Keynote builds winning nonprofit on foundation of keeping promisesReprints
SAN ANTONIO — All societies have the importance of keeping promises in common, said the opening keynote speaker during the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.’s annual conference in San Antonio on Monday.
Promises made are “what defines us and our character,” said Alex Sheen, founder of the Rocky River, Ohio-based nonprofit organization “because I said I would.”
Mr. Sheen discussed in a moving speech how he had founded the organization following the 2012 cancer death of his father, Al Sheen. Mr. Sheen said he realized in preparing his father’s eulogy that his father’s outstanding characteristic was his follow-through of promises he made.
A social media posting he made after the eulogy went viral, and eventually led to his leaving his job as a software engineer and devoting himself to the organization, said Mr. Sheen, who said he raises more than $1 million annually, all of which goes to the organization where he is paid the salary of a kindergarten teacher.
Mr. Sheen said the premise behind the program is participants filling out “promise” cards on which they write their promises, give them to a recipient, then retrieve the card once the promise has been fulfilled.
It is “not always about individual promises,” said Mr. Sheen. It can also involve organizations that make promises about what they would like to accomplish.
Promises range from the goofy — such as a man’s promise he would take down his Christmas lights by Easter — to the very serious, including one by a young girl who promised to not give up her struggle against depression.
“What the world will always need is for people to say what they were going to do in the first place,” Mr. Sheen said. “The promises that we make and keep, that makes the world.” He said lesson plans developed by the organization have been downloaded by more than 800 schools, while local chapters devoted to the concept are starting to be formed.
Referring to his father, Mr. Sheen said, “This is not about me, this is not about him. It will always be, and has always been, about you. We were all born with the ability to make and keep a promise.”
Also speaking during the general session was 2018 RIMS President Robert Cartwright Jr., who said the focus during his tenure will be on legacy.
“This isn’t just a slogan. It’s a call to action,” he said — asking risk management professionals to ask themselves what mark they will leave within their organization, on the risk management community and for society as a whole.
Mr. Cartwright, who is corporate safety and health manager at Bridgestone Retail Operations L.L.C. and based in Exton, Pennsylvania, said the three areas he will focus on as president that are crucial for success are global development, membership engagement and diversity and inclusion.
“We need to talk about growing big in other countries,” he said, discussing conferences that have been held and are planned in countries including Mexico, China and India.
“Membership engagement is really at the core of everything we stand for,” said Mr. Cartwright.
He said he encourages everyone to get involved, engaging not just with RIMS members “but with fellow professionals, especially those just getting started.” Mr. Cartwright also discussed a new program that matches mentors with mentees, and his own efforts to encourage minorities to become involved.
Diversity and inclusion “takes many forms,” including race, religion and gender orientation, as well as different geographic and academic backgrounds, he said.
Risk managers are also diverse in their responsibilities, which can include human resources, legal, finance and safety and compliance, he said.
During the session, RIMS CEO Mary Roth also discussed RIMS’s certified risk management professional program, which has received official accreditation from the Washington-based American National Standards Institute, she said.
“No other organization brings together the best and the brightest in the risk management profession like RIMS,” said Ms. Roth, who also discussed the organization’s worldwide reach.