Two recent crises in the non-profit world –hemispheres apart both in nature and geography — strike me as stellar examples of 'best practices' when it comes to quickly, effectively and transparently managing critcal situations in the world of instant information and communications.

On October 31st a Cape Town, South Africa, newspaper reported allegations of abuse at the the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy, the talk-show host's $40 million school for disadvantaged girls near Johannesburg. Within hours the story had spread like wildfire over internet and broadcast news channels.

Almost instantly Oprah moved openly and quickly —and in a very personal and emotional way — to demonstrate just how on top of the situation she was.

From the admission that there were problems to the outlining of steps that were being taken to correct the situation (including issuing a pre-programmed cell phone to all the students so they could contact Oprah diectly) anyone following the story had no doubt that this crisis was being handled in a rapid, thoughtful, and transparent manner.

That same weekend, in the out-of-sight, highly technical world of online constituency management (eCRM), hackers attacked Convio's GetActive platform used by many non-profit to communicate with and raise money from their volunteers, donors, members and the public.

And within hours Gene Austin, the CEO of Convio had, through emails and an urgent posting on the Convio website, alerted his clients and the public to the attack and the steps the company was taking to deal with it.

Over the next several days Convio's initial announcement was followed up with emails from Bill Pease, Convio's Chief Scientist detailing the experience and offering concrete advice to administrators of the GetActive system on how to deal with phishing attacks.

When it comes to sustaining and building support for the independent sector, nothing is more important than the element of “trust.” And prompt and open recognition and acknowledgement of problems is a critically important part of the process of building trust.

So, from my viewpoint, and whether they need the money or not, both Oprah Winfrey and Gene Austin at Convio deserve a raise.


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