Ep 56: Anatomy of a Crisis (with Emily Klehm)

by Joan Garry

When a major crisis hit – an employee had been mugged at gunpoint and a dog stolen – Emily Klehm stepped up big time as the leader of the South Suburban Humane Society. But she never could have guessed what would happen next.


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6am. The phone rings. Uh oh.

Emily Klehm, the Executive Director of South Suburban Humane Society in Chicago, sleepily picks it up.

A staff member tells Emily that he had found a dog tied to a stop sign. When he went to help, somebody held a gun to his head and the dog – Polly – was abducted.


And then it got a whole lot worse. While news crews came out to conduct interviews and film the location of the event — her staff member went missing. Vanished.

Amazingly, the story only got stranger and stranger as the day went on. I don’t want to give it away. You’ll have to listen to the episode.

But I will say this… Emily was a ROCKSTAR that day. She did every single thing right. And even more than hearing the full story, I want you to learn everything she did. You will learn so much from Emily’s story about what to do when things go drastically wrong.

As optimistic as nonprofit leaders tend to be, they need to think about the worst possible thing that could befall their nonprofits. Inevitably there will be a crisis. This podcast tells one story about how to tackle a crisis effectively and how the way you behave day by day prepares you for that.

About Emily Klehm

After graduating Augustana College with a degree in political science, Emily Klehm, CAWA, began working as a Community Organizer for Family Matters Chicago. Her work involved street-level outreach on issues such as affordable housing, education, and leadership development. She then took over the Development Director position  there where she worked for five more years. In 2006, she moved to Chicago Heights and began walking dogs at SSHS as a volunteer. Not long after, she was asked to join the Board of Directors where she served until applying for the newly created executive position at SSHS. She began there December 1, 2007.

In her tenure the organization established a thriving High Volume Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic, partnered to open a Low-Cost Veterinary Services Clinic, and has transformed the shelter from a 50% live release rate to a 90% rate.  She lives with her three adopted children from SSHS: Bette, a sassy seven-year-old Cattle Dog mix, Charlie, a sassier 4-year-old King Charles Cavalier Spaniel/Papillon, and Doug, a darling 6-year-old Chihuahua.

In this episode

  • Exactly what to do when things seriously go south
  • How to be proactive and on-brand in a crisis
  • How my twin engine plane model can support you in times of crisis
  • How a background as a community organizer can prepare you to be an effective nonprofit leader in a time of crisis
  • How the Nonprofit Leadership Lab (my educational and community membership for leaders of smaller nonprofits) helped Emily navigate these difficult waters
  • Upholding a culture of transparency

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