Jump Into the Quarry?!

A few summers ago, I went to a popular, local “swim hole”. I had heard it was really fun, swimming in this huge quarry lake. There were 100 or so people swimming in the cold water that seemingly had no bottom. Others were swinging off ropes from rocky embankments into the water. People were having a great time. I love nature and love swimming so found it really cool in one respect. Though simultaneously my thought was, “Whoa, this is a liability nightmare. Who insures them?”

Makes me sound like I’d be fun at parties, right?  I chalk that up to a few summers in high school and college working at a very well-run outdoor summer camp. Clearly, it had an impact!

I joke but the dangers were real. Not too long after I was there a young woman, a competitive swimmer, drowned there. This was tragic and considering her swimming ability, exposed some real vulnerabilities. The right thing to do as a business is to plan before something goes wrong.

Risk management is a timely topic this summer, as many organizations dip their toes into less familiar settings and activities. In many cases summer activities pose a different set of risks compared year-round programs.

What can you do to keep your missions, staff, clients and communities safe? While staying positive about the upsides of your programs, spend time identifying the what ifs’. Next, identify what steps you’re taking to increase the likelihood of success, and reduce the possibility for error, accidents and harm. Finally, ask whether you’re prepared to respond if something does go wrong, from severe weather to violation of policy. (Thanks, Melanie Herman!)

A favorite resource is the The Nonprofit Risk Management Center. They describe themselves as “enabling nonprofit leaders to identify and manage risks that threaten their missions and operations, while empowering them to leverage opportunities and take bold, mission-advancing risks.”  Nice, right?

They offer a free resource library  with great information on a variety of topics such as workplace safety, youth protection issues, vendor management, insurance and more.

I suggest signing up for their weekly e-newsletter, Risk e-News, as I always find something useful there as it really goes beyond risk issues and discusses good planning and management overall. The tutorial, Accident Response, has some great basic information to help you and your team be prepared.

These will help you get started. Be prepared and be safe, all!

We Can't Do It Alone

“It’s been the most humbling and sacrificial experience I have had”, says Kisha Webster, a former principal and consultant to school districts and principals. But she is not talking about this work, as she is on hiatus from it. She is referring to her current work as a Community and Education AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer with Open Works, the makers space in the Greenmount West neighborhood.

What can we all learn from Kisha? A bunch.

Kisha is also the President of the Greenmount West Community Association and with that has also taken on leadership of the newly founded Greenmount West Community Center. The Community Center was established in just two months in response to the neighborhood kids having nothing constructive to do. Open Works found children spending a hours of their time there, hanging out, just to be in a welcoming and positive environment. Kisha and her team saw a need and addressed it.

Kisha says she originally thought that she could take on this work alone, but found it to be “so overwhelming”. She said it made her reach out to others. She is clear that the resources and expertise others bring to the table is key to the success. Kisha’s VISTA year ends mid September. She says that her goal is to set things in place and teach others, so that in her absence, things can continue to thrive. She is clear that this operation cannot rely only on her.

Kisha’s leadership shines through and her commitment and hard work is admirable and inspiring. She is leaving a meaningful imprint on a community by teaching others to do what she is gifted with -- leading, building camaraderie and making a vision a reality for the good of a community.

Kisha inspired me and left me with much to think about for my own work and volunteer efforts, so I thought I’d share her story with you. There are many take-aways from her work that are important for all of us.

3 Important Points & Resources

1.Build a program that stands without you. You are so valuable and your presence will be felt beyond your time with the organization if you build an excellent foundation with documented systems and process. Resource: How to Grow A Business That Can Run Without You

2.Good partnerships and/or strategic alliances are important and valuable. Beyond the type of partnership that means you give us money (we need those too), how does your work interconnect with that of other organizations? How can individuals support your work? How can you plan together to better serve your clients? Resource: The BridgeSpan Group has some very helpful information on this.

3.Go visit Open Works!  It is beautiful community space and has top of the line equipment for makers of all genres. They say, “We’ve built a place where anyone can build nearly anything–that’s where you come in”. Even if you are not naturally gifted in this area, it is very cool to see and they offer classes to help you hone your skills.

When you are maxed out within the capacity of our organization or need an outside perspective, KS Solutions will help. We will work at your side providing strategy, facilitation, planning and an extra set of skilled hands for a special project or to help excel your everyday work. You will feel confident that the work is in capable hands, so you can rest easy!

We offer a free 20 minute phone consultation to be a thought partner and/or talk about your projects. Contact us.

Tell Us a Story

I'm in line at Royal Farms and there are two girls, about 13-14 years old, in front of me. Their purchase is rung up and they start looking at one another and giggling nervously, digging deep in their pockets.They are $.38 short. The cashier is old enough to be their grandmother, and also old enough to be retired. She says "It's ok, you can pay me tomorrow."
I’m thinking, “ Whoa, surprising, like a mom & pop shop!”
I tell her that I will pay the change (like adults did for us as kids), so that her drawer won't be short. The girls are sweet, thank me and leave.
The cashier keeps thanking me, as if I did a favor for her own kids, and tells me she usually brings in extra money to cover people who don’t have enough. She is old enough to be retired, working a low-wage job and still manages to look out for people.

I posted this story a couple months ago on my personal Facebook page. It received many likes and shares. I was surprised about the effect it had on people. It made me consider, what about this touched people? A colleague said, “I’d rather see this kind of stuff in your monthly blog than all those tips and resources. I mean, those are helpful, but…”  Well! I could be offended, but decided to take the advice.
I facilitate training sessions on storytelling, so this really got me thinking. This story did not include a call to action because I was only casually sharing something that struck me. But what if it had? Would people have responded well to a request? I think so.
Storytelling is a powerful tool for mission-based organizations to move people to action -- giving, volunteering, acting in support of a cause.  Why does storytelling work?


  • Trigger emotion
  • Enlighten – “oh, now I get it!”
  • Imprint on memory
  • Make it easier to remember and repeat/ to others
  • Influence decision making
  • Illustrate the work you do everyday
  • And, studies tell us that generosity is linked to hearing stories
Do you use stories in your communications? Could you be doing it more often? Would it help people be inspired -- see hope not hopelessness?

Telling the story of your organization's impact is something many organizations struggle with. How do we get people to understand what we do and why it matters? Numbers? Stories? Both? What resonates with people? KS Solutions will train you and your team on how to answer these questions and effectively tell your story to in a way that engages audiences.
Contact us for a consultation.


Andy Goodman- Expert in the power of storytelling with great techniques and tips
Network for Good e-book (free download) “Storytelling for Nonprofits”
Bridgespan Group, “Why Nonprofits Need to Be Storytellers”

Best of luck to you! Don't forget to share your stories!

Professional Development Doesn't Have to Be $$$

"We have very little in the budget for professional development", is a common statement.

Conversely, we know that professional development helps with employee retention, motivation and employee and organizational success. So, how do we bridge that gap? It may not be a click on the keyboard, but it does not have to be too hard or too expensive.

There are various ways to work on professional development internally, but we will save that for another time. We will focus on external resources that are easy on the budget.  See below for an extensive list and treat yourself and your team!

TIP: KS Solutions provides customized, interactive professional development sessions and facilitation on a variety of topics.  We will work with your budget. Contact Kate.

Do you have favorite places for professional development that are not mentioned here? Please share with others on Facebook.

In-Person Professional Development Sessions

  • Maryland Nonprofits – webinars and in-person events (often free for members) 
  • Business Volunteers Maryland – various in-person sessions  (some offered at no charge) 
  • Community Law Center – in-person workshops for community associations  (nominal fee for trainings)
  • Strong City Baltimore – Neighborhood Institute, covers 35 topics with focus on skills and capacity building,  held April of each year on a Saturday ($40 for full day and lunch) 
  • Maryland Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts – in person workshops on topics like  like “Legal and Business Issues for Filmmakers,” “Accounting for Artists,” “The Future of Music Distribution,” and “Protecting Your Work with Copyright.”  (free or low-cost)  

Webinars and Podcasts

Helpful Articles: 

Guide to the Best Free Nonprofit Webinars by Nonprofit Hub
The Top 15 Nonprofit Podcasts by Capterra

TIP: Share some of these resources with your team and encourage them to sign up for a session each month. Plan a time for knowledge-sharing, where staff share what they think  is most relevant from their learning, with the rest of the team. 

"Live as if you are going to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." 
     - Ghandi

Make Sure the Juice is Worth the Squeeze: Engagement After Your Big Event

There is not a way around it -- events are a TON of work. So make sure it is worth the effort you and your team put into it and get these attendees engaged!

Let’s jump ahead into the future. Everybody’s gone, your feet hurt, the staff is celebrating.  All went spectacularly well and you had a great turnout. But will you ever see those people again? Talk to them again? Will they volunteer? Donate?

Often we put a great deal of time into the event without a plan for keeping our attendees engaged. Let's change that! Remember, engagement happens before, during and after the event.

Make sure the juice is worth the squeeze!

TIPS to Engage Attendees:

  • Plan for post event follow-up before the event. This should be on your task list and timeline for the event.  And do as much prep prior as you can -- write emails, record videos, put together mailing lists, etc.
  • Communicate immediately after the event (within 24 hours ideally) to attendees. Reach them while they are still excited. Thank them, share photos, ask them to engage on social media.
  • Ask for feedback. A short poll or survey is good (favorite part of the event, did they learn more about the organization, what would they like to see changed about the event, etc). This keeps them engaged and gives you helpful insight.
  • Invite them to other events. This should happen at the event and afterwards by inviting people to other events, programs, showcases, rallies, etc.  Make sure they are saving the dates and know they are welcome.
  • Offer ways to stay involved. This too should happen at the event and after. Offer ways they can volunteer, donate, be an ambassador, etc.  They want to know how else they can help, so tell them!
  • Stay in touch on a regular basis, but keep it short. Make sure to add attendees to your mailing list (sounds obvious but is often overlooked) and keep them up to date with happenings-- but remember, attention spans are short so be concise and use images.
  • Debrief with your team while it is still fresh. Successes? Challenges? Run the numbers on time and money spent and discuss if you got good bang for the buck. If not, discuss how to improve.

KS Solutions provides event support.  It’s a heavy load! We are just a phone call/email away.

Helpful Articles About Post-Event Engagement:

7 Steps to Turning Event Attendees Into Donors

Have a great event and make it count!