What to expect in championing a community charity pharmacy

Every complex effort needs a champion… the person who stands for the completion of the complex effort and who manages resources and the passion of others to achieve that goal. Perhaps you have championed a large-scale effort before? If so, one of the things you will have experienced is that the attitude and beliefs of the project champion is more critical to the success of the program than any external resource that you will align, including funding or a facility. The outcome of your community effort will be impacted greatly by the attitude and mindset of the leader(s) involved in creating and managing the effort. The good news is that attitude is a choice. The following are a few attitudes that other community charity pharmacy leaders have noticed that impacted their effort to build a community charity pharmacy. Take a moment to consider those listed below and if they are currently a strength of you and your coalition, or if further work can be completed to sharpen your attitude in the following areas of attitude competency. 

  • Administrative Cheerleading Leadership is difficult work. The primary role for the champion is to keep others engaged and moving forward. Certainly, efforts which at minimum require a collaborative leadership team’s work over a series of months require a cheerleader who can be responsible for themselves, and assist others in managing their work. That calls for a deep emotional well, a willingness to not allow delays in progress and excuses to eliminate your passion, and administrative prowess. The happy news – engagement and administrative skill can be learned! If you do not feel like you have every gift needed in engagement management and passion, step out and start the work. The reality is that you will have time to practice, and to strengthen your skill set as you and your collaborative team complete the work. 
  • Determination– Have you ever helped to open a nonprofit charity before? You will be working in a great deal of ambiguity – completing tasks with a consortium of others, with a definitive-though-vague sense of the destination, and an, at times, foggy vision of the priority of the next steps. This type of leadership is most comfortable for the risk taker, the entrepreneur, and the visionary. But you do not need to have gotten an MBA in business formation to step out and try. Again… determination is a skill that is learned, as you complete the work. 

    Often times those in the pharmacy industry, particularly pharmacists, like clear answers and guidelines to follow along with. There is not a “quick” answer to when your community charity pharmacy should be operational, and there is a great deal of ambiguity as to which tasks should be tackled first. This playbook will offer you some idea of a rough timeline and activities involved in the work before you, however, there isn’t really a firm timeline to the work you are leading. Hang in there. Stay determined. Stay positive and keep your collaborative group moving forward. And the more you and your collaborative team face ambiguity, the more your practice and add to your entrepreneurial skill set. 

    Here is an example. Let’s say that your project needs a facility, that facility needs to be donated space, and the perfect donated space is already empty and located in a hospital physician’s office. The location is vacant, on the bus line, located near the highest heat map zip codes of the uninsured. However, the CEO of the hospital owning that space is known to be difficult to engage for new work among people he does not already know. So, after a great deal of effort and networking, you present your idea to the CEO, and hear a “no”. Anyone looking to start a charitable enterprise will hear “no” many times. Here is the discipline to practice – when you hear “no”, train yourself to think that they are not yet ready to commit to your community charitable pharmacy, and that new ways are needed to get to your “yes”. You have the opportunity to not be a victim, but instead, to make choices, strategize, and keep working to get to your yes. By not being a victim, you enable yourself to listen and determine what deals can be made. Allow the word “no” to free you to design new solutions and create what you need to happen. Entrepreneurs are not always the smartest people in the class… but they know how to stay determined and engaged, even when they hear “no”.

  • Lackof Ego/Emotional Maturity– People like to give, but they want to give into places where they will have ownership and be celebrated. To launch your community charity pharmacy, you will need the help of a long list of others. Those that your project will need might not be as emotionally mature as you need them to be or may have goals that conflict in some ways with your vision. Perhaps a mayor’s office or hospital CEO who might provide donated pharmacy space. Perhaps a church pastor who will bring the congregation to refurbish the space. Perhaps a fund development expert who will bring funding. Perhaps an attorney who will help with your incorporation. The putting aside of your own ego is a discipline you will have the opportunity to cultivate in order to serve the cause of the community charity pharmacy. You may need to manage the expectations of others, their delays, over promises, and changes in priority in order to get to your goal. Again, some good news, emotional maturity and egoless leadership can be practiced and cultivated. 

  • Networking– Networking is critical in starting up your charitable pharmacy – but not like you may think. Golf games, evening dinner parties, and health system networking events are fine. But to launch a community charity pharmacy, you may need to seek out people who you do not know and who control resources that you need. Don’t be discouraged if you are not a natural networker or extrovert. Rather, embrace the challenge of reaching out to others for a purpose, getting known, and creating energy in them to see the launch of a community charity pharmacy. 

Championing a community charity pharmacy takes character and skill. The good news is that the skills you need can each be practiced and learned. They can even be failed at and restarted. Know that the course of your work is going to establish an important healthcare program for your community, and at the same time will establish an important new enterprise in your heart and mind. Give yourself grace, try, fail, try again, and keep envisioning the opening of your community charity pharmacy.