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Crisis management cartoonLet's assume your school already has a mission statement, and it's a good one.

But then something happens. There's an internal crisis -- perhaps a senior administrator is discovered in wrongdoing. Or there's an external challenge -- perhaps you learn that another seminary is opening an extension site in your back yard.

You probably don't need to change your mission statement. But you do need to change your message!

I recently came across a two-year-old article in The Nonprofit Quarterly that still seems completely relevant: "Mission, Message, and Damage Control." Author Kim Klein advises complete honesty with your constituents about the challenges that you are facing. But at the same time, she recommends tailoring your message to address the anxieties that both internal and external audiences may be harboring.

Klein says that the first people who need to hear the new message are the people closest to the situation -- the staff and board. For these groups, institutional troubles may loom large, and if your external stakeholders are going to be reassured, then the internal ones have to feel confident first. She gives concrete recommendations on how to communicate and how transparent to be.

But the next people who need to know are the external constituents -- especially major donors. And they should hear about your crisis from the institutional leaders, not from the newspaper or in a forwarded email message! 

Klein says that most donors realize that a crisis isn't a game-changer in an otherwise healthy organization. But they may still need reassurance. So she offers four tips to reassure donors that their gifts won't go to waste: An explanation, a plan, evidence of other donors, and, if needed, an escape clause.

Read the whole article here.

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