in our community. At least, it is in the realm of probability. I will explain. According to statistics from the National Cancer Society, 1 of every 3 people will be diagnosed with cancer. That makes for 7,500 people within Collier and Lee County this year. How many of those affected are essential members within the tapestry of our community? Some may be electricians, teachers, musicians, community leaders, landscapers, baristas, or those that work in construction or hospitality. The point is CAN is here to support and serve as a resource for those that need help with the most essential necessities. Our why is clear and non-negotiable. Our belief is that we can make a strong enough impact on the people we help that it can change the future generations of those we serve. 

It is the cornerstone of what we do. Whether it is leading an organization or working in an individual role, blue or white collar. Our why should be what drives us to make a difference in the lives of those we serve. It is the intangible force multiplier that gives an edge over your competitors or differentiates you from the masses.  

My mind tells me that the Cancer Alliance Network helps children and adults battling cancer in Collier and Lee Counties by providing direct non-medical financial assistance that helps them keep the lights on at home or food on the table. My heart on the other hand tells me that what we do is help preserve the human dignity of families that are facing some of the most difficult moments in life. We act as a local safety net and resource to those who are at the highest risk of losing it all. This still does not really answer why we do what we do. 

I believe the why behind what CAN does within our community is distilled down to this. We love the people in our community so we decided that we can make a positive impact by becoming the Neighbors that help neighbors battling cancer. We believe people are the most important aspect of a great, vibrant community we want to live in. 

Does this mean that we, like many other non-profit organizations, do not have challenges like funding, staffing, and growth? No. What it means is that although those challenges exist, we at the Cancer Alliance Network are certain about why we exist and have decided that it is worth overcoming any challenge to stay true to our mission of neighbors helping neighbors.  


Neftali Feliciano


Cancer Alliance Network 

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