Only you can prevent forest fires.”

OMG, the stuff has hit the fan. You have a big problem on your hands, and now, everyone knows something is up. The something that everyone, Facebook, Twitter, email, or coconut wireless knows isn’t necessarily accurate or true, but scandal has a fun way of getting ahead of itself.

News travels fast, and bad news travels faster. You have barely gotten caught up and there is a clamor for answers and action. Now what?

Don’t Remain Silent

While you may not yet have all the facts, or reached the right people, remaining silent is the WRONG thing to do.

Your final or collective response may not yet be prepared, but it is imperative to acknowledge the issue. Show your stakeholders, board, members, donors and staff that their management is consciously and thoughtfully reacting to the crisis.

Emergency Management IS Leadership

When it is easy, anyone can be in charge. It is when things are rough that the qualities of a good leader get a chance to shine. Take responsibility for your organization’s part in whatever is happening.

While it may not be your fault, it is your problem

Historically, it is not the crime that causes such outrage; it is the cover-up, the deflection, the denial.

Be sincere, direct, and compassionate. Sadly, another nasty problem will show up in the future, how you handled this one will have a big impact on how you are perceived next time. Consider how your choice of reply now will replay in 6 months or 6 years.

Don’t be defensive and carry a chip on your organizational shoulder. Your detractors are looking for anger and will encourage divisiveness. It is your job to listen and unify. For sure, some of the nonsense you will have to confront is just that, nonsense; however your management of nonsense is really the engine here.

Problems, emergencies, crises: all of these are part of the day- to -day life of any organization, with a little advance thought, they do not have to become terrifying or out of control. Stamp out that little burst of flame before it becomes an inferno. As Smokey the Bear says, “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

If you’d like help putting out the fire, get in touch by email here or by voice on 310 828 6979.

Cindy Lauren - Lauren Associates - non profit consulting

Cindy Lauren is the Principal of

Lauren Associates – non profit consulting

As well as advising Executives and Boards on all aspects of nonprofit management, the firm specializes in developing fundraising solutions for all sizes of organizations. Connect with Cindy: Twitter, Linkedin, Quora

Image Credit:Smokey The Bear Patch by Calsidyrose on Flickr.


Written while listening to: Insanity | July 2013 – Music to Create Flow .