Category Archives: Risk Management

The Changing Role of Nonprofit Leadership

Dave Blankenhorn

Some time ago I wrote a blog about the skills a leader needs to adapt to our fast-changing world. Little did I realize about how fast and how dramatic it would be.

I talked about the need to be nimble and innovative, the need to create a larger vision for their organizations and the importance of uniting people behind a common mission. Beyond that I talked about navigating changing cultural, regulatory, technical and social needs. Was I ever right about the last ones.

Who would have thought we would be caught in a pandemic that has literally affected our all our lives, socially and economically? The skills you have been using now need to be redirected to help your organization survive and perform its mission in the most difficult times. New priorities need to be set. In addition to your normal activities you must develop new skills that will allow you to manage your group remotely, redesign properly distanced spaces for those who need to work together, provide the mandatory masks and gloves, sanitize various areas and organize the staff.

Your motivational skills will be tested in as never before with your staff, the Board and donors.  Figuring out new ways to raise funds will be a major challenge and might entail altering your primary mission.

How you cope with the new world will dictate how your organization will survive and prosper. None of us can predict the longevity of the crisis or what other problems might befall us as a result. I do know good leadership will carry you through.

Author: Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Strategic Leadership: What it Means in Nonprofits Today

David Coffaro

Leaders are called to look beyond current conditions. That doesn’t mean we have a crystal ball or overlook today’s reality. It means we have to ask – what’s next for our organization? Not always easy, particularly in the midst of turmoil, yet essential. As evidence of the importance of looking beyond, consider findings from Gallup.

For more than 80 years, Gallup has studied people and organizations during times of crisis. They’ve observed perspectives dating back to the Great Depression through the Covid-19 event. Their research suggests that in times of crisis, there are two directions human nature can pull people – toward fear or self-actualization and engagement [i].

On the engagement front, when leaders present a clear path forward, people demonstrate great resilience. There’s a rallying effect as we pull together toward a common vision to move beyond crisis. That’s why mission and vision for the future are more important in organizations today than any time in recent memory. Per Gallup, one thing is clear. People look to leadership for a crisis management plan, and to provide confidence that there is a way forward that they can contribute to.

Strategic leadership means leading for today, tomorrow, and beyond. In today’s environmentas the next new normal is being defined, strategic leadership manifests through helping shape a new paradigm for your organization. Leading the long view takes place by engaging team members in creating co-ownership of the future state vision and strategy that will bring the vision to life. Vision is distilled into actionable priorities which become the day-to-day operating plan guiding all team members in performing their work.

Strategic leadership recognizes the next stages of new normal will be iterative. Some sectors of the economy will move faster or undergo greater structural reshaping than others over the next 18 – 24 months, resulting in a series of new normals; this impacts for profit and nonprofit organizations alike. Agility in adapting to a fragmented recovery matters. Even with clarity that things won’t be getting back to the normal we knew, strategic leadership today requires acknowledgement that the landscape will continue to change. Context for this perspective helps; the old normal was only a temporary point on a continuum of change; Covid-19 accelerated moving us to the next point.

Strategic leadership capitalizes on opportunities for Adaptive Disruption. Something happened that changed our world. Instead of waiting to see how things play out and what everyone else does, strategic leaders define how to move forward based on what we know today, by proactively adapting strategy.

Vision connects what an organization does to the external world. When the world changes, it is essential to revisit the future state vision to see if it still resonates. Ask – all things considered, will this vision still fit our business in the next new normal, or do we need to refine our future state picture? Needs of the customers you serve might have changed. Structure of the industry may be in flux. The key is determining if the vision needs refinement. Vision informs priorities which anchor the operating plan.When you start with the vision, you focus on cause, not the effect. We can manage cause; we only measure effect. Focusing on cause empowers strategic leadership today.

Warren Buffet said Its only when the tide goes out that you can see who’s swimming naked. The current low-tide environment calls for strategic leadership. The Covid-19 event helped us see new strengths and development needs within the organization, including observations of the overall business model. If this event has helped see previously unrecognized development needs of your team members and the organization overall, capture it for what it is – an opportunity to grow as your next new normal begins.

There is a lot we can’t control or influence. Let’s take what we can impact and start shaping a future that helps team members see how their work connects to the organization’s future state vison as you lead during the next new normal!


Dave Coffaro is a strategic advisor, executive coach and author. His areas of expertise include leading organizations in the process of strategy development and execution, change leadership, organization transformation and innovation. Coffaro is principal of the Strategic Advisory Consulting Group, a management consultancy, and co-founder of Atticus, a fintech firm providing individuals and professional advisors with easy to use, do-it-yourself tools for fiduciary-based activities. His new book is “Leading from Where You Are” (January 2020). For more information, visit www.davecoffaro.com

https://www.gallup.com/workplace/297497/covid-employees-need-leaders-right.aspx


[i] Gallup, What Employees Need From Leadership Right Now, 3/23/20, by Jim Harper

Author: David Coffaro, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

COVID-19 Adaptive Leadership Checklist

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

Challenges and responsibilities for non-profit leaders have increased exponentially with the pandemic.

This article encompasses the many challenges and is published by One-Justice, a legal resource business. I have given the website as a footnote below.[1]

I can’t list all of the challenges covered, but I want to provide a list of priorities that require attention as non-profit leaders start to open up.

• Employee health and safety – regulations covering workplace safety

• Legal – contact legal experts – jurisdictional designations (remote services, sick leave, legal ethics). I had an ED ask me today if a mental health leave was ‘sick eave’.

• Human Resources and Operations – workers’ comp policy, furloughs and lay-offs are handled properly, return to the office plans, appropriate equipment for remote workers.

• Financial relief – use Payroll Protection Plan, contact funders, request relief from conversion of funds to general operations, work with Board on any layoffs or furloughs.

• Remote working – establish remote policies, safeguard confidential information.

• Program design – any change to ongoing programs, check with clients on service needs, check security measures for teleconferencing.

• Culture – promote self-care and coping resources; ensure transparency with staff and employees.

Even though the challenges seem exhaustive it is comforting to know where help is available. This information was found on the BoardSource website, a valuable tool for getting answers.


[1] www.onejustice.orgLos Angeles phone number, (213) 784-3937: San Francisco phone number, (415) 834-3937.

Author: Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Leadership Qualities for the Crisis

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

How many of you are as sick as I am of hearing and seeing the words COVID-19.

I couldn’t even put it in this title. But it is affecting all of our lives – and each person differently. As quoted in an article I just read, “a paramedic will understand only that the hospital is overloaded, a hospital administrator will only know that the generator is not working.”[1]

I believe it is time to consider what leadership skills and qualities can best guide this situation. I will quote generously from an author, Gene Klann who has written a book on crisis management and is referenced in the article below.[2]

Klann cites 5 ways to lead and adapt to the crisis. I will briefly cover those:

  1. Seek credible information. I think this is difficult because there is so much information available. I believe it is important to check with staff and employees to see what information they are following. This is a good opportunity for leaders to calm, support and build a reassuring culture.
  2. Use appropriate communication channels. Of course transparency is of the utmost importance in a crisis. Klann has these points to stress: Information
    • reduces emotional distress caused by the unknown;
    • diminishes fear;
    • provides tactical guidance;
    • demonstrates to employees that their leaders are concerned, involved, knowledgeable, and on top of the situation.
  3. Explain what your organization is doing about the crisis. If you are in charge take charge, be proactive, take initiative. Do something even if it might be wrong. Paralysis and over analyzing may be riskier. 
  4. Be present, Visible, and Available. Let employees know how they can best reach you for status updates and any questions they may have. Flexible leadership ranks over organizational protocol and bureaucracy.                                                                                          

Dedicate organizational resources for future needs. Many organizations don’t take advantage of what they have learned after the crisis. This time is valuable to track lessons learned as a critical step to a Crisis Action Plan.                


[1][1] Gene Klann, 5 Ways to Lead and Adapt Through a Crisis, Center for Creative Leadership, March 24, 2020

[2] Gene Klann, Crisis Leadership, Using Military Lessons, Organizational Experiences, and the Power of Influence to Lessen the Impact of Chaos on the People You Lead.

Author: Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

A Case For Risk Management

Robin Noah
Robin Noah

A case for risk management: You may have read about a case where a federal jury recently awarded Taco Bell workers approximately $496,000 in a class action case that alleged meal and rest period violations. Taco Bell ended up in court because of problems with its policy on meal breaks and rest periods.  A clear case of failure to comply with labor law.

For example Meal Periods: Employers must allow employees to take meal periods at the proper time. More than 134,000 employees claimed that Bell failed to properly provide meal breaks before the fifth hour of work as required by California law.   This case demonstrates the challenges California employers face in the ever-persistent litigation over meal and rest periods.

The workers did win on their claim that Taco Bell failed to properly pay them when a meal break was skipped. If an employer fails to provide an employee a meal period, the employer must pay the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation (Labor Code, sec. 226.7). This is often referred to as “premium pay.”

The Taco Bell workers claimed that the company paid them only 30 minutes of wages when a meal period was skipped, rather than the full hour of required premium pay. The jury agreed.

Of great interest is that Taco Bell faced litigation because its employee handbook policy did not meet California’s strict meal and rest break requirements. Evidence submitted at trial alleged that Taco Bell used a meal period “matrix,” which reflected a policy of providing the meal after five hours of work, instead of before.

Though there are many laws requiring employers to notify employees of certain workplace rights, there are actually no federal or state laws specifically requiring an employer to have an employee handbook. However, for a number of reasons, creating and maintaining an employee handbook is a good idea and a best practice.

Moreover, an employee handbook is a useful tool for providing employees with that information that, by law, must already be delivered in writing (e.g., equal employment opportunity (EEO) statements).

Rather than provide employees with a haphazard pile of mandatory written notices—and then attempt to document that those notices were received—it makes sense to collect them into an organized, easy-to-use handbook or similar document.

Consider managing the risk by making clear what appropriate activity is by enacting a company-wide program that will educate everyone on what is acceptable and unacceptable workplace behavior.

Please see a Labor Law attorney for employee handbook issues.

Author:  Robin Noah, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org