Because I said I would (BISIW) is both a nonprofit organization, headquartered locally in Rocky River, and a social movement dedicated to inspiring individuals to make and keep their commitments. With twelve staff members, the organization is currently the largest it has been, and it is steadily growing as more and more people learn of its mission to better humanity. The organization and its founder, Alex Sheen (pictured above, speaking at YNPN Cleveland's Anniversary Party in May 2016), believe that they are unique because their mission is universal—they say: “Regardless of anything that makes us different - age, geography, financial status, sexual orientation, gender, skin color, language… anyone can learn to make and keep a promise to do something good in this world.”
To fulfill that mission, BISIW is working to develop a network of Echo chapters across the county. Guided by local Echo leaders who remain in touch with BISIW staff, these groups will meet regularly to make individual and group promises to better themselves, their community, and the world, thereby spreading the organization’s mission even further through echoes of these original promises. At BISIW headquarters, a core group of volunteers and interns gathers to help with their outreach and education programs. For example, there are always volunteers counting and packing promise cards to distribute at presentations or through worldwide mailings. Similarly, dedicated interns from area colleges have greatly increased the organization's ability plan and implement the Echo Chapters, their inaugural fundraising gala, and other community events.
Most importantly, the BISIW staff lives by the rules that they promote! They make monthly and weekly promises to each other and use time during staff meetings to help hold each other accountable. They draw their inspirations from the promise stories that continue to flood into their offices through social media and their website. These stories, according to the staff, are the successes of their organization, and reading them helps the staff stay connected to the views and lives of the people who participate in this increasingly broad movement. Find some of these stories here. The staff takes on a wide variety of tasks, from fulfilling online orders to training volunteers to discussing strategic planning; they keep the organization running, and they make sure the founder, Alex, gets to where he needs to be to continue speaking out.
In the coming years, the organization hopes to devote more resources to building its character education programs. There is no consistent source, they say, from which people are learning the values and practices of commitment, and BISIW hopes to change that. As the volunteer component of the Echo Chapter Program increases and as they reach more students through lesson plans and activities, BISIW intends to become a leader in the field of character education. They will continue to partner with individuals, communities, and institutions of higher learning to spread their mission and find new tools and technologies that can measure the outcomes of keeping promises while educating, inspiring, and supporting the movement.
BISIW intends to inspire people nationally and internationally, but that does not mean they have abandoned any of their own promises to Northeast Ohio. Cleveland’s own Echo Chapter is thriving, meeting monthly to engage both new and returning members in understanding tools and strategies to promote promise-keeping. Volunteering through the Echo Chapter or in their Rocky River office provides local young professionals with first hand insight into the power of committed individuals to impact change. Furthermore, in the last few years, BISIW has shared its mission with high schools, colleges and universities, performing arts organizations, and nonprofit organizations across Northeast Ohio—including YNPN Cleveland. They say that the feedback from this outreach demonstrates that local people are truly being inspired to make and keep promises such as those to stay in school, manage addiction, get healthy, and volunteer.
If the organization and its staff have learned anything from its years of work, it is that it is not easy for people to keep promises—if it were, more people would do it. They have had to study ideas about commitment and what makes some people better at keeping promises than others. They now understand that the power of their mission comes from getting people to make that first promise. A promise gives purpose. BISIW believes that keeping that promise is empowering, it has meaning, and, most importantly, it can change the world.
Because I said I would. is receiving this organizational spotlight in gratitude for their generous support as a Fiscal Partner of YNPN Cleveland. If your organization is interested in becoming a Fiscal Partner, more information is available here.