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

stars

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

D&A Welcomes David Deschenes to Our Team!

Danosky & Associates Welcomes a New Associate and

Gains New Consulting Offerings in New Media

 

dave

Danosky & Associates is pleased to announce that David Deschenes, founder of Spectrum Media LLC, will join the organization as Associate Marketing, Communications, and New Media beginning in April.

“We are thrilled to have David join our team at Danosky,” said Sharon Danosky, founder and President of D&A. “David is well known and respected throughout the local nonprofit community, and has helped many of these organizations to develop engaging mission-based content with a particular focus on video – something we have been looking to help our own clients expand upon.” In addition to specializing in video production for nonprofits, David brings to Danosky & Associates a diverse mix of marketing, communications, and research experience from both the nonprofit and corporate sectors.

David started his career at a Fortune 500 company in NYC where he directed the services of its corporate research center that provided qualitative research to more than a thousand employees across three locations in New York and Virginia.

“That was one of my first jobs in the corporate sector,” said David. “It was a fascinating position that offered opportunities to collaborate with so many people across different business functions within the company, and share a lot of great information – and that served as the foundation for my future interests in outreach, internal communication, and new media.”

As Press Liaison and Editorial Manager at the financial services consultancy, Greenwich Associates, David worked closely with editors and reporters at high-level publications including The Wall Street Journal, New York Times,  Financial Times, Barron’s and many others. An interest in doing something that had a positive and direct impact on the lives of those in his community led to David’s entry to the nonprofit sector where as Director of Brand Management at United Way of Western Connecticut in Danbury, he ensured that the results of the organization’s work across western Connecticut were promoted through traditional and new media. It was there that David developed an interest in video production.

David founded Spectrum Video Productions – now Spectrum Media LLC – in 2011 and he has worked with a number of nonprofits and small businesses to develop custom marketing and content strategies with a focus on video outreach. “When I started Spectrum Video Productions, my focus was primarily on creating video that communicated what the nonprofit wanted,” said David. “But since I had a general marketing background and social media experience, I found myself naturally guiding my clients to expand their thinking on their video projects. And that turned into telling people, ‘don’t think about this as a video – think about it as a content development project with a focus on video.”

As a consultant at Danosky & Associates, David will continue his approach to helping nonprofits develop mission- and vision-based content as well as with traditional marketing & communications interests. Interestingly, David’s first client with D&A will be a land trust in upstate New York that would like to develop its video marketing strategy and train some key staff members and volunteers on creating engaging videos in-house. “I’m looking forward to this project,” said David. “I couldn’t ask for a better start with Danosky & Associates. This workshop will be a new addition to D&A’s capacity building products, and something that I’m extremely passionate about. What better way to engage with a new client than to tap in to their creativity and commitment to their environment and community through video and new media.”

David can be reached at Danosky Associates via email at ddeschenes@danosky.com or by calling 860-799-6330.