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HI Mark, What do I want your help with & why? I would appreciate any guidance you could offer on starting a not-for-profit organisation that will focus on dealing with child /adolescent bereavement. It is my hope that there can be a service/ support network that a child/ parent or friend can access and reach out to directly. From my own personal experience, unfortunately, it became apparent that there are so many of us that do not have the support required during this traumatic time other than from friends or family and the conventional approach of ‘counsellors’ which aren’t in everyone’s budget or what works best for them. My aim is to offer a service that this generation of individuals feel comfortable and confident to use. The last two years of my family’s life was spent caring for my terminally ill mum who unfortunately passed earlier this year. She battled through cancer and kidney failure for 12 months. Her five children age ranging from 14 – 21, took full responsibility of her care…please note that I am the eldest. One of my main focus’ during this time was trying to get my younger sisters support, help and education that they desperately needed and even more so now as they struggle to deal with the reality of mum not being around. I have spent countless hours and days researching how to help my mother whilst she was alive and now the kids with what they face. The problem & proposed solution: What I have found is that there is support and information available for the sick person but very limited for the ‘collateral’. The emotional toll of this for all involved is unfathomable. I had to fight to get my mother seen by a counsellor for one visit every month or so, and my sisters and I were never even considered. I appreciate that government services are completely overwhelmed and that is what I want to work towards addressing. Since losing mum there has not been a single follow up on my four sister’s welfare, they are not even seen by their school counsellors. It would seem like they simply slipped through the cracks. I have spent the last few months relentlessly looking into the topic of bereavement and believe I can and will be able to offer services and support that can and will make a difference. What this looks like? There are a number of organisations that exist, however their focus is on the sick person. I did reach out to cancer council during our struggle and the most they could offer was an information pack. The only other organisation in Australia that addresses bereavement is the following,https://www.grief.org.au/ACGB/About_ACGB/ACGB/About_ACGB/About_ACGB.aspx?hkey=23974ba7-0752-4253-8de2-14d05a12e24a . What I would like to propose - I want to run within Australia a camp similar to those successfully running in America http://www.comfortzonecamp.org/about-us - Build a child/teen/adult friendly website that: Encourages people to consider their wellbeing in a wholistic sense, physical and mental health and provides the adequate resources - Establishes a community platform to connect with people going through the same thing as you (speaking to people who truly understood proved so incredibly helpful for myself). - Build information on how to cope with bereavement for the individual as well how their peers, friends & parents can offer support. - Develop an app that will have functions not offered anywhere. Eg, input memories, quotes, supportive messages & images as like ‘flash cards’ that the child can personalise and use when desired. Reminders to eat or not binge eat depending on the individual, the benefits of certain physical activities and how they assist for mental and physical health. Social platform etc. - And so much more! I would be so grateful for even 30 minutes of your time and expertise to better understand what may be involved in this process and how to make it as successful as possible. Thank you for your time and consideration. Warm Regards, Katie Dalmas

1 Answer

Hi Katie This sounds like a really great vision to solve an important problem, so you’re off to a great start! I agree with you that a lot of focus obviously goes to the person within a family with physical or mental illness and this does often mean that other family members or people on the ‘periphery’ don’t get the support they need. A few thoughts which I hope are useful: firstly to establish what is ‘unique’ about your proposed service or what is the gap you are trying to fill? Look at what other services offer and where they overlap, even if they’re not specifically grief or bereavement services (having a chat to the people in charge at your local Headspace service might be useful). I’m not sure if you’re aware of Feel The Magic who seem to be an organisation in the same space and may be a useful resource? Secondly, I would think about which one of your ideas is most central to your vision and start there. You have several good ideas (camps, apps, websites etc) but you are possibly better off starting with just one part and focus on doing that really well. For example, you mentioned having a ‘child/teen/adult friendly’ website but who is the central audience you are trying to reach? Sometimes we can try to reach such a broad cross-section of people that we end up missing everyone. Probably the first step though is finding some like-minded people who can help you. Unless you have a lot of tech knowledge I would think you would definitely need people in this space to assist with the app (which I think is a great idea!) or the website. Assuming you don’t have financial resources at your disposal, I would suggest looking for other young people like yourself, perhaps by finding a ‘social entrepreneurs’ group in your area. Otherwise you might be able to contact universities or training colleges to ask if they have any student groups that do pro-bono work to help with their training (a NFP I do some work for got valuable advice and know-how from one such group). Perhaps you might already have some contacts in your wider circle of family and friends such as accountants/lawyers etc who may help you with some advice about how to set up the organisation. Possibly I would also look for someone with marketing experience who can help you to put together some brochures etc and a presentation that you can take to community groups/service clubs who may be willing to provide some funding or other assistance to you. Growing an NFP in this sort of space requires being relentless about your message to anyone who will listen. Hope that’s helpful and feel free to get in touch with a mentor directly if you need more assistance. I’m sure the journey has been very tough through your mother’s illness and I wish you the best with your venture. Gavin.

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