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How Non-profits Can Manage a Scandal

Lauren Brascetta Lauren Brascetta , 5/14/2014
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Despite their best intentions, non-profits can become embroiled in scandals that quickly get the attention of the national media and swell to a size that can overwhelm them. These can range from minor issues, such as a staff change, to larger problems such as financial mismanagement. But for organizations that rely on donations and goodwill, even a small problem can have large consequences. That’s why having a solid response strategy is so important.

The best thing to do when negative publicity happens is to act fast and act strategically. The 24/7 news channels – not to mention blogs and social media – have a lot of space to fill, and they are often quick to share their opinions about the topic. Stem the tide of speculation by providing as many concrete facts as possible and emphasize the steps the non-profit is taking to find out the rest of the information.

It is important to note that as long as you are sharing something, you don’t have to share everything. Often times, organizations will make the mistake of giving out information that portrays them negatively just to appease the relentless questions from the press. As long as you lay out the basic facts that are indisputable you don’t have to delve into all the details. Where it does help to get specific is when you address the next steps. Are you going to hire an external investigator? Are you going to terminate the contracts of specific people involved? Make that known as early as possible in the scandal to prevent people from jumping to uninformed conclusions.

After transparency, the next step is to publicly reassure the beneficiaries of the non-profit that their needs won’t be ignored while the situation is being dealt with. That not only helps keep the organization on track with its mission, but also helps remind the people following the scandal that there is more to the organization than its one negative moment in the spotlight. By bringing the focus back to the core goals of the non-profit, leaders can introduce a positive dimension to the conversation and diminish the over-emphasis on the scandal.

For more information on ProSight Specialty Insurance’s products for non-profit organizations, please visit