Grassroots Video: Empowering Your Staff to Capture the Moments That Matter

During a recent meeting with a prospective client who was considering one of Danosky & Associates workshops to create videos in-house, an interesting questions was posed:

Should we have D&A produce a video for us, or should we focus on learning how to create videos ourselves?

We suggested both. But not at the same time. We suggested that the organization should first learn the basics of video production to establish a steady stream of short outreach videos to illustrate their mission and the intrinsic values of their services. And then, maybe down the road, we could explore the production of a larger promotional video.

The main driver for this answer is that nonprofits have many (many!) moments on any given day that visually illustrate the profound impact their services have on the clients they serve.

So we believe you should train the people in your organization who work front-line with your clients and volunteers to capture these moments. Because they’re moments. They’re there, and then they pass. Great memories, but you can’t visually revisit them. The most impactful scenes in a video are often not staged, but happen spontaneously.

That being said, it is also extremely important to have a firm and well-understood videotaping policy with applicable releases in place that clearly list the do’s and don’ts of capturing video in a social services or medical setting. You select those who will capture video for your organization carefully. They must have strong relationships with their clients, and know when – and when not to – turn on the camera…if at all. They must be good with technology, but even better with empathy and discretion.

Imagine the emotional insight your organization can capture and communicate if those who work directly with your clients are empowered to record some of the profound moments that surround them on any given day.

And ask yourself – how many times have you thought, “Man, I wish I had a camera.”

Creating Our Climate- Larry Smotroff

Editable vector silhouettes of four people painting a blank wall different colors with copy space

July 11th, 2017

Creating Our Climate

During a recent visit to a health center I was struck by the organizational climate I encountered.   It had been some time since every person with whom I came in contact exceeded my expectations!  It was so distinctive and remarkable that it gave me pause.  The experience started me thinking about other places I had recently been where passion and dedication were significant factors contributing to an engaging climate; most notably a school and a library.  It also started me thinking about my work with non-profits and how passion and dedication were not the only driving forces needed to create that amazing climate that stops you in your tracks and makes you smile.

All organizations create a climate and establish a culture, naturally, out of hard to see elements like a person’s attitude or communication style.  The elements that create an engaging climate always influence the nonprofits effectiveness, for better or for worse.  We have all seen that keen interest in the other person’s eyes and felt compassion in their voice.  Alternatively, we have also experienced the opposite in the form of cold indifference to our interest or concern.

Have you taken time to consider how the climate of your nonprofit may be impacting your success?  It might seem like an elusive idea, but it is really pretty simple. It is the sense you have, that positive regard, or indifference, you feel when you interact with the leaders, the staff or the volunteers.  Those interactions indicate that you are valued, respected, and appreciated (or not) and contribute to a sense of trust and confidence.  How you are “greeted and treated” does matter; it reflects the attitudes, beliefs, and motivations of the organization.

To get to the heart of the phenomena, a nonprofit’s climate echoes volumes about the leadership’s impact on the enterprise and its services.  Leaders contribute to a climate with their distinctive qualities and characteristics.  Was it a great experience? Or a not-so-great experience?  How does the climate, driven by the behavior of leaders, transform the staff and volunteers who deliver the programs and services to clients, patients, and community stakeholders?

Your climate, unlike the natural climate, does not have to be unpredictable. Your leaders can create an organizational climate that captures the imaginations of Board members, staff, volunteers, clients, and community.  Are your nonprofit leaders conveying enthusiasm, trust, a spirit of helpfulness, a commitment to service, and a responsiveness to changing needs?  There are many leadership models out there; one framework to explore, adaptive leadership, offer tools for capacity building, progressive engagement, and enhanced effectiveness. It offers methods for reflection and opportunities to fine-tune attitudes and interactions.

Do you want to achieve a special mix of values and behaviors? Try leveraging your passion for the mission and be a catalyst that transforms and strengthens the board, staff, and volunteers.  Dig deeper into your adaptive leadership skills to re-discover how everyone in your organization can help re-define the climate, impact operations, and contribute to a climate of community engagement and collaboration that exceeds expectations every time.

Difficult Conversations-Sharon Danosky

Can you Face your Vulnerabilities in the Workplace and Beyond?

It is difficult to have conversations about racial equity, social justice, and real community engagement. For the most part, we are a polite society. We would prefer to stay quiet rather than risk offending someone or saying the wrong thing. So we say nothing at all.

Our firm was fortunate to be chosen to be one of the consultants facilitating theWorking Cities Challenge, a funding initiative from the Boston Federal Reserve to focus on economic development. We are working with a number of organizations in the greater Danbury area and were challenged by the Working Cities Challenge during a Design Session to explore the issue of racial equity. As many do, we lightly addressed the subject in terms of cultural and language differences we need to address. Yet, I was bothered. I felt we weren’t going deep enough.

I was going to facilitate our next team meeting along with my colleague Larry Smotroff, and we were struggling with this issue. As I was going through the daily news feeds, Independent Sector posted an article by Fortune referencing a video produced by Accenture. The video was attempting to address how the inability to address diversity in the workplace can personally impact employees in some very painful ways. I viewed the video through eyes that were tearing. After sharing the video with Larry, we made a decision – we were going to show this video at the meeting and see if we could prompt discussion.

We did just that and then opened it to discussion – carefully going around the table to ensure that everyone spoke. Two young men, freshly out of college and one who is Puerto-Rican/Dominican, spoke first – about how it affected them personally. They allowed themselves to be vulnerable and share how difficult it has been for each of them. That began a discussion where everyone spoke of their own challenges. Then the conversation shifted. And the meeting was no longer about how we can solve problems, but how we need to understand what those problems really are – from the perspective of the people who are living in poverty and have experienced generational poverty or have come into a community that is diverse but extremely disconnected.

It is a beginning.

I am of the generation where I was often the only woman in a room of men and frequently my voice was not heard. So I developed a facade of having to know all the answers, always be right and never let them see how you feel. Now I know better. And I truly believe that when we allow ourselves to share our vulnerabilities, we become stronger and can seek solutions in a very messy, confusing world where conversations can be difficult.

$390.05 Billion! Just Wait ‘Til Next Year- Sharon Danosky

After a tumultuous 2016, one that included a lot of non-profit angst, there were also a considerable number of giving surges that extended from last year into this one. Planned Parenthood raised $80,000 within three days of the election. ACLU received more than $24 million in online donations over a single week-end.

If nothing else – philanthropy won in 2016. In fact, giving in 2016 was very good and hit a record high with $390.05 billion contributed and 72% coming from individual contributions

What does that mean going forward, though?

In the June 13th issue of Nonprofit Quarterly, Ruth McCambridge explores that question with some interesting observations. The first – even though some headline organizations raised considerable funds, it did not diminish giving to other, less visible organization. Indeed, a rising tide does float all boats.

Next, individual giving increased, and not necessarily all attributable to large contributions, though there were plenty of those to be had. Still, the highest increases were in the environment, health, international affairs and the arts – all areas that many perceived as being ‘under siege’ and where there was a considerable amount of advocacy, with many people visibly rallying around these causes.

And here is where I think the future is particularly bright: activism sparks philanthropy. Concerns that motivate action also motivate giving.

It is as if a sleeping giant has awoken.

The gentle complacency many have felt during the past 8 or so years, even a post-recession malaise, has been brought up short. People are more willing to fight for the values and beliefs they hold dear, especially if those values or beliefs are threatened. Take, Meals on Wheels. Whether or not you know someone who benefits from this program, many of us believe that providing a meal and friendship to someone who is unable to leave their house shines a light on the better side of humanity. So, once there was a possibility of it being caught up in budget cuts – people responded!

What can we take away from some of these findings?

That non-profits are finding their voices. Their angry, just, robust and passionate voices for the people and causes they serve. And with their voices being heard, more people are listening.

We have no idea what the future will bring, but what we do know is that we can play a role in shaping it, and people will follow with both their voices – and their money.

Reach for The Stars- Sharon Danosky


A client recently asked me to review their sponsorship book.  They are trying to promote an upcoming event and developed a booklet that would hopefully attract business leaders.

It was a very attractive booklet.  In it they listed all the benefits of sponsoring their organization: where they were going to advertise, the radio spots, the reach they have on Facebook and Twitter, how many people access their website where the company logo would be featured – and more statistical information. While this kind of information is valuable in measuring reach and ROI, it doesn’t quite get to the “heart” of the matter as it relates to persuading long-term support of clients and services.

Nowhere in the booklet was mention of their mission, or anything about the people they help.  And, trust me, this organization makes a significant difference in the lives of many people they serve.

They aren’t the only ones who do this.  In fact, I think this is the approach that many organizations take.  You will find hundreds of examples on Google.

But here’s the problem … You don’t sell your organization based on activities and exposure.

You sell your organization because of the feelings you evoke when people hear the story of what you do.  I was mesmerized by Zillow’s ad, called “Stars.”  Yes-Zillow.  I won’t go into details, but if you watch for only 1 minute, it tells a story that tugs on your heart.  And they are selling a database that promotes real estate.  Certainly, with all the amazing stories your organization has, you can do better than statistics and reach.  Take a page from Zillow, and reach for the same star.

By the way – business leaders are people too …  and we all want to be touched by a good story.


Categories:  Fundraising and Campaigns, Communications, Video