Show ‘Why’ to Earn Your Audience

For successful nonprofits, having a strong mission is only the beginning. Storytelling is one critical component.

“The starting piece, what underpins any effective communication, is knowing that your organization has a solid mission,” said Gregory Bradbard, president of the nonprofit Hope through Housing Foundation and senior vice president of strategic partnerships for National Community Renaissance (National CORE).

“Beyond that, everyone in your organization needs to know what that mission is, what specific problem they are trying to address, and why that is important.”

Hope through Housing provides supportive services to residents of CORE’s affordable, senior and market-rate properties, including financial literacy training, senior wellness, and preschool and after-school programs.

Show ‘the why’

“Nonprofits are really good at telling what they do and how they do it, but sharing why their mission is critical to recipients is the important part,” he said.

At the end of the day, what compels people to get involved, donate or volunteer, is the why, Bradbard said.

“For example, one senior, her Social Security was about $600 a month, her rent $445. The rest was for her living expenses, food, transportation and medical. One of the things we do is provide food pantries to our residents so that they have enough food to eat.”

The nonprofit could talk about how it provides housing and services like a food pantry. But it would be difficult to appreciate it without the why it is so important and how that service helps recipients.

It’s also important for nonprofits to know their audience when telling their story: “With one group, we may focus on how we can help people become selfsufficient. With another, we may discuss the numbers of people who are unhoused and the need for more housing to get more people off the streets.”

And always be looking for champions, Bradbard said: “Who in the community believes in what you do. That might be a city leader, or might even be a former client. Invite them in as ambassadors for your organization and encourage them to spread your story.”

Published in the Foothill Reader, a print product of the Los Angeles Times

Media Takeaways on Scaramucci Eruption

Is there ever a story about stopping leaks in the Trump White House that doesn’t include at least one leak? 

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How many times do people need to be told that off-the-record comments must be mutually agreed upon? (And even then, unless you know the reporter, don’t say anything you’ll regret seeing in the paper, period.)

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This paragraph should be cut and pasted in every Trump story.

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Pasadena Police Must Confront Trust Issue

A police department is only as good as the public thinks it is.

The Pasadena Police Department should use that as its guiding principle as investigations and internal reviews mount. Credibility matters, and with the latest revelations of alleged police misconduct, the public should be fully informed.

Recently, the Pasadena police chief announced that the city hired a consulting firm to review all the cases handled by some of its officers. According to reporter Brian Charles, two officers allegedly hid exculpatory evidence and threatened at least one witness to recant earlier statements related to a 2007 murder case. Allegations connected to the officers also include: kidnapping, assaults, death threats and soliciting of bribes.

These and other revelations caused a judge last month to declare a mistrial in the case.

In addition, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the county’s Alternate Public Defender’s Office and Sheriff’s Department Internal Affairs Bureau are investigating past cases of officers.

Criticism of the tactics used by the Pasadena police have ebbed and flowed over the years. Some black residents have long complained that they have been unfairly targeted.

A shooting last year increased the belief. In March 2012, an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by police who believed he was armed and had just robbed someone at gunpoint.

The biggest obstacle in keeping the public informed and keeping trust is how difficult it is to get information on police misconduct. Unlike other public employees, even when police employees are found to have abused their authority, their employee files are rarely if ever disclosed. Secrecy is the default position and keeps the public in the dark.

The chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, Charlie Beck, who talked about how trust matters between police and residents, also recently noted the difficulty in keeping the public informed. After an ex-officer, later killed, exacted deadly revenge because of what he said was an unfair hearing and firing, Beck promised to be as transparent as possible. But he added that because of privacy protections allowed to police officers, state law would need to be changed to allow true transparency.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Beck appropriately summarized what all police departments face: “We have great responsibility. I don’t think any profession, any department, is as scrutinized as ours. That’s legitimate, because we (are given) the right to take away personal freedom, even human life.”

The Pasadena Police Department has that same responsibility given to it by its citizens.

When officers blatantly abuse that authority, openness should be the default position.

It keeps bad cops off the streets and allows the good cops to do their jobs and have community trust.

Right now there are too many questions unanswered. How far does this stain go? How many officers knew this was going on and did nothing? The department needs to answer these questions openly or that credibility gap will increase and the distrust will widen.

No one should want that.

Originally posted in the Pasadena Star News

Gun Ownership Transparency And Media Responsibility

Just because a newspaper can print or post something doesn’t mean it should. Context is important.

When I was a reporter, I answered the phone one day, and a man threatened to shoot me. The coward did it anonymously, of course, and quickly hung up.

He was upset because I wrote some articles about how the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department refused to allow me to review concealed weapon permits, despite the fact that they were and still are public records.

I was reminded of this after a New York newspaper posted the names and addresses of registered gun owners in its coverage area. The information is considered public record in New York.

The outcry after the interactive database went live was predictable. Gun owners were livid, condemned the newspaper and posted names and addresses of the publisher, editors and reporters. The newspaper hired armed guards to protect its workers.

The newspaper said in the aftermath of the Newton, Connecticut mass shooting, where 20 children and six adults were murdered by an armed man who later killed himself, people had the right to know if their neighbor owned a gun. A nearby New York county has now refused to release the names and addresses of its gun owners, clearly ignoring state law.

Now while I understand the newspaper’s reasoning, I don’t agree with it. People could easily find out who owned a gun by asking for records themselves.

When I wanted to review concealed weapon permits, I wanted to see who was getting them and why. I wanted to see if the sheriff’s department was giving permits to any person who qualified under the law or just to campaign contributors and cronies. Was it even thoroughly investigating those who had applied? I never intended to post any information about who had a permit.

But I could have.

It’s silly that despite the fact that on the application to get a permit it stated it was a public document, people were shocked that someone from the public could and would review it. After throwing several roadblocks in my way, the department’s counsel eventually admitted that while the law was on my side, the county sheriff didn’t care. (I’ll leave aside the brazen position of the county’s top law enforcement officer deciding which laws to obey.)

Now New York gun owners and officials are acting the same way. Despite that it’s a public record, people are shocked that the public might want to actually see it.

Citizens want a government that is open and transparent. Sometimes that transparency is uncomfortable and even humiliating. But we have these laws, especially in California where transparency is enshrined in the constitution, to make sure our elected officials and its institutions are doing what they are supposed to be doing.

The people through their lawmakers might decide that gun permits and concealed weapon permits should be made private. But be prepared for what might happen. Maybe some counties decide that no one should get a gun or only a select few can. How would we know?

And I will add this: on the concealed weapons permit application there is a section on mental health. This should be very closely monitored. Maybe a person who threatens to shoot someone for looking at public documents shouldn’t have guns.

Originally posted in the Pasadena Star News

Being Unprepared For Disaster Is American Way

My brother peered out of his New York City apartment last week and gazed upon the East River 15 feet away from his doorstep. Unfortunately, the East River is usually more than a half mile away.

He and his family live on the first floor and at one point, were preparing to relocate to neighbors on the second floor as Hurricane Sandy slammed into New York. The water never came closer and eventually receded, but not before leaving devastation in its wake. People are still without power, the cost of repairing the damage could reach more than $50 billion and more than a 100 people are confirmed dead.

Despite an early warning of the impending storm, my brother was unprepared. He shrugged off the city’s warnings, saying that New Yorkers were becoming wimps, derided forecasters’ weather models and sounded blas? about the fact that there was a mandatory evacuation for property a block away from where he lived.

Lucky for him, the lack of preparedness didn’t cost him. Next time he might not be so lucky.

But my brother is not so unusual when it comes to ignoring pleas by emergency disaster officials who urge people to stock basic emergency supplies or have an emergency plan – any emergency plan just in case.

According to an Adelphi University Center for Health Innovation poll, 44 percent of those polled don’t have first-aid kits, 48 percent lack emergency supplies and 53 percent do not have a minimum three-day supply of nonperishable food and water at home.

Americans seem to have an overly optimistic view of government’s ability to help them and do it quickly, with 53 percent believing that local authorities will come to their rescue if disaster strikes. As New Orleans and the situation on the northeast coast should indicate, help might arrive, but it will rarely be quickly and the resources will usually not be what it is required.

My little brother (I have three brothers, by the way.) views things differently. He and his family lives in South Pasadena and were there in the windstorms of last year. His area lost power for a while. But he was prepared. One neighbor had a generator, another had an inverter, which can connect to car battery and allows someone to use it to keep basic electrical needs running. He had backup food and water supplies, small solar panels to juice up phones and computer, a bag with extra clothing and personal items, and a safe place for important documents.

He also knew where the outside lines for water and gas were just in case he had to shut them off. (He’s also an electrician and his wife’s a nurse, so you know I’ll be walking quickly over there if things happen, since I recently moved to South Pasadena myself.)

It really doesn’t take much or much time to have a basic emergency survival plan, not just for your house, but if you’re driving or at work. You can view your city’s site to see if they have more information or go to the Los Angeles County website, at, and search for the “Emergency Survival Guide” booklet. It has the basic checklists.

It won’t save you from the zombie invasion. But if a disaster strikes and cuts you and your neighborhood off from quick help, you won’t be worrying if that bathtub of water and that half a box of cereal is going to last you long enough for help to arrive.

Originally posted in the Pasadena Star News