’s 5 in 3 Non-Profit Leadership Series: Ellen Starr, Executive Director of Grounds for Health
3 min readFeb 5, 2021


Grounds For Health’s mission is to reduce cervical cancer among women in developing countries

Welcome to’s 5 in 3 non-profit leadership series. We ask non-profit leaders all over the world to answer 5 question about their non-profit experience to create this 3-minute piece.’s mission is to empower organizations to thrive, inspire, and serve the world. Though we primarily do this through technology, providing a platform to share the stories and experiences of leaders in the non-profit space is also an important part of executing on that mission.

I am pleased to introduce Ellen Starr. Ellen is the Executive Director of Grounds for Health. Grounds for Health is an international non-profit organization with a small administrative head office in Vermont and a team of eight in-country staff, currently in Africa, who are native to the regions we serve. Our vision is to help build a bridge to globally inclusive health care through the prevention of cervical cancer in coffee communities. The coffee industry, where the bulk of our funding comes from, has a notable interest in supporting the workers at the beginning of their supply chains. As a result, we have always worked in coffee growing regions, some of the most rural and underserved communities around the globe. We have 25 years’ experience in on-the-ground implementation of cervical cancer screen and treat programs for women, building local capacity in the provision of high-quality clinical care. We work within the public health system to develop a sustainable, comprehensive program to keep women healthy and stop deaths from cervical cancer, an entirely preventable disease

How did you get your start in the non-profit space?

I have worked in the non-profit sector in health care for my entire professional life. I am a Nurse Practitioner and began my journey with Grounds for Health as a clinical volunteer in Tanzania. I later became an employee in various roles that ultimately led to my current one as the Executive Director.

What is one challenge you’ve encountered that you didn’t expect while working for a non-profit?

Having never worked in the for-profit world, that is a hard one to answer. I can say that perhaps one of the biggest distinctions between the two is that we are always trying to raise money to meet our mission vs working to increase sales of a product. Raising money through the philanthropic intentions of our generous funders is an entirely different challenge. Salaries still need to be paid and material costs still exist but there is no income coming in through commerce.

What is one opportunity you’ve identified because of the changes due to COVID-19?

We work in the field of cervical cancer prevention in the rural coffee growing regions of the developing world. Currently we have programs in the low resource countries of Ethiopia and Kenya where there is the potential for truly devastating impact if COVID-19 takes hold. In order to ensure that our important work doesn’t simply stop during a time of social distancing, we are embarking on an initiative to introduce a new technology that will allow women to screen themselves, even in their own homes, thereby avoiding visits to highly trafficked health centers. The screening approach has the added advantage of greatly improving patient satisfaction in the future.

What is your most effective fundraising medium?

Face to face interactions

What is one fundraising rule you live by?

Always make sure donors feel like they are a part of something big.

Thank you for sharing your story Ellen.

You can learn more about Grounds For Health and Ellen below.

Ellen Starr, Executive Director at Grounds for Health

Grounds For Health:

Ellen on LinkedIn:



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