3 Key Considerations for Crisis Management

crisismanagemetBy David Deschenes

There are all kinds of issues and crises that can arise on any given day for a nonprofit. Ask an executive director if they’ve recently dealt with an issue that had a potential negative impact on their organization’s standing and they’ll most likely reply, “What? Of course!” There is no shortage.

Yet many nonprofits find themselves unprepared when it comes to communicating through a crisis. Following are three essential steps that all nonprofit organizations should take to be prepared for the next crisis or urgent issue that challenges their good reputation.

1. Visualize Your Crisis
Don’t be afraid to use your imagination on this one. Make a list of your organization’s vulnerabilities and think of the absolute worst thing that could happen. Then list other things that may not be so extreme, but could still do damage to your reputation. The worst might be that your location burns down, while something less severe – but nevertheless damaging – may be that a staff member has embezzled from clients.

2. Learn from Others
Now that you know what could happen, do some research to find out how other organizations responded to similar issues and crises. Learn what worked and what didn’t work. Was there a communication plan in place? Or was it in disarray – or even nonexistent? Who did they communicate out to? Who was their spokesperson? Were there too many spokespeople?

3. Create Formal Plans for Each Scenario (and Ensure That People are Trained)
Now that you’ve learned from the successes and mistakes or others, plan accordingly. You will need both logistical and communications plans for each scenario you’ve developed. In the event of a major fire, logistics to consider would be: do you have a practiced evacuation plan, where do you run your services following such a crisis? From a communications perspective, what are your key messages that you have for the press, funders, the community, volunteers, etc. Who are the spokespeople in your organization and among your volunteers? Do you have relationships developed with your local press? A social media communications strategy? Have you run through these scenarios with your key people and do they know how to deliver your key messages during the crisis?

These are just the first steps in ensuring your nonprofit is preparing for the next crisis on the horizon. Don’t get caught off guard. Take the time to brainstorm around what could happen to your organization, learn from others, and then be prepared with concrete plans.

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! See more of our blogs to read more of what we’re passionate about!

The LEAP Program:
Five Years of Shaping Future Nonprofit Leaders

“Nobody teaches this stuff!” That’s what one of our past LEAP participants said as others around her nodded in agreement. This was someone who had come up through the ranks to earn a well-deserved Executive Director role. But after accepting the position, she discovered that there were major issues with the budget, and a number of grants were close to deadline. In addition, there were personnel issues that needed to be handled with care. She thought she knew the organization inside & out, but quickly discovered that she was not familiar with the many intricacies of running a nonprofit. Being at the top had turned out to be a lonely place. Then someone suggested The Leadership Enrichment for Advancing Professionals (LEAP) program.

The LEAP Program has just begun its fifth session. Over the previous four years, more than 40 nonprofit leaders from across Connecticut have graduated the LEAP program, coming away with working knowledge in the areas of Leadership, Strategy, Fundraising, Board Engagement, Financial Management, Communications, and Human Resource Management. The LEAP program consists of seven four-hour sessions that offer interactive presentations, group discussions, research and case study analysis, simulations, and action-planning activities. The final session, called “Immersion,” challenges participants to work in teams on a case study and present solutions using everything they’ve learned throughout the program. This usually culminates in lively presentations and some healthy competition.

LEAP 2018 Group Photo 2Guy Rovezzi, President and CEO of Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation, has supported the LEAP program from its inception five years ago. “One of the aspects of this program that I think is extremely effective is this multi-layered approach that builds each educational session after the prior one,” he said. “It keeps the same group together throughout the program so they can develop a sense of trust and an ability to communicate with each other that is comfortable. Many have kept in touch to form a supportive network of peers following completion of the LEAP program.”

Guy saw a longer-term benefit as well. “If a community foundation can assist in helping these individuals achieve the kinds of skills taught during LEAP, they will become more marketable in their own careers, and their organizations will benefit from having leaders who are more competent in what they do. It’s something we’re very proud of.”

The recent study Stanford Survey on Leadership and Management in the Nonprofit Sector, found that “more than 80 percent of nonprofit organizations struggle with at least one of the seven fundamental elements of nonprofit leadership and management, thus hampering their overall performance and their ability to achieve their goals.” This information affirms something that Danosky & Associates already knew: nonprofit leaders need a resource to learn critical leadership and management skills from the ground up while having access to a cohort of peer support.

“Over the years, we recognized there were common professional development needs that weren’t being met – particularly among those who are new to leadership roles,” said Sharon Danosky. “So we developed a program that offers an opportunity for up-and-coming leaders to learn alongside peers who have the same challenges. It’s a safe place where they soon realize that other people are struggling with similar issues – and that they can speak openly. We hear back from graduates of the program all the time about the difference it has made in their organizations and their careers.”

LEAP 2018 PresenterA follow up meeting with last year’s graduates found them making use of the skills they learned during the LEAP program. One LEAP alumni outlined how she had a much better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of her board following the program. As a result, she was able to better engage the board and develop a more productive working relationship to move the organization forward.

Another recent graduate of the program felt confident that he would be a better fundraiser as a result of attending LEAP. “I’ve had some success in running my own business, but this is my first experience as an executive director of a nonprofit,” said John Simoncelli, Executive Director of Litchfield-based Greenwoods Counseling Referrals. “The LEAP program offered great insight on a number of crucial aspects of running a successful nonprofit organization, delivered in seven sessions that followed one after the other. One of the more valuable take-aways for me was an analytical approach to fundraising. Sharon Danosky presented this in a way that clearly demonstrated proven ways to analyze your donor database to better engage donors and consistently increase annual donations.”

This year’s LEAP participants – fondly referred to as LEAPER’s – are from Canaan, Torrington, Woodbury, Sharon, Kent, and Falls Village and they run libraries, child care and family services, social service and health organizations, and cultural arts efforts.

A survey completed by participants to measure what they want to take away from this year’s LEAP program included developing a positive culture, learning expectations of the board, improving on management skills & leadership, increasing knowledge around fundraising, and how better to communicate the mission.

As we guide more nonprofit executives through our fifth year of LEAP, we will deliver on those expectations and more – building a pool of talented and well-trained executive directors who are on the front-lines of making people’s lives better.

We want to hear from you – What was your greatest challenge when you first became a leader in your organization? Click here to send your comments!

See more of our blogs to read more of what we’re passionate about!


Cohort Groups: Support for Those Who Are Supposed to Know Everything


“A question for Executive Directors everywhere. Do you have a cohort group? A group of people who are also Executive Directors, understand your challenges and provide you an opportunity to talk, share, learn, grow and mentor others. If not – you should. Being an Executive Director can be one of the loneliest jobs – there is literally no one you can confide in. Perhaps your spouse or significant other – but that gets old pretty fast. A cohort group make a huge difference.

That’s what Executive Directors learned at a workshop given by Sharon Danosky and sponsored by the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain and the Farmington Bank Community Foundation. In a setting that was described as “Las Vegas” executive Directors from different nonprofits explored issues around governance and management and how to create stronger relationships with their boards to build a stronger organization. “The real benefit of the workshop was people realizing that they aren’t alone in addressing these issues and that by sharing with one another, they can find good solutions,” noted Sharon.

“As we host these kinds of workshops, Community foundations are in an excellent position to learn about and act on the supportive needs of Executive Directors and board members,” said the  Community Foundation of Greater New Britain’s Director of Community Initiatives and Program Services, Joeline Wruck. “Executive Directors in our area had voiced a strong desire to access a collegial network where they would be free to explore similar concerns and learn from each other — and based on the feedback we’ve received, this workshop is exactly what they had in mind.”

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! See more of our blogs to read more of what we’re passionate about!

Community Seeks to Make a Big Impact in Addressing Childhood Poverty

Collective Impact

What better way to start the New Year than to set a goal to reduce childhood poverty in not just one Connecticut community, but many? The Valley Community Foundation, Griffin Hospital, TEAM, Inc., and Valley United Way came together with more than 20 other organizations in Ansonia, Derby, Oxford, Seymour, and Shelton (the Valley) to figure out how to do just that over the next 10 years. Danosky & Associates was honored to be asked to facilitate this initiative as they explore all the different facets that contribute to childhood poverty – and the impact it causes.

The priority to focus on childhood poverty came as a result of a facilitated brainstorming session to highlight some of the pressing needs within the Valley Community. The one issue that continued to resurface during this exercise was childhood poverty. According to detailed data the collaborative has compiled, 26% of all Valley children live in households below 200% of Federal Poverty Guidelines.

Over the course of the next several months, these organizations will utilize an innovative and structured approach known as Collective Impact, which facilitates collaboration across government, business, philanthropy, non-profit organizations, and citizens to achieve significant and lasting social change. The concept of Collective Impact is based on the idea that, in order for organizations to create lasting solutions to social problems on a large-scale, they need to coordinate their efforts and work together around a clearly defined goal. Nonprofit organizations in the Valley have a long history of collaboration, so this approach was a natural fit as they sought to move forward. In addition, the project will be facilitated by Danosky & Associates, which has successfully managed other collective impact initiatives – including the Working Cities Challenge in Danbury, which resulted in a $450,000 grant to reduce the number of minorities living below federal poverty guidelines.

One of the community leaders heading up this initiative is Valerie Knight-DiGangi of Valley Community Foundation. “It has been a wonderful evolution of time and energy with people who are so committed to working together,” said Valerie. “In these early stages of this project, we are working through three task forces on a very structured timeframe. The first task force will work to identify who these families are: the make-up of their households; where they live; the many factors that impact their economic status in the community. The second will determine who in the Valley can connect us with people who have direct experience with childhood poverty – who can talk to us about what the needs are and truly inform our work. The third will create processes to bring all of these people to the table. To ensure this important project maintains on track, Sharon Danosky is keeping us on a very tight timeline to acquire the necessary data before reporting back to our task forces to discuss next steps.”

The task forces include a diversified representation from nonprofits across a variety of sectors. Leading the initiative with Valerie are Sharon Gibson of Valley United Way, David Morgan of TEAM, Inc., and Monica Oris of Griffin Hospital’s Valley Parish Nurse Program.

“At Danosky & Associates, we find this work to be extremely rewarding,” said Sharon Danosky. “It is a privilege to work with so many dedicated groups. And it’s exciting to be part of an initiative that will benefit so many into the future.”


Case Study: Local Residents Vote for a Library and Affirm Their Roles as Shareholders


It had been almost ten years since a community library in New York had received an increase to its operating budget from the town. Private funding and contributions helped, but the Library was facing a deficit that made it impossible to keep pace with the inflationary costs of salaries and healthcare. The library also feared that it would not be able to continue the quality of services the community had come to expect. In New York State, libraries can’t just request an increase from their town, though. It needs to go before a town-wide ballet and residents vote on whether or not the library should receive an increase (increasing their own taxes). The Library had never undertaken a public awareness campaign. Yet, without an increase in funding, the Library knew it would not be able to continue their level of service.

The Strategy

The Library reached out to Danosky & Associates to build a public awareness campaign that would ensure: 1) the library’s proposition for a budget increase would be included on the ballot in mid-term voting, and 2) the public would be well-informed on the fiscal and community value of the library’s services as they cast their votes. We launched a full engagement and outreach effort by doing the following:

  • Established a core constituency through analysis of library patronage vs. registered voters
  • Developed an online community survey to determine how the local community values its library
  • Used the community survey to prepare talking points and materials for library volunteers as they engaged the community to become the opinion leaders and supporters of the library
  • Implemented a strict timeline to rollout a series of structured marketing initiatives that would lead to an affirmative vote.

The Outcome

Following this eight-month long campaign, the proposition passed by a healthy margin. Not only did residents approve the increase in library funding provided by the town, many more residents learned about all the programs the library offers. And the library came away with information that can be used in future outreach, engagement, and a renewed vision of services.

Lessons Learned

  • The library gained valuable insight to the needs and expectations of its neighborhoods through a community assessment, engagement of key library stakeholders and volunteers, and recruitment of new members. It also learned how important it is to reach beyond its primary service area, as one area didn’t have as much support for the initiative because they weren’t included in the door-to-door outreach.
  • Boots on the Ground is not only effective in a campaign of this type, but it’s crucial to building trust. Library volunteers attended local civic meetings to present the campaign and answer questions; this put faces to the names associated with the library. Local businesses showed their support by agreeing to display window flyers which were branded for the library’s campaign and rotated on a monthly basis to inform the public on its programs and services.
  • When the public votes to tax themselves for a public library service, public libraries are generally better funded. This also allows residents to come away from an affirmative vote as not only a future patron, but a shareholder as well.

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! See more of our blogs to read more of what we’re passionate about!