Trudy Ender joined Susan G. Komen Michigan on July 1 as its executive director. In her new role, she leads the local affiliate of the Dallas, Texas-based Susan G. Komen for the Cure Breast Cancer Foundation, which works to support research, as well as cancer screenings, diagnostics, education, outreach, and support services for patients and survivors. Susan G. Komen Michigan served more than 85,000 people last year in 24 counties across the state. Ender, who previously served as executive director of the Humane Society of West Michigan after working for years in the public sector, spoke with MiBiz about her vision for the statewide nonprofit.
What drew you to the organization?
I have family members and many dear friends touched by breast cancer, and that’s not unlike most people. My mom’s a breast cancer survivor. I have friends who are breast cancer survivors, and one of my best friends was 34 (when) she lost the fight to breast cancer. When this opportunity came up, it just touched me that I could be working to remove barriers for screening and help with education on behalf of all of the people affected.
This is not just a professional position, it’s personal for you.
It’s really personal, and that’s where I like to work. If you’re going to serve and commit, and this now is my life, I don’t know if you can do it well if you’re not connected personally and connected with your heart.
How do those personal experiences influence your role as executive director?
It gives me the extra energy and boost — I typically have a lot of energy — to really focus and see the vision and the end game, which is to help more survivors and to reduce breast cancer deaths 50 percent in the U.S. by 2026. That would be amazing, and I get to work with a local and a national team to make that happen. That’s pretty cool.
What’s the organization’s biggest challenge right now?
There are barriers for women and men to get basic, well-deserved care, and barriers to screenings and barriers to information and support. Some of these folks end up getting breast cancer and it’s gone so far, where preventative measures could have potentially helped or likely helped. As well, education (remains a challenge). When we all get educated about things, what do we do? We talk about it. That’s the best way of learning. To just have this continue to ripple and make this a wave to reduce breast cancer is just critical.
What’s your biggest opportunity?
Moving forward. Not only building on the legacy, but the branching and collaboration with our other affiliates in the nation, and identifying best practices so we can be more efficient and use our time wisely to help people. It’s likely being done, but I think we can always share a little more and collaborate a little more so that the best outcome is we’re being more efficient within, and so the energy is more going out.
The Giving USA Foundation reports a decline in 2018 in philanthropic giving across the country. How much is that a concern?
The fact that it’s declining nationwide, it affects all of us nonprofits, especially with the tax reform (in late 2017). As much as there may be declines nationally, in West Michigan in (our) 24 counties, we have some really loving, compassionate, philanthropic people and organizations. I feel we are in the best place to help with that decline.
If that nationwide decline is the start of a trend, what do nonprofits need to do in response?
We have to be really flexible. We can’t stick to rigid ways of doing things, and (need to be) really open-minded and creative and fun. Some of the events the team is thinking about, there’s this element of fun involved with feeling really good about people coming together for something outside of themselves. As the trend continues, being really creative and business-savvy and creating an experience that people walk away from and say, ‘What I just supported just reduced breast cancer deaths.’ That’s the takeaway.
What do nonprofits need to do today to maintain a solid financial base of support?
It certainly comes down to managing financials well. At the heart of all nonprofits, it’s the relationships that you have with people who care about the mission and give their precious dollars and precious time to live beyond themselves, and to have a legacy. That’s what I’m very excited about with Susan G. Komen. I think there’s more people who want to leave a legacy of love and a legacy of lifesaving.
What are the goals you’ve thought about as you settle in?
We are going to trailblaze (serving) women and men of color and certain socio-economic areas, as well as women and men facing poverty, and folks who don’t have the economic forces, let alone health insurance. The geographic area is large and we want to get into those areas and provide all of the education and screening that we can, which is really going to be all about collaborative relationships for those who can help folks get what they deserve.
Interview conducted and condensed by Mark Sanchez.
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