Don't waste a crisis

Keynote speaker Karl Stauber addresses local nonprofits at Thursday's event. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

March 13, 2009

By DEBBIE HALL - Martinsville Bulletin Staff Writer

The key to surviving a crisis is not to go into survivalist mode, but rather to communicate, network, decide when to lead and strive to be the best.

That was the message from Karl Stauber, the keynote speaker Thursday at the Harvest Nonprofit Leadership Event at the Spencer-Penn Centre in Spencer.

“A crisis is a horrible thing to waste,” he added.

Stauber is the president and CEO of the Danville Regional Foundation (DRF), which seeks to be a catalyst for innovation and an agent for transformation in Caswell County, N.C., Danville and Pittsylvania County, according to its Web site.

The Danville foundation focuses on activities, programs and organizations that address the health, education and well-being of residents of Danville, Pittsylvania County and Caswell County, its Web site states. That is similar to the mission of The Harvest Foundation in Henry County and Martinsville.

Stauber urged the more than 160 people attending the event to determine “where your organization is in hard times. A crisis is a horrible thing to live through,” but it also brings a hope of emerging stronger, he said.

Critical keys to achieving that are transparency, networking/collaboration and leadership, he said.

“People have got to know what you’re doing and why,” Stauber said, and he urged attendees to “say it in English, not agency-ease.”

He suggested networking and collaborating with others to ride out a crisis and help meet common goals.

With respect to leadership, Stauber said organizations must decide when to lead and when to follow.

“You can’t lead in everything,” he said, explaining that leading is synonymous with taking risks.

“An amazing number of businesses” started up during the Depression and lasted for 50 years, Stauber said. He added that those businesses were “created at the worst time” but demonstrated flexibility to change with the times.

Quoting a Bible passage, Stauber said, “A people without a vision shall perish. ... I think that’s true for individuals, families,” organizations, businesses and communities.

“It’s real easy to be in a survivalist mode in these challenging times,” Stauber said. But to prosper, strive to be the best rather than giving into “a natural inclination” of striving to be adequate, he said.

Stauber, who has been in his current position for about 18 months, also served for 11 years as the head of the Northwest Area Foundation, which helps communities reduce poverty.

He served as a senior appointee in the Clinton administration in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where his work focused on rural development policy, education and implementing the community development portion of the president’s Northwest Timber Initiative.

Stauber was confirmed by the Senate as under secretary for research, education and economics at the USDA and before that, he was the deputy under secretary for rural development at the agency.

The Danville foundation’s two latest grants listed on its Web site are $8.1 million to jump-start the Danville Family YMCA’s capital campaign to build a new facility and $165,000 to the Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine to cover the start-up costs of a medical residency program at the Danville Regional Medical Center. A second grant of $180,000 will be used to give $36,000 stipends to the first five residents in the program. The program will help train doctors but also help recruit them to the area, according to published reports.


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