Do You Have a Madoff Communications Plan in Place?

a guest post by Alan Kravitz

It’s not an understatement to say that the Bernard Madoff scandal affects all Jewish organizations, and its reverberations will be felt for a long time – even among those who have not had to shut their doors or face drastic cutbacks as a result of this mess. At the very least, donors and prospects will ask more questions before they open their checkbooks – and they’ll go deeper than “Did Madoff manage your money” or “How does my money make a difference.”
Every Jewish organization should be prepared for these questions. That’s why I recommend having a Madoff Communications Plan in place. In this series of posts, I’ll address the basic elements of any Madoff Plan – elements that cost very little money to create. In fact, one of the most important items costs no money at all. Let’s call it the Madoff Q&A.

Step 1: Think of every question a donor might ask about your organization’s finances – especially since the scandal broke. (You’ve probably already received a boatload of questions, so just jot down what people have been asking.)

Step 2: Work with your communications/pr department to develop clear, concise answers to these questions. Keep in mind, these answers must be as jargon-free as possible. It’s worth noting that in this uncertain economic climate, America’s most popular financial author is none other than Suze Orman, a woman famous for talking about money in ways that people without Harvard MBAs can understand. To Ms. Orman, excessive “financespeak” is as horrifying as bad hair highlights or a lipstick smudge on those huge pearly-whites.

So, in your Q&A – and in all details of your Madoff Plan – thinking like Suze can help you deal with Bernie. Now, more than ever, your donors want you to talk to them; not at them. They need to know that they can trust you wholeheartedly with their philanthropy.

Step 3: This is perhaps the most important step. You must make sure appropriate staff members learn these answers well enough to say them in their own natural styles. Nothing comes off worse than the monotone sound of someone who obviously sounds “scripted.” (Just think of all those annoying telemarketing calls you’ve received.) It’s a good idea to set up meetings with your staff and practice responses; maybe even doing some role-playing to make the process more interactive.

These simple steps can take you a long way in keeping – or earning – the trust of your donors. At a time when so many feel hurt and betrayed, this is one “bottom line” no one can afford to lose.

Alan Kravitz has been writing for, and listening to, the Jewish community for more than 15 years – in good times and not-so-good times. His company, The Infinite Inkwell specializes in writing web and print copy for Jewish organizations throughout the United States.