Introducing Danosky 2.0!


By Sharon Danosky

Dear Friends,

Over the course of a few months, we’ve been doing a lot of introspective work at Danosky & Associates. In the twelve years since launching my firm, it has been both a privilege and pleasure to work with numerous nonprofits all across the sector. I have gained a deep understanding of the challenges these organizations are facing today. Some of these challenges seem to be perpetual, while others have been brought about by COVID-19 and a stronger recognition of the need to apply a racial equity lens to our work. I also think there are systemic problems that many nonprofits are grappling with, which have been heightened in the environment. Some of these are:
  • The need for ongoing review and testing of our missions, and whether we are meeting the needs of all the constituents we are meant to serve
  • The imperative for our organizations and our boards to apply a racial equity lens in all work –diversity can mean inviting someone to the table, but being inclusive ensures that all people with diverse voices are heard at that same table
  • The necessity for boards to step up to the plate and play more of a governance role and letting go of their operational stance or observing nonprofit performance from the sidelines
  • The demand for fundraising to truly be donor-centric and for nonprofits to be more directly accountable to their donors
  • The wisdom of listening to those with lived/living experience and to translate their input into meaningful action
  • The benefit of understanding and incorporating narrative change into our mission, our services and ultimately our communications
  • The power of collaboration and how it can make significant difference in how people receive services instead of how they are being provided.
  • The potential for systems change, because ultimately, our current systems are not meeting the needs of so many

Danosky Consulting Expertise Growing

For this reason, I have made some changes to the work we do at Danosky & Associates, or as I am calling it, Danosky 2.0. Our work will focus on four primary pillars: Strategy; Governance; Funding; and Finance. We will apply a racial equity lens in all our continued work and will do this by asking key questions, probing, and facilitating difficult conversations.
To amplify the changes we are making, I have added new staff. Matthew Krumholtz will be joining as a Principal Consultant. He has a strong background in strategy, systems and narrative change, and fundraising, particularly through private-public partnerships. You can read more about Matthew in our upcoming December newsletter.
Susan Rosati has taken a stronger lead in helping nonprofits develop financial scenario plans and navigating these tricky financial waters. Juanita Manning continues to be our backbone, and in addition, I am bringing in Casey Crowell to provide additional support. We make a great team!

The Challenges of Racial Equity for Nonprofit Sustainability

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By Matthew Krumholtz, Guest Contributor

COVID-19 has magnified unsustainable levels of inequality across the U.S. From access to health coverage to disproportionate mortality rates in communities of color, this pandemic has acted like a tracer dye through our systems and institutions, revealing the intersectional vulnerabilities of historically marginalized communities. For nonprofits, addressing the critical issues surrounding racial equity is as urgent as ever, even while obstacles to funding streams and opportunities for systemic change emerge with greater clarity.

Not only have communities of color suffered from higher infection rates of COVID-19, people of color are in higher need of support, since they make up a disproportionate percentage of the low-wage workforce and the precarious jobs that are being cut.

Many funders are responding to the crisis of inequity with new grant making strategies that incorporate a racial equity lens. As the Bridgespan Group notes, nonprofit organizations led by people of color face greater barriers to necessary resources and are at far higher risk of closure –– at a moment of critical urgency for the communities they are serving. The Bridgespan Group recommends that funders take a racial equity approach to giving in contrast to a race-neutral framing, which does nothing to address the structural racism –– historically rooted and socially reinforced –– that underlies the vast disparities we are witnessing through the course of the pandemic.

A prominent solution that has been widely echoed relates to the need for organizations to demonstrate and measure their impact. Advice related to unequal funding for racial equity often centers on building data systems and reporting tools to demonstrate to funders the success of relevant programs. However, the organizations that have the most impact in serving communities of color are not necessarily the ones with the resources to develop time-intensive, data-driven cases for philanthropic support.

In Nonprofit QuarterlyLori Villarosa points out that financial disparities are so deeply rooted in the nonprofit sector that funders risk perpetuating the status quo, unless they intentionally shift the focus and scope of their grant making.

Villarosa usefully advocates for seeing racial equity and racial justice as two sides of the same coin, with the former being a critical need and the latter a transformative vision. Not satisfied by naming and understanding the structural barriers that disproportionately face communities of color, a racial justice approach examines the systems-wide solutions that address inequities and move us toward a more just, inclusive society.

This movement from awareness to action requires looking at interventions from a systems-level perspective. The interlocking vulnerabilities experienced by communities of color demand transformational change, where each of us –– as nonprofits, consultants and funders ––determine how we can multiply our impact by working together toward a shared aim of racial justice.

COVID-19 has laid bare the unsustainability of a system built on the debased scaffolding of structural racism. Repairing this broken system will take a bold collective effort, and nonprofit organizations are a critical point of light in the constellation of change we need.

A Catalyst for Change

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by Sharon Danosky

A crisis or a period of uncertainty affords us this opportunity.  Or as Paul Romer said during the 2008 financial collapse:  A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

And this particular crisis affords us new opportunities in a way that few other crisis have.  Overnight, most of us were forced to think innovatively just to carry out our day to day activities and services that so many people depend on.  Now, we need to fight against the weariness of this prolonged change and once again pivot to create a different paradigm for the future.

There will be few among us who will ever return to providing services the way we did prior to COVID-19.  That is simply a fact.  However, it is far from a negative.  As I have spoken with many nonprofits in the region and across the country, there are few that want to take that narrow vision.

This pandemic has shown us the under-belly of the nonprofit infrastructure.  It is an infrastructure that is under-resourced, and overstressed with a huge swath of the population being grossly underserved or neglected for decades.  At the same time it has created an awakening of a society that has allowed racial inequities and injustice to simmer below the surface.   There have been huge shifts in the patterns of our daily lives – from spending more time with family and close friends to shifting our spending behavior to that of savings (personal savings rate hit 33% in April).

This is the time to plan for what’s ahead.  And I don’t mean trying to read the tea-leaves and then adjust accordingly.  I mean plan for the organization you want to become.  Plan for how you can deliver your programs most effectively going forward.  What infrastructure will you need?  What staff and training will it require?  Plan to address the racial inequities and injustices by raising the questions; who do you serve, who should you serve andare the people who can address the issues part of the conversation.  Plan by having more meaningful and strategic discussions at your board meetings.  And plan by more aggressively raising funds and engaging your donors instead of fretting about your events.

My next webinar will discuss these topics and more – Manage Change and Maximize Impact.  I invite you to join me.

Danosky & Associates is available for a complementary consultation should your organization be going through a leadership transition. 

Is there another transition in your nonprofit’s future?

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by Sharon Danosky

In the wake of COVID-19, many nonprofits are experiencing a transition of leadership. Some executive directors are retiring; others are pursuing different interests.  Whatever the reason a leader is leaving, these transitions can be tricky, especially at a time when there is so much uncertainty.

They can also offer unique opportunities.  It is so critical to plan for this transition carefully.

What not to do is panic and immediately list the position.

The right way to approach a transition is to take a deep breath and decide what is required to lead the organization through this tumultuous time and emerge with a stronger organization, well prepared to deliver your mission.

With all the changes that have transpired – in the world and in your organization – your organization may have evolved into something different than it was pre COVID-19.  That’s why a leadership transition is the perfect time to take stock. [Read more…]

Commit to Create a More Just and Equitable World

danoskypic 16By Sharon Danosky

As I was preparing this newsletter – I really wanted to say something about what has transpired in the past 10 days and the racial unrest that has been pouring onto our streets.  But what could I say or offer to the conversation?  And what understanding do I really have of the issue?

I am a white women of privilege.  Not the “born with the silver spoon” type – but someone who could assume all the advantages of being raised white.  I assumed I would go to college, be judged equally when applying for a job, have opportunities to be promoted.  I assume I will be seen and heard when I walk into a room.  I assume I will be safe in most situations. I assume I will be treated respectfully in all situations.  And most of all – I erroneously assume that everyone is treated as I am.

I recently watched a 58-second video where Jane Elliott, an American schoolteacher, anti-racism activist and educator, made a simple request:  “I’d like to ask every white person in this room who would be happy to be treated the same way as this society treats our black citizens to please stand up.”  No one stood.  We all know there are racial inequities.  And yet we live everyday as if we are wearing blinders.

I would like to share with you a newsletter from an organization I have been privileged to work with in the past and the commitment they have made to help build a better future.  [CLICK HERE]


I, too, commit to walk without blinders and to do everything I can to help create a more just and equitable world.