After Sandy Hook Tragedy, Nonprofits Regroup

Nanci G. Hutson

Published 11:54 pm, Saturday, May 18, 2013

Millions of dollars and gifts poured into Newtown without anyone asking after a gunman killed children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14.

The toll of the tragedy was so horrific that charitable dollars flowed from unexpected places and people. A large number of new charities were started, and money and services were funneled into them.

Philanthropy at its best, some suggested.

So it might seem less than charitable to question such good will. In truth, though, donor dollars can prove a competitive commodity.

In the fall and winter, the time when most nonprofits are reaching out to for annual support, their faithful donors were distracted from their traditional giving habits to answer urgent cries for help, she said.

Ever since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, New Milford-based nonprofit consultant Sharon Danosky said, charities have been forced to retool how they do business.

Many organizations do not have strong, diversified philanthropy programs, so when tragedy strikes or they are confronted with some other financial hurdle they are unprepared, and sometimes reluctant, to be assertive in their fundraising efforts, Danosky said. Her advice to all nonprofits is to ensure a stable fundraising program and solid finance management plan able to weather downturns.

“And the time to do that is not when you are facing cuts and concerns,” Danosky said. “We are huge advocates of scenario planning.”

“Sandy Hook changed our mission,” said Nick Hoffman, development director for Family & Children’s Aid of Danbury.

Unlike some who worry about finding new funding, Hoffman said he has come to see that tragedy can be a lens into the need for philanthropy. “It was such a horrific tragedy, and it has affected everyone in the community. To be the regional mental health experts for  children, we know what the long term holds and we have talent in our staff to mitigate the worst-case scenarios,” Hoffman said.