Please welcome Colette Acker, our first clinician to be highlighted in our monthly series, Clinicians in the Trenches. In this new series, Lactation Matters will take you into lives and businesses of fellow colleagues around the world, allowing them to share their knowledge, expertise, and wisdom.
Colette M Acker, IBCLC lives in Glenside, Pennsylvania with her husband, Rodney. They have three children who are now in the teen/young adult age range. Nursing her own children led to her passion for assisting other mothers. She became a volunteer breastfeeding counselor in 1995, an IBCLC in 1998, and co-founded the Breastfeeding Resource Center (BRC) 5 years later. Although Colette loves working with new moms and babies, the multi-tasking life of the director of nonprofit calls for much more and never leaves her bored! Outside of lactation, Colette’s favorite stress release is running and has developed a new addiction to Zumba classes.
1. What is the Breastfeeding Resource Center (BRC)?
The BRC is a nonprofit organization committed to providing expert clinical and educational breastfeeding services. We offer a variety of lactation services from the prenatal period through weaning. We provide problem-solving consultations, back-to-work planning, and weight checks, along with other consultations designed to meet a mother’s individualized needs. Weekly support group meetings and low cost parent classes complement our outreach efforts. The BRC is an asset to the medical community by providing supervised clinical opportunities, as well as being a resource of evidence-based information. All services are offered on a sliding scale of payment to ensure access for all families.
2. Why did you decide to start a non-profit?
Two colleagues and I were on our way to our ILCA affiliate meeting and were dreaming. We fantasized about a place where women could go if they were having difficulty with breastfeeding, planning to return to work, needing assistance in choosing the right products, or just needing some support and reassurance. We also imagined it being a valuable resource for healthcare professionals serving breastfeeding families. We were currently working in the private practice arena and we knew many moms couldn’t afford the service. We felt strongly that this center should be accessible to all families, regardless of income.
3. What are your biggest challenges running a non-profit?
The biggest challenge is finding funding to allow the BRC to provide LC visits on a sliding scale of payment. Thirty three percent of our budget needs to be obtained through fundraisers, donations, and grant funding. All of these take a lot of time and effort by many people. The employees of the BRC wear many hats. Janice McPhelin, our Director of Development, is an IBCLC who works with moms on a daily basis and needs to jump into grant writing whenever a free moment arises. This hat-switching life can be very crazy, yet it also makes the job more interesting!
4. What resources have been most helpful to sustain your non-profit?
The greatest part about running a nonprofit center is that you are not alone. We have 16 members on our Board of Directors. We’ve found volunteers with expertise from all walks of life such as accounting, law, grant writing, physicians, RNs, and event planners. Developing a strong board with experience in the areas where the BRC needs the most help is vital. Also, creating a strong community among our clients has led to a large volunteer base. It is amazingly touching to see our clients so appreciative of our work that they volunteer time to keep it going strong!
5. What advice would you give to an LC who wanted to open a non-profit center similar to yours?
Prepare for a wild ride! I’d suggest learning everything you can about running a nonprofit. There are many opportunities available in most communities and on the web such as www.Nonprofitwebinars.com. Plan on working long hours with little pay until funding becomes accessible. Discover your weaknesses and find board members and volunteers to fill that gap. Collect emails and join social networks for the most efficient and inexpensive way to spread the word. Become a strong member of your community by participating in health fairs, the chambers of commerce, as well as partnering with other nonprofits that target a similar audience.