Never Give Up

L to R: Justin Haskell, Anthony Shriver, Brett Banford, Scott Thornton, Betsy Thornton, Rick Larsen, and Dan Clark
If you want to learn how to create an effective program that impacts a lot of people, talk to a Shriver.  After all, Sergeant Shriver and his wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, between them helped create or launch the Peace Corps, Special Olympics, Head Start, VISTA, Job Corps and Foster Grandparents. 
Wednesday, I had the pleasure of listening to their son, Anthony Kennedy Shriver, founder of Best Buddies International, speak at Westminster College’s Institute for New Enterprise in Salt Lake City.  It was educational and inspiring.
Anthony was only a college senior when he founded what became the Best Buddies organization at Georgetown University in 1989.  “Growing up, I’d met lots of different kinds of people,” Anthony said, “but it was those with intellectual disabilities who really touched my heart.  My father always told me that everyone has at least one great skill, but that some, including those with intellectual disabilities, often never get recognized for it, never get to develop it. Everyone, he said, deserves a shot at the American dream.”
Anthony continued: “I also realized early on that the happiest people I knew were involved in volunteer service.  That’s why I think the greatest legacy we can leave our children is the legacy of service.”

At Georgetown, Anthony paired university students with people with intellectual disabilities of a similar age. The program proved so popular that students from other universities asked if he could help them develop similar programs on their campuses.  With that, Best Buddies was born. 

Today, the organization has 1500 chapters and impacts nearly 400,000 individuals in 50 states and 40 countries.  Its mission: to enhance the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by providing opportunities for one-to-one friendships and integrated employment.

Recognizing its effectiveness and impact, we have supported Best Buddies for several years.

Recognized internationally for his achievements as a “social entrepreneur,” Anthony described several factors necessary for a non-profit leader to help his or her organization achieve consistent success.


  1. Be creative. Create unique experiences for your donors and volunteers that they can’t get anywhere else.  Don’t be a commodity.
  2. Be passionate. Make your non-profit job your lifestyle. Engage your family in your work.
  3. Hire incredible people. Build a great team. Invest in training and coaching so everyone is on the same page.
  4. Exercise fiscal discipline. Manage your organization efficiently, and if a program or service can’t sustain itself, then drop it.
  5. Create diversity of revenue.  Plan to get revenue from multiple sources; don’t be tempted to focus your fundraising efforts on one primary source.

 Being successful in the non-profit world is hard work, Anthony said. “There are no shortcuts. Just set your goals for the top of the mountain and hammer away every single day, and you’ll eventually get there. Just keep going and never give up.”

 It was exciting to spend some time with Anthony – to hear firsthand his story – and   to think about applying his five success factors to my position at Operation Kids.  I’ll also remember his admonishment to “just keep going.”

 We are working every day to be better, more efficient, more effective, more impactful – in short, a better organization that betters the lives of more and more children each year.   If we keep going, and do a little more each day, just imagine what we, along with organizations like Best Buddies, can accomplish!








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