The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu liked to point out that life is about change. The circumstances of our lives are always in flux. Successful people learn to adapt and to manage the change in their lives.

Al Van Ranst seems to have learned that lesson. In September he and Marta Bennett are getting married. Three years ago he began a new career as chief financial officer for the Boston Foundation, a nonprofit think tank working to solve social problems in the Boston metropolitan area specifically, with a larger focus on Massachusetts generally. This is a big change from his 30 years as a partner with KPMG, a national public accounting firm.

“It’s an interesting challenge,” Al says with a sheepish grin. “Nonprofits have a different culture. The pace of work and the motivation of the employees are different. In the private sector, everything is organized around the bottom line. With nonprofits, decision making is more complicated.

“The nice thing about nonprofits is that we fill important niches. Government is responsible for everything, with the result that it is often spread too thin. We pick and choose the problems we want to focus on.

“The basic function of the Boston Foundation is to conduct research on specific problems we identify and have an interest in, and then we bring together leaders from government, industry, education (whoever has an interest in the problem) to try to solve the problem.

“The advantage we have is we can focus on a relatively small number of problems at one time, and we can do our work relatively free of interest group pressure. The problem is that we have only limited resources, so we must choose our areas of focus with care.”

Al was hired by the Boston Foundation to bring a more businesslike approach to financial decision-making. “Have you succeeded?” I asked.

“Partially so,” he responded, again with a sheepish grin. “The good thing is that our president is both a visionary and an effective manager. In my domain, he leaves me alone. He trusts me to oversee the financial operation of our organization without looking over my shoulder and micromanaging what I do. The challenge is that I have to train our employees to think differently about finances and their job, but it’s a fun challenge.”

I got the impression throughout our interview that Al takes great pride in the work of the Boston Foundation. To find out more about its work, check out their Web page at TBF.org.

Kelly Hess was recently hired as general manager of the East Chop Beach Club to bring a full-time, businesslike approach to managing the club. When I ran into her at the beach the other day, she had things other than management responsibilities on her mind:

“Rick, you’ve got to come to the Teenie Bopper Dance on July 8. We want you to write about it in your column. We’re going to honor Lisa Knight with an ice cream social. There is no one who has done more for the kids at this club,” Kelly said.

Though I missed the dance, I heard from the grapevine that it was indeed a wonderful tribute to a woman who has served the ECBC and kids all of her adult life.

The club obviously has done well in hiring Kelly. Board members have been relieved of many management related responsibilities. Kelly will supervise club maintenance, both on and off-season, off-season events, the kitchen, and she has been given an increased role in managing club finances. She has 15 years of management experience, and it shows. The club is running smoothly, and it looks great.

Finally, thanks to a generous donation from the East Chop Association and a 50 per cent match from the town of Oak Bluffs, the highway department and the conservation commission have been able to hire Stan Humphries, a coastal geologist, to design a plan to protect East Chop Drive by Crystal Lake where the waves often come right up to the road. We are fortunate to have the ECA working to protect and preserve our precious corner of the Island.