Dr Ramin Baschshi of Unlimited Possibilities: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A…

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Dr Ramin Baschshi of Unlimited Possibilities: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A Nonprofit Organization

Be okay with failure and do something different. With nonprofits, you always want that success story, but starting a nonprofit is just like starting a business. It’s going to take about 24 months for you to actually make a difference because the funding isn’t always there and you have to learn to be very creative.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Ramin Baschshi.

Since 2018, Dr. Ramin Baschshi has served as the CEO and president of Unlimited Possibilities (UP), an Orange County nonprofit providing disability services to over 5,000 children and families every year. The organization, formerly known as UCP of Orange County, has served as a beacon of hope for families since 1953 by providing disability services for families at every stage of life, from birth into adulthood. For those with the privilege of working alongside Dr. Baschshi, the words “visionary” or “passionate” will often be the first used to describe her. Despite the challenges of the past two years, she has shown exemplary leadership in the face of unprecedented circumstances, all while remaining relentless in her vision to push forward and create an equitable world for the underserved within Orange County.

Thank you so much for doing this with us. Before we begin our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?

I grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada, but originally I’m from Kabul, Afghanistan. My mom’s entire family lived in Las Vegas, so we all grew up very close to one another. After graduating high school, I went to college at California State University, Fullerton and then took about a year off before applying to medical school. I had an incredible experience there as I loved medicine and wanted to be a doctor since I was five years old. I had an amazing mentor by the name of Peter Bastion, who was the CEO at Mission Hospital at the time. He took me under his wing when I said I wanted to quit medical school because it wasn’t really what I thought it was going to be. He told me if I wanted to help people and make a difference, having a credentialed medical degree would go a long way.

Can you tell us the story behind why you decided to start or join your nonprofit?

After graduating from medical school, a recruiter reached out to me about a director role at St. Mary’s Hospital in Long Beach, California. I met with the hospital’s CEO and executive team and was incredibly impressed by the work they were doing. Following my meeting, they offered me the position knowing I didn’t have any experience in the position. My job was focused on building relationships with physicians and recruiting doctors for the hospital. I also had to develop programs for current and incoming staff, which was so different from what I went to school for, but I loved it. I was very passionate about what I was doing, and I had many great leaders around me who showed me the ropes.

When our pediatric ward wasn’t doing well, I was looking to bridge an opportunity with a well-known nonprofit in the country and stumbled upon Make-A-Wish Los Angeles. I met with the CEO to start building a rapport with her and two hours later, she offered me a position and said she would create the COO role especially for me. At that time, I didn’t want to leave my hospital job and was very nervous about a role that was extremely new to me. I thought, “How am I going to be the COO of this incredible organization?” So, I took a leap of faith and was full-fledged in the Make-A-Wish world shortly after accepting the position, loving every piece of my job, and building that organization from the ground up in Los Angeles. A decade or so later, one of our current board members [at Unlimited Possibilities], who wasn’t a board member then, called me and said he had a great opportunity for me at Unlimited Possibilities. I went for an interview and was completely blown away by the mission and group of people who were dedicated to this cause. Over the course of my career, I’ve been dealt really great cards and have come to find out 20 years later that nonprofits have always been my calling.

Can you describe how you or your organization aims to make a significant social impact?

Unlimited Possibilities was established 70 years ago to help children and families with disabilities in Orange County, California. Today, our organization remains an advocate for those overcoming stereotypes, social stigma, and barriers through six comprehensive programs led by a dedicated staff of over 350 expert caregivers, specialists, and therapists.

Without saying any names, can you share a story about an individual who was helped by your idea so far?

Nonprofits need to be sustainable and have a strategic vision to be able to support the mission and the community that they serve. At UP, we deliver support throughout the lifespan and that is key to our history and growth 70 years later. The programs and services we provide do not stop — it’s lifelong. In the last five years that I’ve been with this organization, I’ve had the opportunity to see children and families make incredible strides toward their goals. I’ve seen a child take his first supportive step on “father’s day” as a present to his dad, I’ve witnessed families stay together during a tumultuous time as they discovered challenges with their child, I have seen siblings smile for the first time while they are doing a recreation program with their sibling for the first time, I have seen a mom say to me that through tears, how grateful she is to have found Unlimited Possibilities. I’ve learned a lot about myself, our community, and who we want to be in the next 10 years.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

If you’re looking at an entire bucket of individuals, it’s our politicians that can really make instrumental changes in supporting our families in the disability community. Individuals who have resources at their fingertips or financial support are going to move mountains to get to where they need to go.

Insurance providers also play a big role. The underinsured or uninsured have providers that make clinical decisions based on dollars spent, this unfortunately doesn’t support an individual patient’s actual treatment because only a clinician treating that patient can create that treatment plan. From a political stance, if we take that power out of the insurance companies’ hands and let the clinicians make those determinations, we as a society and as a community will do better in taking care of our population that needs the most help.

Access to care is also very convoluted and something we lack as a community. From a business perspective, we have to pay our staff livable wages and the reimbursements we receive from nonprofit dollars aren’t enough to cover overhead costs. It’s a vicious cycle and a big pill we have to swallow.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I’ve had many great mentors in my life and have taken a lot from my leaders to mold myself into who I am as a person. For me, leadership really comes down to two things. The first is transparency and the second is trust. When you don’t have those qualities as a leader, no matter how strategic, visionary, and financially sound of a human being you are, you won’t be able to take your position to the next level. As a leader, you have to recognize your shortcomings and opportunities, which is sometimes hard to do. I always share with my direct reports that I’m not going to know everything. I’m constantly learning how to better myself as a person and leader. Being a leader is setting an example for your organization, your mission, and the community–it’s not just for one specific situation.

I also always surround myself with people who are smarter than me. As a leader, you should never stop challenging yourself and should always have a succession plan. Things are changing daily in our industry, so I have to pave the way for people to come into this role and do something bigger and better than what I did when their time comes.

Based on your experience, what are the “5 things a person should know before they decide to start a non-profit”. Please share a story or example for each.

Be okay with failure and do something different. With nonprofits, you always want that success story, but starting a nonprofit is just like starting a business. It’s going to take about 24 months for you to actually make a difference because the funding isn’t always there and you have to learn to be very creative.

Have a vision and a plan for what you’re going to be doing in the next five years.

Accept criticism and learn to incorporate it to make yourself better rather than having it weigh you down.

Take calculated risks. If you are not taking calculated risks, then you’re not someone who could sustain a nonprofit because it’s an ever-changing situation.

Change directions in a constructive way. One of my great mentors advised me to operate a nonprofit like a business with the heart of a charity. A lot of nonprofits don’t think that this is a business, but at the end of the day, you are providing a service and making money from it. However, the profits are not going to your shareholders–the profits are going back to the community.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your non profit? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.

I would love to have a conversation with McKenzie Scott or Melinda Gates. When you look at an individual who has an opportunity to make incredible changes not only in the U.S. but also the world, you want to be able to have someone who understands how an investment would change the lives of so many children and really propel the world to the next level. The ideas our organization has are very unique and cause-driven. I would love to have an opportunity to share the incredible work this organization is doing, and it’s not just about today–it’s 10 to 20 years from now.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson” Quote? How is that relevant to you in your life?

My father, who’s no longer with us and was a highly educated man who started from ground zero, always used to tell my sister and I: “Don’t ever look up. Always look down so that you can support an individual who needs a helping hand and pull them to your level. If you can do that, you will always be humble in this world.” That is something that I teach my children. There are always going to be flashier cars and richer people in the world who have so many things, especially in today’s world of social media, and it’s easy to get sucked into that. Why not help pull somebody up to my level? Because at least it’s better than their level.

How can our readers follow you online?

I look forward to connecting with readers on LinkedIn and through Unlimited Possibilities’ social pages,

including Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. For more information, visit https://uptheimpact.org.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success in your mission.

Dr Ramin Baschshi of Unlimited Possibilities: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.