"I remember when I first started developing this new, 'business model based' version of a nonprofit, it was hard for some on our initial development team to envision it. They had experience volunteering in nonprofits before, I had little. But I knew how to set up and manage projects, in addition to recruiting the right partners to ensure success, so I thought, 'IFAA aims to solve problems as our mission - let's do it in a way I know works?'" As a former college educator as well, she purchased a library of textbooks and taught herself everything necessary about running and managing a nonprofit. From there the final model was designed. "It's become very clear over the last few years that IFAA does things very differently," says Ms. Westrich-Robertson. "Current groups and companies we do projects with repeatedly praise us for our professionalism and 'over and beyond' delivery. New contacts are impressed with the unique spin, and all seem eager to join forces. It may have been a risk to set IFAA up this way, but it's proven to be hugely successful!"
Tami Caskey-Brown (co-founder) and Tiffany Westrich-Robertson (CEO) were two of the first patients included on these review panels. Ms. Brown is still contracted with PCORI to help train new reviewers and Ms. Westrich-Robertson is currently the only patient reviewer at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). We also have other volunteers at IFAA who have served as reviewers.
To further her knowledge of research so it could be incorporated into managing our research-related projects, Ms. Westrich-Robertson has taken over a dozen online college courses in qualitative and quantitative research methods and worked part time as a Qualitative Research Assistant for Schlesinger Associates in 2015.
Over 3/4 of all those volunteering with IFAA have some type of background in education. Matter-in-fact, co-founder, Kelly Conway, has been a speech-language pathologist for over 20 years and helped to develop an educational program for underprivileged children in Africa. CEO, Tiffany Westrich-Robertson, taught college for eight year and won "Favorite Teacher", as voted on by the student body. Most currently we have invited our active volunteers (Representatives) the opportunity to take courses towards earning a Certificate in Virtual Teaching - and three have recently completed the first course.
IFAA is an award-winning TEAM of passionate patients and patient supporters who use our backgrounds as patients to understand CURRENT community problems and USE OUR BACKGROUNDS IN EDUCATION, RESEARCH, AND BUSINESS TO develop and implement SOLUTIONS.
"Team" is the key word when thinking about how IFAA works and why we are recognized for our exceptional contributions to the autoimmune, autoinflammatory, and arthritis communities. In 2012, our first full year as an organization, we won "Best Ensemble Cast" for our work in the awareness and wellness education arena. Since then our nonprofit and active representatives have collectively been nominated for over 3 dozen awards since inception. Our passion and commitment to making a difference is evident in all we do.
Finalist & Nominations
In 2010 a new movement in research began, as patients were beginning to be included in the process of reviewing research grants as well as were starting to be invited to join research teams in some type of advisory role. A leader in this "patient-centered outcomes" focus is PCORI - and IFAA was right there with them.
And the Winner is...
#TeamIFAA! Our team approach is so strong that after our first year as a nonprofit we won a "Best Ensemble Cast" award, this year we are Finalists for "Best Team Performance", and the years in between we were nominated.
IFAA has a unique organizational model, which has been dubbed by many of our collaborators as "next level". This is primarily due to co-founder and IFAA's CEO, Tiffany Westrich-Robertson, who has used her experience in business development, project management, and relationship marketing to design a forward-thinking, project based nonprofit model.
In order to make real change in the community it will take several educated and empowered leaders. This not only includes leaders who have backgrounds in teaching, but additionally those who are willing to engage in learning activities that can be incorporated into current and future IFAA's projects.
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