Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Email me

HI Blog subscribers:

If you have an event coming up, feel free to email me at:  huffmankristin_@hotmail.com .  I would love to cover your upcoming event in an "inside story" type way.  For instance, the United Way has an event that involves motorcylists.  I would like to interview one of the particpants before the event and do a story that covers the event from the perspective of the participant/volunteer.  Thus garnering you publicity, but even more importantly, more participants and volunteers.

Feel free to email me prior to the events (preferably about a month ahead of time)
Also feel free to pass this on to other non profits.



Thursday, April 21, 2011

12th Annual Kids Count Legislative Breakfast

Kids Count in Milford

The 12th annual Kids Count of Milford’s Legislative Breakfast was held April 13th at the Milford Yacht Club.  This powerful event is a chance for Milford’s non profits, especially the charities that focus on children and families, to educate and inspire our legislators at the state level to care for us even better.  To let them hear from the executive directors of the non profits in our cities as well as parents of children who need the services they offer and to help them speak in a way that is informed and passionate about the need to continue funding. 

Invited were Senator Gayle Slossberg, Representatives Paul Davis, Kim Rose and Richard Roy.  Present were Mr. Davis and for half of the event, Mr. Roy. 

Mayor Richetelli introduced Milford’s new superintendent of schools, Dr. Elizabeth Feser, who spoke about her enthusiasm for our city’s schools and the new possibilities she offers. Dr. Feser’s years of experience and passion for teaching institutions were evident in her speaking and her posture on education.

The main thrust of this event was to point out the need for continued funding for our nonprofits and to educate not only our legislators, but also the public.  Barry Kasdan, CEO of Bridges, pointed out that while the public may want lowered taxes
there is no savings to be gained by cutting mental health services to families.  He gave facts and figures on the cost effectiveness of community based care vs. institution care. “Of all non profits in Connecticut who have budgets of a million and over and who get government contracts and grants,  70% of those are in deficit.”

Charlie Clifford of the YMCA said that Connecticut is one of four states that spent more on incarceration than on higher education.  He also gave practical advice to the legislatures and parents on how to campaign for funding important programs.

The scene stealers of the day, though, were Mrs. Susan Stelez’s third grade class from Pumpkin Delight School.  Mrs. Stelez won “The Champion of Young Children’s Award” for her 30 year of teaching to over 800 students and her devotion to developing young minds.  Her class performed for the breakfast crowd, which included many Executive directors from non profits in the city. 

Gary Johnson, of the United Way presented the “Lifetime of Championing Children” award to Peggy Kelly, Executive Director of Kid’s Count.  Their mission is “to develop, enhance and promote the education, social and emotional well being of children from birth to age five so that they enter kindergarten ready to learn”. 

Representative Paul Davis, who spoke, said that his wife and son are both teachers and that while the tax payers are asking for cuts, he sees the need to educate the public about these important social programs.  “Educating the public to see this as an investment in their future”, was a theme spoken over and over. When he was asked how to educate the public he said that, “making this a financial issue and realizing that if we don’t do this it will actually cost us money in the future” was the best marketing strategy. 

“It is foolish to think that there are savings when we cut essential community services. In reality we simply shift costs to a more expensive level of care, which is government- based. This is wasteful if not irresponsible at this time of fiscal crisis”, says Barry Kasdan.

Mrs. Stelez’s third graders chanted “I’m glad that Milford’s my hometown” and spoke about teamwork, independence, participation, volunteers and  problem solving as being part of a citizen’s responsibility. They spoke about taking care of others in a way that promotes community involvement and respect.  Mrs. Stelez’s third grade: Some of the forward-thinkers of tomorrow who we hope will make a difference on today’s legislators.


Monday, April 11, 2011


Use ‘em or Lose ‘em –
  Do You Know the Value of Your Volunteers?

“I know it’s here somewhere!”

How many times have you said or heard that statement?

How important is “it”? Do you have someone to ask about “it”? OR are you the person with the answer?

Being a “go to” person is one of the most valuable roles a volunteer can play!

How many “go to” volunteers do you have in your organization? How can you grow more?

Food for thought!

By Anita Taylor

Thursday, March 10, 2011



If you are treating your website like an online brochure you are missing the point.

I know you want people to learn about your NPO and it’s events and mission.  But people donate to causes because they feel connected in a very personal way.  If you are treating them all the same when they land on your page, you are missing the opportunity to connect them to your mission. 

Do you have donor profiles for each of the various types of donors you have or are you sending them all the same form letters? Each type of donor relates to different forms of media ie video, text, webinars.

What if you had a webinar series led by a group of your best recipients who wanted to talk about what a difference your NPO made in their lives? Or your best donors? Two minute blurbs that reached out the minute someone landed on your page.  

Get out the flipcam and go to work! Tell the story to each different type of donor, volunteer or staff member.  Treat them differently and personally and they will become your best advertisement, volunteers and donors. 

Please read The New Rules Of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Powerful Impact People: Charlie Clifford

“Our pool is our main attraction!” states Charlie Clifford, Executive director of the YMCA in Milford, about the Z-shaped, enclosed-in-glass, retractable-glass-roofed pool and family oriented facility. “Families can spend time together either structured or on their own.” As the ED for the last four years and a family man himself, Charlie runs the Woodruff family YMCA branch of the Central CT coast YMCA and he understands what families need.

Balancing fund raising with community development, this busy ED sites one of his projects, a national movement called “Activate America” as the Y’s response to obesity and diabetes in the country.

His pet projects involve fund raising.  “First and foremost, we are a charity! A 501c3 and the Y doesn’t turn anyone away because of their inability to pay.” Those who can’t afford to pay are benefited by the “Strong Kids Campaign”, a scholarship drive which generates funds for people who can’t afford the Y’s fees. “We gave $200,000 in scholarships last year to over 600 individuals. We raised about $110, 000.  The challenge is how to fund the gap. We aren’t going to turn away the kids that need our services. “

A natural tie in the to Y’s fund raising efforts is the Sprint Triatholon (swim, run, bike) all based out of the Y.  Last year they had 90 participants and they are hoping to double that this year on May 22nd. 

As a father himself he understands that Milford has a lot of dual income families. “Parents are still struggling with money and kids need a safe place to go after school.   The scholarships really provide a place for them to go.  For our summer camp, 96% of kids were on scholarships for the entire summer”. 

A great example of a collaborative effort within the community is their work with Platt Tech called “ Fit club”.  “The principal was telling me that one of the fears is that the kids weren’t passing the President’s Physical Fitness test due to overweight and inactivity problems. We started raising money so they could come across the street and our staff takes them through making healthier lifestyle choices. Because they are coming over here their scores have improved quite a bit.”

 Charlie’s development projects deal with how to best position the Y to deal with the physical aspects of the “ health seeker” or someone who tries to live healthy and struggles.  “We design anything new, large or small, with the health seeker in mind to make this the most comfortable place they can come “. 

 Located at 631 Orange Ave in Milford, this branch is open from5:30am-9pm and sees about  450-600 people every day.  “We have standard fitness classes like zumba, pilates, yoga, and H2O Power, a senior morning aerobics class. 

Still another project aimed at families is the “Milford Collaborative”, a group of providers and parents of kids with special needs. “You are connecting the Y’s resources with what the community needs. We ebb and flow and are more of a community development YMCA. More ground up than national down.” 

The Y has many child-care programs from summer care to nursery school and is the largest provider of child-care in Milford. Charlie is their most energetic an enthusiastic advocate about what this non profit is trying to accomplish for kids and for families. “All this stuff is brand new and at our gym you could have a 14 year old next to someone who is 90 years old who looks 50 years old.  People of all abilities can come”, says the YMCA’S family man.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011


# 7  Use ‘em or Lose ‘em –
  Do You Know the Value of Your Volunteers?

Tradition – every time I hear that word I think of Fiddler on the Roof! Religion (in that instance) was easy! It was written in the “Good Book.”

Where is your organization’s Good Book? Do you have just one? How many do you need?

Defining the tradition/history of your organization is very important for ALL volunteers – new and seasoned.

After all, once they know what’s in their Good Book, they can spread the word.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


We don’t do it that way here
This is such a powerful statement and sometimes even said without real thought.
If you say this phrase to a colleague, a new hire, a volunteer or a board member you may have just squashed an initiative that could take you to the next level of fund raising, motivating volunteers or spreading the word about your NPO.
Maybe you are more comfortable with the ‘way things have been done’ in the past, but I encourage you to entertain every idea, no matter how off-the-beaten-path it is, just to encourage innovation and possibly….brilliance!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Powerful Impact People: Barry Kazats

He embodies the term “bridges” and I am more than a little in awe as I interview this CEO and President of Bridges in Milford.  Barry Kasdan guides this nonprofit in providing a comprehensive range of outpatient mental health, addiction, community support and home-based services for children, families and adults, residing in Milford, Orange, West Haven and their surrounding communities.

Their slogan, Bridges is where the community turns for help, hope and recovery, is not just a phrase on the website for him.  His day started with caring for his own young granddaughter, and then quickly kicked into high gear. It was being available and caring for people, that drew him to field of social work and his role as CEO with Bridges in 1984. 

He came to Bridges because had done a lot of clinical work and his forte was looking at services and systems and how to grow them to benefit people.  Back in 1984 the agency was called the Milford Mental health clinic and had children services but was struggling to deal with a growing population of adults. To say that Barry is involved in many program services development projects and in taking on leadership at the state level is an understatement.

Monday he traveled to Harford for 9am meeting. Appointed by Senator Gayle Slossberg to the commission for nonprofit health and human services, he is working with this committee to take a look at the health/human services benefits that it offers the state and community.  The report will get turned over to the new governor with recommendations to serve more people and do it in a more cost effective way. Essentially becoming the “bridge” from the committee to the government, to the community.

“Early in my career, if I was dissatisfied with services I realized I had to get involved in policy, budget and legislation. So three days a week I usually start someplace out of the office like New Haven or Hartford in meetings. Given the nature of funding, I interface at those levels a lot.” 

Back at the office he meets with a number of his senior management staff. He has a total of seven senior managers and 160 staff members with a site in Orange, two sites in Milford and two in West Haven.  With a $12.5 million budget, 80% is funded by state and federal money. “At our meetings we go over budgeting, systems, new grants, issues about services that need to be addressed, all focusing on how to coordinate all the services we offer here.”  Bridging the gap from funding to implementation.

Bridges has strong local support from United Way, the city, and other local sources and they generate fees to cover the rest. Often Mr. Kasdan’s days are filled with policy type meetings for at least a dozen different departments or subdivisions of the program.  “We can’t operate them as separate entities.  How do you integrate all this together so that when a client walks through the front door it’s a seamless process for them? So they don’t get juggled around?. It’s a continuous challenge that takes a lot of my time.  I sort of transpose that type of an approach to ‘how to we do that at a state level?’” 

The state funds them to provide treatment and community support services.  By putting this structure in place, Connecticut was able to shut down state hospital years ago. “We were keeping people there, not because they needed to be there, but because we didn’t have the community services to bring them home. We started planning this and money started flowing from the state to establish the community systems.  Connecticut was in the forefront to set up a nation system.” And Barry was one of the advocates for all this. 

“Now, today, the budgets are difficult. The economy is in bad shape.  The questions policy makers are grappling with is ‘do you cut services like this and have people end up back in hospitals or do you think long term?’”

Founded in 1957 by a group of concerned citizens in Milford, Bridges now provides services to approximately 5,000 people annually at sites in Milford, Orange and West Haven. “Why we are here?  To help people we serve to lead healthy and productive lives. In fact their recovery-focused services include evaluation, counseling, and treatment, which are available to adults, children, adolescents and families “As an agency we have 5000 people a year who pass thru our doors.” Some need an assessment while others need ongoing treatment and support services. Their open caseload is usually 1500 people.

In the last 18 months they’ve had over half million in cuts and they’re waiting anxiously to see what happens with the new administration in Hartford and in how they will deal with the budget.  For all nonprofits creative fund raising ideas are important and since there is often a stigma attached to mental health issues Barry lights up as he talks about their own events like Folks on Spokes in it’s 19th year.  “I was sitting at a board meeting years ago and we came up with a community event that would be fun and help take the stigma off the mental health services. Let’s have something where we can bring the community together for a good cause”.  This year over 500 folks participate and they raised 30 thousand. More important is the statement that the community makes for all the folks who use our services.”

For the first time in May they had a Do wop concert with Kenny Vance. While normally hosting a big annual event, they realized that the economy is in bad shape and wanted to make it fun and affordable.  “We filled the Parsons with 900 people. It speaks so loudly about the community and the support.  We raised money but more that that, it raised the spirits and the moral. Which is so important. Our board did that. We have a wonderful board and a wonderful staff. There’s not a meeting I sit down at where someone doesn’t come up with a new idea. I love to foster out of the box ideas.”

I must admit to feeling that this one column isn’t enough space to report on the many groups, services and meetings that Barry attends and advocates for, many times at the state and national levels. They received two federal grants this year. One is for a new initiative “Tobacco cessation” a statewide program, and the other concerns the integration of primary health care into behavior health care. They are one of 13 systems in the country to get these grants. “ We did some renovations and built into our sites, medical exam rooms to provide primary health care to our adult patients. Many of them never had this type of access. Our hope is to eventually meet the goals that we have for them in dealing with problems so they can be on their own and more independent.” For folks who have a challenge in meeting life’s challenges, expanding the view of what people need without so many barriers is a model that works and that is community based.
“How do I see myself? As a CEO, a supervisor, an orchestra leader, as someone who helps people to coordinate the seamless system, a change agent, a motivator, a health care reformer, a team player.”  Notice what all these titles have in common?

I think “Bridge” is a term that applies nicely as well. 

To learn more about Bridges, vist http://www.bridgesmilford.org

Saturday, January 22, 2011


#6 Use ‘em or Lose ‘em – Do You Know the Value of Your Volunteers?

Please do ‘just one thing’ for me!

Have you ever said that?  I’m sure! But have you ever asked a volunteer to do just one job for your organization?

When I first heard this concept I thought what a great idea – if I were approached and asked to do one task, it would be SO easy!

Keep in mind that this is for people who are so involved in their lives they don’t think they can add one more thing!

Be careful of what you ask – certainly not to chair your annual fundraising event. Remember: match the volunteer to the task!

If they are born salespeople, they wouldn’t mind making cold calls to ask for ____________ (fill in the blank). If they are artistic, they could ‘decorate’ for your next event. If they are organized, they could create a system for an event to make it run more smoothly.

You get the idea – Try it, they’ll love it!


Keep it ‘simple”

 "Well, it's complicated."
One challenge administrators face is that their answers are often a lot more complicated than the simplistic stories that are peddled by those that would mislead and deceive. This is true for many non-profits doing important work.
We're not going to have a lot of luck persuading masses of semi-interested people to seek out and embrace complicated answers, but we can take two steps to lead to better information exchange and responses.
1. Take complicated overall answers and make them simple steps instead. Teach complexity over time, simply.
2. Teach a few people, the committed, your volunteers, your best staff, to embrace the idea of complexity. That's what a great college education does. That's what makes someone a statesman instead of a demagogue. Embracing complexity is a scarce trait and worth acquiring. But until your donors/board/employees/volunteers do, I think the first strategy is essential.
You can't sell complicated to someone who came to you to “buy” simple

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Powerful Impact People: Sandra Koorejian

“What do you want to see happening and what can we do together to promote your safety?” This is a question often repeated by Sandra Koorejian, Director at the Domestic Violence Services (DVS) of Greater New Haven, a program of Birmingham Group Health Services, Inc.  This program helps thousands of victims of domestic violence every year, in a wide variety of ways and Sandra has been with them since 1987. Her duties range from program developer to fund raiser to grant writer. 
She acknowledges that successful grant writing is an‘art’. “The trick to successful grant writing is that you have to truly believe in your mission. You have to have a compelling story and a track record. More importantly you have to follow the directions.” 
Fund raising this year includes a Bowlathon, March 5th. “Almost everyone enjoys bowling and the people who participate know it’s for a good cause”. Last year they raised $25,000. “In this Economy it is particularly hard doing private fund raising but our expenses continue to go up.  Do the math, you find yourself in a desperate situation”.  
Among the many services DVS offers is a 24 hour hotline that is bilingual and anonymous. “When people call the hotline they sometimes feel ashamed or blamed. And we say there is nothing you could have done where you deserve to be treated this way and we tell them that they are not alone. What can we do together to help you be safe?”  
In fiscal year 2010 DVS responded to 103 hotline calls from Milford residents.  A 300% increase over other years.  “It’s the economy. People losing their homes, jobs, it increases pressure.”  
DVS has a 15 bed emergency shelter in New Haven for families with children up to age 17 and those families can stay for up to 60 days.  Counselors work with the women to find housing, employment, and other needs. They also help the women deal with their feelings of low self-esteem, victimization and guilt “We have food, linens, transportation tokens and we can arrange for them to relocate if necessary for safety.”

They have victim advocates on the criminal and civil side.  There were 269 victims in the past year that worked with the criminal victim advocate, an 11% increase.  And the civil advocate worked with 103 Milford residents this year.   
“We also offer community education programs. Our advocates go into the high schools and senior centers to speak about healthy and unhealthy relationships. We do all this for free and everything is confidential.”  
While being a "victim" is not a place anyone would care to find themselves, Sandra’s compelling reason for the hard work she and DVS do is understandably bold and empowering.  “I feel like ultimately what we are helping people do is reach their potential. We are speaking out against the use of violence as a means to and end. It’s ultimately about power and control and when we help victims understand it in those terms they are freed from feeling that it’s their fault.”  

For more information about Sandra and Domestic Violence Services, please visit http://www.dvsgnh.org/

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Use ‘em or Lose ‘em –
Do You Know the Value of Your Volunteers?

Job Descriptions are a pain!

When I worked in my ‘corporate’ life job descriptions were VERY important. Annual reviews were based on them, salary increases were calculated according to them and those dreaded 5-year plans had to include all the parts and pieces of that description.

BUT I also knew what I was ‘supposed to do’ at any given time.

Your volunteers need this type of guidance. In nonprofits lines are very blurry because of lack of time, too much to do, deadlines and, sadly, not enough people to do the tasks, making it hard to get the job done.

SO when your volunteers know what the responsibilities are, it’s much easier for them to grab a friend and ask them to do ‘just one thing’ to help them out.

Try it – involve your current volunteers in preparing a job description. It will elevate them (being involved in something ‘different’); it could increase your volunteer base when they think of the best person for that job and in the end it will make the job much easier.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Powerful Impact People: Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson, Executive Director of the United Way in Milford, is celebrating his 33rd year with this non-profit and is a champion of the word “collaborative”.   Executive Director since January of 1986, he started with The United Way in March 1978 as the campaign director. Now his duties as administrator, fundraiser and multitasker are a full-time load. “With over 200 local volunteers throughout the year working on different projects and 36 members of the board, our volunteers carry a lot of weight”. While he started out in the field of Law, Gary gravitated to this work early on by being involved in fund raising. He also had the opportunity to see the community working together, collaboratively.  He was inspired and now he inspires others. 

Today he starts out reading the paper to see the current events happening in Milford.  Last night was the annual holiday fundraiser held at SBC restaurant for United Way, where he met up with 100 attendees and helped run the raffle and silent auction while folks brought in unwrapped toys. ”People can still bring toys to the office which is located at 20 Evergreen Ave in Milford” This year the United Way has a special holiday appeal for families that have emergency needs.  “We have just seen a dramatic increase for our services this year and we collaborate with the department of human services. They do the outreach for people in need in the community. Mainly for help with bills or rent when a parent has gotten laid off.” 

After email responses he sizes up the day, prepares for an early morning campaign cabinet meeting and gets reports from all 10 divisions that are a part of the national campaign called “Live United”

“Our heaviest fund raising is fall to December with events like the annual golf tournament but we still raise money well into the New Year.  Nationally each of the 1300  United Way offices are separately incorporated, with 16 locals here in Connecticut.  The fund raising goal this year is 1 million dollars.   The United Way in Milford plays a collaborative role with 21 other agencies in town by helping with funding and networking.  Working together to make a difference locally.

“This year we were the recipients of a $125,000 federal grant over 10 years to promote programs on substance abuse like alcohol and tobacco.  So we are working with many agencies in town on this new initiative to educate the community on substance abuse.”

A Member of Milford Rotary, Thursdays means networking opportunities and a chance to associate with fellow business people who are doing good things, like Harry Garafalo, owner of Shop Rite and also a board member of UW.   “Harry is just one of the most generous people and this is the fourth year for our July, “United Way month” at Shop Rite.  We set up a display certain times during the week at Shop Rite and we passed out literature and education on what United Way does.  Harry has his staff cooking and selling hotdogs and soda and we get all the proceeds. We raised over 10 thousand this year”.

It is always the stories of the people who benefit from each non-profit that make the biggest impressions and Gary tells me of one such family in town.  Both parents were laid off and have two teens in school.  On top of that the wife had surgery recently and  was at home recovering with no income, no heat (oil) and with the electric getting ready to be turned off. “The woman called us. We have a small emergency fund and it was apparent that this person was in desperate straights. We were able to get an oil delivery for her and also help pay toward the electric so no lights were shut off.”  This woman was so grateful that she has been speaking on behalf of the United Way.  “It’s a case where we were able to help and they were able to give back, by speaking. It just touches me.”   Not uncommon, after 32 years of working with the United Way.

We all know that the cost of living is high in Connecticut and that the recession has really affected everyone but unless you are personally affected, or know someone who is in trouble you might tend to lump United Way in with all others. “We are different.  We are local, not a national bucket that money is funneled into.  The money that is raised here stays here.” 

At the end of the day Gary goes home tired to a certain extent, but he says he is also energized by working with so many other agencies that do great work and by touching lives here in Milford.    “Most days I can go home and know that we have made a difference in someone’s life and that is very rewarding work”.

Collaborative is a good word for United Way and Gary Johnson.

 For more information, visit:


Keep it "simple":

"Well, it's complicated."
One challenge administrators face is that their answers are often a lot more complicated than the simplistic stories that are peddled by those that would mislead and deceive. This is true for many non-profits doing important work.
We're not going to have a lot of luck persuading masses of semi-interested people to seek out and embrace complicated answers, but we can take two steps to lead to better information exchange and responses.
1. Take complicated overall answers and make them simple steps instead. Teach complexity over time, simply.
2. Teach a few people, the committed, your volunteers, your best staff, to embrace the idea of complexity. That's what a great college education does. That's what makes someone a statesman instead of a demagogue. Embracing complexity is a scarce trait and worth acquiring. But until your donors/board/employees/volunteers do, I think the first strategy is essential.
You can't sell complicated to someone who came to you to “buy” simple

Monday, January 3, 2011


Use ‘em or Lose ‘em –
Do You Know the Value of Your Volunteers?

Treat your newest volunteer as though they were your best house sitter!
Why? Your house sitter knows where everything is, what to do in an emergency and how to reach you when it’s important.
Do your volunteers have that information about your facility, their fellow volunteers or emergency contacts?
Sometimes in our rush to welcome our new ‘people’ we forget what they don’t know! Again, we take things for granted and this can lead to upset and disorientation.
Prepare a ‘cheat sheet’ for every new person. Look at this information with a fine tooth comb. Ask yourself some of the questions I asked. Are the answers there?
Your volunteers will thank you and stay with you for a very long time.
After all, you treated them like your best house sitter!