Working Cities Grant Means Positive Impact for Danbury

DanburyCongratulations to Danbury for being one of the final winners in the Working Cities Challenge! As a result, they have won a grant of $450,000 to launch this collective impact initiative addressing the root causes of poverty in the Danbury area.

Danosky & Associates was proud to be part of this initiative.

As the facilitators for this initiative we watched the growth of both the working team and the initiative objectives over a period of six months. We admired the courage it took to address the difficult issues surrounding racial inequity, acknowledging the lack of trust among diverse cultures and adapting the objectives of this initiative as more data and insight brought everyone to a clearer understanding of what must be done to address the barriers to economic success.

The strengths of Danbury’s proposal were:

  • Bring diverse partners around the table
  • Growing, evolving, and revising their assumptions as more partners and data were added to the process
  • Including people with lived experiences in the working group
  • Identifying and prioritizing the issue of Trust in the forefront of working with the diverse cultures

It has been a privilege to work with this team and we wish them great success as they begin the hard work of addressing these complex issues.

For more information, visit Working Cities Challenge or a recent article on the award from Danbury News Times.

LEAP 1.0 & 2.0 Coming in 2018!

Danosky & Associates is pleased to announce its continued partnership with the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation and for the fourth consecutive year it will offer the acclaimed Leadership Enrichment for Advance Professionals (LEAP).

“Not only did I learn a tremendous amount, but the relationships I have built with the other LEAP participants has proven to be monumental.”

LEAP 2017 Participant

This year, the program has expanded.  In addition to the core program which explores the fundamental principles of executive leadership, a second LEAP 2.0 has been added for seasoned executives, providing advanced application of the leadership principles needed to meet the changing landscape of today’s nonprofit environment.  Topics will include best practices around collaboration, adaptive leadership, financial modeling, impact communications, fundraising effectiveness and more.  LEAP 2.0 will have the added benefit of participants being able to tailor the course outline to their groups’ specific learning aspirations.

Each session affords the learning-leader the opportunity to take useful, positive actions back to their home shop and the hands-on learning experience encourages thoughtful application and experimentation with ideas and best practices.

“The LEAP workshop was invaluable to both me and to my organization.  As a new non-profit and a new Executive Director the information that I received each week was dynamic and I have used the materials on many occasions.  We are completing our first strategic plan and referencing your workbook and what I learned during the program has definitely helped us to clearly define where we are going. I found sharing information with the other participants was very helpful and we continue to share and check in with each other.”

– LEAP 2017 Participant

Please visit the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation website for more details about our LEAP programs and the LEAP Application.

8 Guideposts to Achieve Trust and Integrity in Your Videos- David Deschenes

I recently interviewed a number of families for a video we produced to highlight the value of a nonprofit organization that provides home and community health services across Connecticut. As with any on-camera interview, I approached these meetings with some basic questions such as “tell us what brought you to where you are now,” or “how did you get connected with this organization.” But I also probed more deeply to give the interviewees an opportunity to talk about things like their personal and professional challenges; some of the family dynamics at play as they worked through extremely trying issues.

The on-camera interview is my favorite component of video production. It’s something I’ve honed over time. Earlier in my experience, I would compile a number of questions for the subject and dutifully run down each to gather as much as I could for their story. But I eventually learned that while it was important to prepare for an interview, it was equally as important to “be in the moment” with the person I was interviewing. Over time, I realized that I would get to a person’s real story through conversation as opposed to a more structured interview.

This perspective alone changed my approach from that of a detached interviewer to someone who really wanted to know what was happening in a person’s life. And this, in turn, triggered something more personal. I developed a need to protect the people I interviewed. On-camera interviews, particularly with people using the services of a nonprofit organization, can get very personal. Intense moments can present themselves. That’s part of what makes me protective of the people I interview. By offering very personal insight into their experience, they’re allowing themselves to be in a vulnerable position. I’m honored when someone feels comfortable enough to trust me with their story. So my overall goal, every time I highlight a person in a video, is to portray them in a way that communicates not only their story, but their courage and conviction as well.

Based on this approach, I’ve developed eight guideposts for interviews and usage. They’re not in any particular order, because I think they all contribute equally to a successful on-camera interview.

  1. Approach each story and situation with respect. The interview can be a cathartic experience for the person you’re filming. It could be the first time they’re saying something out loud about their challenges. It takes a lot of courage and strength for someone to sit in front of a camera and tell their story.
  2. Set up your equipment ahead of time so you can start the interview as soon as the subject arrives. If you schedule an interview for an hour at 10 am, start the interview at 10 am. It can take up to a half hour to set things up, and another 10 minutes to frame the subject and get proper audio levels. So arrive early and get things set so you have the full hour.
  3. Take some time to chat (time allowing) before getting into the questions. Let the interviewee get acclimated to what is usually a very unfamiliar setting – sitting in front of a camera or two, surrounded by a light or three.
  4. Honor wishes for usage, even if someone has signed a release that may state otherwise. People can change their minds. Sometimes people decide after the fact that they don’t want to share their story. There is also a trust factor that once broken, is very hard to repair.
  5. Don’t rush. And in fact, allow more time than formally allotted for the interview in case someone has difficulties starting, or really gets settled in. I’ve had people sit down, obviously very nervous, saying, “I only have a short time,” and an hour and a half later we’re wrapping up with a lot of insightful and profound statements.
  6. Actively listen. In a commonly used technique, you would ask the question and have the subject answer back as a statement. So you never hear the interviewer in the final video. Because you need to remain silent while the subject is speaking, go out of your way to communicate that you’re interested through body language: nod your head, lean in.
  7. Don’t fill the silence. If someone is talking about a difficult subject, they may pause to gather their thoughts. Let them get to it on their own. I tend to pause after someone addresses something that’s particularly challenging for them. I want to make sure they’re really finished with that thought. Sometimes, they’re not. They might add something more because they’re in the moment.
  8. Approach each interview as an assignment. Do some research. Find bios if they’re available. Learn about the person and what they’re talking about. It will allow you to form better questions ahead of time, and will help with follow up during the interview. In addition, the person you’re interviewing will be impressed and respond accordingly.

When someone agrees to be interviewed on-camera, they are always taking a leap of faith that their contribution will be portrayed in a way that is true and fair. After a successful interview, the test in editing will be to produce a story that is compelling but not intrusive; something that gives equal time to challenges and successes. The guideposts above will help you get to that story while maintaining trust and integrity going forward.

We want to hear from you. If there is any topic you would like us to explore, please send your inquiries to info@danosky.com. Visit us to read more of what we’re passionate about!

5 Types of Low Cost, High Impact Videos That Nonprofits Can Create to Raise Awareness and Money- David Deschenes

Technological advances in visual marketing have presented opportunities for smaller to mid-sized nonprofits to establish a video marketing presence that may have been financially out of reach just a few years ago.

Smart phones now produce very high quality video, as reasonably priced smart phone accessories such as wireless or traditional mics, add-on lenses, and internal camera apps help to improve the quality even more. Add to that browser-based video editing software which can be subscribed to for a nominal fee, and you have the ability to create a high impact, low cost video to promote your mission and raise money.

And if you want to have even more control over the quality of your video, video cameras have come down quite a bit in price as well. For $400, you can buy a HD quality camera that offers lots of manual controls and inputs.

There is a learning curve to taking video and producing it, but not too much of one if you’re going for a simple look and message. Lots of non-pro video editing software now works much like iMovie – geared to the novice film maker.

Videos don’t have to be cinematic productions, and in fact, some donors can be put off by lots of editing magic and built in bells & whistles in video. They may feel that an organization is spending lots of money in an environment of funding cuts and tight budgets.

Following are five types of videos that are short and to the point, and fairly simple to produce.

  1. BRANDING This kind of video gives the viewer a good idea of what your organization does and for whom. It can be a “b-roll” format with fast paced images & video over music combined with punchy text and ending info with your logo and website info.
  2. APPEAL This can be tied to a general appeal, or a special event like GivingTuesday. In this video you would want to show the impact you’re having on the population you serve. And like the branding video, you can combine positive images and video with testimonials of success. Always important to end this with a call to action: “Give Now at ________.”
  3. EDUCATIONAL / INFORMATIONAL Informative video that provides information on how you do what you do, or where you fall within a cause or issue. Examples of this kind of video can be an organization showing their success (or increased challenges) helping people with opioid addiction. Include testimonials from experts, staff, volunteers, and clients to underscore your message. This type of video would also include a call to action to direct the viewer on how they can donate or get involved.
  4. STORIES / TESTIMONIALS This video can include short vignettes highlighting the beneficiaries of an organization’s service, each story clearly showing challenges and success (or perhaps ongoing challenges, because sometimes the story doesn’t end with a perfect solution). Pair these clips with staff and volunteers talking about their passion for the mission. Again, an ending call to action drives donations or another kind of engagement.
  5. THANK YOU Communicate the results of someone’s monetary or volunteer support. Walk around a program and get brief comments from people on how they were helped. If you’re a land trust, show some work in progress and talk about how “your donation is helping our local environment”. This can be a brief video to a particular donor, where you narrate and address them by name, or a group of donors/volunteers. This kind of video can have a higher share/forward rate as people love to share this kind of news with their own networks.

As you explore and discuss types of videos going forward, you will find that many have overlapping formats such as application of b-roll, music underlay, contributing staff, volunteers, donors, clients, etc.

While it is important to create the right kind of video for your intentions, it is just as important for a nonprofits to establish a video marketing strategy, as well as internal policies & guidelines;  it is important to ensure that those tasked with filming and producing videos are aware of legal implications and usage limitations.

While it is crucial to plan your approach to in-house video production, there is also somewhat of a “just do it” approach that can help you get over those first hurdles. Your first videos don’t have to be cinematic masterpieces. Number one priority is to tell your story clearly and with the most impact.

We want to hear from you. If there is any topic you would like us to explore, please send your inquiries to info@danosky.com. Visit us to read more of what we’re passionate about!

The Color of Nonprofit Boards- Sharon Danosky

Nonprofit organizations – and their boards – are on the front lines of many of the societal problems we face.  They are advocates, providers of human services and collaborators for social change.  And they are predominantly white.

A recent study of Board practices, Leading With Intent  published by BoardSource noted that “boards are not prioritizing demographics in their recruitment practices”.  The survey they undertook of their members received responses from 1,545 organizations nationally.  Of those organizations, 90% of their Chief Executives were Caucasian, as was 90% of Board Chairs and 84% of Board members.

While the survey may not be a representative sampling, I contend that you can walk into the Board rooms of nonprofits across the country and see predominantly white faces.  Recruiting for diversity is often given lip service.  Even in instances when there is an effort to diversify the board, the reality is that boards self-perpetuate and as they seek new members, they go to the well that is familiar – and that well looks just like they do.

To address issues of racial equity and bring about real change requires new perspectives.  It requires that the people sitting around the boardroom table represent and understand the problems an organization is trying to solve.  Recently I had a conversation with the Chair of the Governance Committee for a client I am working with.  The organization he represents serves predominantly immigrant children and children of color.  He asked me, “Does diversity really matter?  I know it is something we keep hearing, but why should it be a priority?”     I asked him how his board evaluates the effectiveness of their programs and the impact they are having.  How do they know whether they are reaching children in meaningful ways – ways that address their cultural concerns, including issues of trust and opportunity, if they are only seeing it from their own lenses?  As he thought about this he said, “I am a white man.  The entire leadership of the Board is white, and predominantly men.  The answer is – we don’t know”.  Then he hesitated a moment and continued, noting that a new board member, a woman of color, had just joined the Board and his committee.  He said he thought it would be good to have her work with the committee for a few months – then he would step down with the intent she would assume his leadership role.  That at least it would change a little.  It’s a small step, true – but it is a step forward.

In board rooms throughout the country, we need to have board members asking these same questions. And they need to listen in ways they have not done so in the past.  And perhaps those small steps can grow and make a real change.