GM on Industry, Career and Giving

Finch15's, Jess Stowe sits down with our very own Gaby Mueller to talk industry, career and everything giving.

I think the greatest value giving offers is simply knowing that you’ve helped improve somebody’s life. The power of that is exceptional and hopefully, addicting.


Location: New York

Twitter: @alegtostandon

Professional Title: Executive Director at ALTSO

How long have you been working for A Leg To Stand On (ALTSO)? 

Nearly 9 years!  I started as a volunteer.

What is your role?

Executive Director.


How did you connect with ALTSO and how did you know it was the cause you wanted to work for? 

Since my early teens, I wanted to work in a space that was dedicated to providing opportunity to those in need.  I started volunteering for ALTSO during my second year in college, followed by a summer internship, and then by a full-time role as an executive assistant.  Through my exposure to ALTSO’s work – from how they identify the neediest children, to the immediate impact a prosthetic leg or a corrective surgery makes – I realized the ripple effect of their work was life-changing.

Based on your experience, do you have recommendations for how people can go about finding a cause they want to support?

Just be alert! – read, travel, explore, talk to people in the industry, pay attention.  There will be something that strikes you, and you will know that this is your opportunity to add beauty to the world – in whichever way you are able, and in whatever capacity appeals to you.

Do you support any other causes and if so, in what capacity? 

Yes! – there are a bunch of organizations I support, primarily through donations along with advocacy within my network.  Mercy Ships is stopping needless suffering in the poorest parts of Africa through the provision of free corrective surgery.  NAACP Legal Defense Fund is doing phenomenal work domestically (with a global impact) to advance civil rights.  AmeriCares effectively provides emergency relief during times of disaster.  Every single one of ALTSO’s program partners (i.e., clinics and hospitals) across the globe are providing access to health care to some of the neediest populations.

Do you find that there’s a difference between working for a cause you care about vs. volunteering for one?

Working for a cause gives you the opportunity to see all angles – including some of the less glamorous ones! – involved in running a non-profit organization.

Who and/or what motivates you and keeps you inspired as you pursue a career in philanthropy?

Learning about any one of ALTSO’s patients, and understanding how easily his or her life could be improved through a simple treatment, is a constant source of inspiration to continue a career in non-profits.

Dr. Jeffrey Sachs’ dedication to and clear assessment of sustainable development as it relates to poverty alleviation and globalization reminds me that there is a large and concentrated effort toward creating a more sustainable, more just, world.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s speech of several years ago, in which he highlights the tremendous capacity non-profits have – in this generation more than in any other – to effect change, definitely contributes to my commitment to this industry.

My mother and my sister, having worked in the field of humanitarian aid from the corporate and non-profit sides, respectively, remind me that the power of leveraging the private and public sectors to impact lives is huge.

Each one of ALTSO’s supporters and team members genuinely impress me and remind me of the difference concerned individuals can make: 12,500 children treated since 2002 is the result of many, many concerned and proactive individuals.

People often say giving is “fulfilling,” but that can mean different things to different people. What benefits either personal or professional do you think giving offers?

For me, it’s about how you see yourself, and your responsibilities, in relation to others.  Whether you volunteer your time and skills, donate money to causes you care about, or dedicate your career to non-profits, I think the greatest value giving offers is simply knowing that you’ve helped improve somebody’s life.  The power of that is exceptional and hopefully, addicting.

As Henry Miller said, “What are we here for if not to enjoy life eternal, solve what problems we can, give light, peace and joy to our fellow man, and leave this dear fucked-up planet a little healthier than when we were born.”

Of course, the professional benefits of giving are plentiful and meaningful, too.  Outside of the networking opportunities that being involved with a non-profit offers, there is significant evidence showing the tangible benefits that socially responsible companies enjoy compared to others.

Working at a nonprofit, is there anything that frustrates you about the giving  / volunteering environment today? 

There has historically been a very different standard for how non-profits are judged compared to for-profits.  While there are, as in any industry, organizations that have abused the values entrusted to them by the public, there are so many more that are dedicated to and effectively fulfilling their missions.

The Overhead Myth is a campaign launched recently by the CEO’s of three leading charity watchdog organizations, that denounces overhead ratio as a primary measure of a charity’s performance and instead provides meaningful and measurable metrics by which to assess an organization’s effectiveness – like transparency, governance, and actual results.  By using only overhead ratios – which offer no context – to measure the value of an organization, we create The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle, preventing organizations from being able to fully serve those whom they have dedicated themselves to serving.

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