This letter was written to the Manos Juntas family not too long ago.  It was appeal to get things going and it worked.  Is it risky to do things like this?  Yes but we couldn't keep doing the same things and expecting new results.  This is something new.  

Dear Manos Juntas family,

Hello, everyone.  This is Tyler Schwartz.  I have come to know many of you over the years at the clinic, but for those I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting, please allow me to introduce myself.  I am a fourth year OU medical student currently on leave to obtain a master's degree in public health, and I have volunteered at Manos Juntas for the past six years.  For several of those years, I acted as the director of triage operations, a position now ably filled by Rick Meier and Sarah Tran, and more recently, I have served as a member of the clinic's Board of Directors.  My experiences at Manos Juntas have taught me much about medicine, about Oklahoma City's poor population, about serving others, and about never getting to sleep late on a Saturday morning.  Among these many lessons, I have learned that the clinic's greatest asset is you, its volunteers.  Simply put, Manos Juntas could not do what it does without your energy, your talents, and your self-sacrificing attitudes.  I write to you today because Manos Juntas stands in greater need than ever of those passions, skills, and altruistic spirits; without them, the clinic we all know and love could cease to exist by the year's end.

Manos Juntas depends on private donations and grant monies to meet its financial obligations, and for a variety of reasons, these funds have not been forthcoming this year.  In their absence, the clinic will soon lack the necessary capital to continue its operations.  To give an indication of the magnitude of this problem, the annual budget for Manos Juntas totals roughly $300,000, but we currently have only $3000 in the bank.  Clearly, this is unsustainable, and indeed, without Dr. Shook's personal contributions to bail out the organization, we would have already closed our doors.  The Board of Directors has struggled with this financial issue for many months, but to little avail; and, in the meantime, the clinic draws ever nearer to economic collapse.  I argue it is time to take this matter beyond the Board and to lay it before the volunteers, whose boundless creativity and youthful enthusiasm offer the greatest hope for discovering solutions to the problem. 

This new, volunteer-centered strategy will have two major arms.  First, volunteers will raise small amounts of money via "grass roots" fundraising activities conducted on a continual basis throughout the year in order to ensure a steady flow of baseline funding.  Second, and the more important of the two arms, volunteers will actively seek out new donors to add to the clinic's list of contacts.  The clinic currently has a paltry list of 92 people whose annual donations feed our organization.  In contrast, sustainable nonprofits such as United Way have literally thousands of people on their lists.  We must have more donors; no need is more critical than this.  Several ideas have already been proposed to accomplish each of the two efforts just described.  These ideas will be discussed in greater detail at this Wednesday's "Volunteer Social" at Teapioca Lounge, but I want to introduce the ideas now to allow people the opportunity to consider them and to think of additional options prior to the social gathering.  Some of the ideas include:

-Monthly contests among volunteers to generate the most new donors.  Donors can be gathered by calling names in a phone directory, going door-to-door, using Facebook or Twitter, releasing carrier pigeons over the city, sending messages in bottles, whatever.  The leading volunteers win prizes.

-Coin collection containers that volunteers will distribute and manage in local businesses.  (I did this in undergrad and raised about $200/year with only three containers; it was by far the easiest fundraising activity ever.)  As with the monthly donor contests, winningest volunteers receive prizes.

-Delivering short presentations about the clinic to local Rotary clubs, Lions clubs, churches, etc.  The presentations can be prewritten and prepared by other volunteers who have skill in that sort of activity so that the presenters need only read a script.

-Raising awareness about Manos Juntas among volunteers' local pre-medical, pre-nursing, and pre-pharmacy clubs.

-Providing tutoring in classes at the volunteers' respective colleges, with the proceeds going to Manos Juntas.  This is especially appealing for those who attend colleges outside of the metro and who are unable to attend other clinic events.

-Two or more people to serve as "Volunteer Coordinators" whose task is to maintain communication among the volunteers, whether by Facebook, Twitter, listserv, etc.  This is vital to the success of our new volunteer-centered approach; everyone needs to know what everyone else is doing with regards to the clinic.  As the social media generation, we should have no problem accomplishing this task.

Again, these are only a few of the many avenues to explore as we, the volunteers, expand our role at Manos Juntas from mere weekend warriors to essential leaders and problem-solvers who will save one of Oklahoma City's oldest and most storied nonprofit organizations.  I know many of our volunteers are pre-professional students seeking admission to local health institutions, and I assure you that playing an active part in these new efforts will provide excellent fodder for resumes and admissions interviews.  Imagine telling your interviewer about how you served as the chairperson for a donor telethon that contacted 50,000 people in a single weekend or how you initiated a tutoring program that not only assisted struggling students but also raised money for a local free medical clinic.  Short of saving orphans from a fiery bus crash, it doesn't get much better than that.  These sorts of stories and activities are the examples of leadership potential, organizational awareness, and social responsibility for which admissions committees look in their applicants.  I cannot remember a single med school interview or application in which highlighting my history at the clinic did not constitute a major part of the discussion.  Furthermore, my experience in talking with patients at the clinic has helped me immensely in my clinical skills classes at medical school.  I believe Manos volunteers come into their professional schools, whether medical, nursing, pharmacy, etc., with a powerful advantage; they know how to talk to patients because they have already done so for years at the clinic.

On a deeper note, assisting Manos Juntas during this time of need will provide something far more lasting and personally enriching than simply advancing one's educational career.  We are one of the largest free medical clinics in Oklahoma City and, possibly, in the state.  Our database of 10,000 patients is unrivaled.  Every year, we provide care to nearly 7000 people in the local area, many of whom have no other source of healthcare.  I cannot recall the number of times patients have said to me, "Y'all are doin' a great thing here.  Bless you."  In adopting a more involved role at the clinic, you will help to advance and sustain this incredible philanthropic force within the community.  In doing so, you will be making a difference in the world.

As mentioned earlier, we will host a volunteer gathering this Wednesday, August 1st, 2012, at the Teapioca Lounge (1101 NW 23rd St, OKC, OK 73106) at 6:00 p.m.  I will be unable to attend, as I am in Baltimore, but I entreat everyone to attend who is able.  I hope the event provides an opportunity for volunteers to grow better acquainted with each other and to initiate genuine discussion of the ideas discussed above.  I look forward to the coming months, when the volunteers of Manos Juntas demonstrate to the Board, to the organization's donors, and to the city's governmental and business leaders the tremendous potential possessed by college youth and the practical results those youth can achieve when they find a cause in which they believe.

Please do not hesitate to contact me directly  with any questions or suggestions you may have.  Thank you for your time.


Tyler Schwartz

"The young do not know enough to be prudent, and so they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation."  -Pearl S. Buck