NPO 014: Nancy Cowles (Kids in Danger)

Today's Guest: Nancy Cowles
     Nancy A. Cowles is executive director of Kids In Danger (KID), an organization dedicated to protecting children by improving children’s product safety.  KID’s mission is to promote the development of safer children’s products, advocate for children and educate parents and caregivers about dangerous children’s products.  KID was founded by the parents of Danny Keysar who was killed in a recalled portable crib.
     Under Nancy’s leadership, KID has grown into a nationally recognized advocate for safer children’s products, called on often by the media, parents, regulators and other stakeholders as a resource and key player in the arena of product safety.
     KID’s programs include Safe from the Start, an outreach program to parents and caregivers; Teach Early Safety Testing, a program to integrate design safety into the undergraduate engineering curriculum; the Debby Sayah Grandparent Outreach Program to provide safety information to grandparents; and efforts to encourage a strong children’s product safety system nationally and in each state.
     Nancy also served as President of the International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization (ICPHSO) (2016-17) and on the board of directors of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). 
     She has over 30 years’ experience conceiving, building and directing coalitions and organizations to investigate a wide variety of consumer issues and to create solutions.  Prior to coming to KID, Nancy served as executive director of the Coalition for Consumer Rights, a center for public interest research and education. She received her BA from Wheaton College.

Nonprofit Spotlight: Kids in Danger
Kids In Danger (KID) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting children by improving children’s product safety. KID was founded in 1998 by the parents of sixteen-month-old Danny Keysar who died when a portable crib collapsed around his neck in his Chicago childcare home. Although the portable crib had been recalled five years earlier, word of its danger had not reached Danny’s parents, caregiver, or a state inspector who visited the home just eight days before Danny’s death.

Lessons Learned:
    Storytelling can be really powerful. It brings issues closer to home and gives people the opportunity to imagine these situations happening to them. Telling the stories of specific children and their families who have been impacted by faulty or recalled products has allowed KID to get significant legislation passed on both state and federal levels.
     Tactics for maximizing impact on a limited budget:

  • Identify which people are already working with your target demographic. If possible, train or educate them so that they can then share the message with their contacts. Ideally this has a far greater impact than trying to touch each person on the ground individually.
  • Collaborate! Find other organizations that have similar missions or whose mission overlaps in some small way. Build relationships with them so that you can each share information with your groups and so that you can tap into some of their resources (such as lobbyists, their connections with people of influence and to build a larger base of support for issues of advocacy).
  • Connect with local universities and graduate schools. Some grad school programs encourage their students to get involved in nonprofit work. If you can tap into that program, your nonprofit can gain a student who is willing to complete a project for you that often gets pushed to the back burner. (For those of you in the Chicago area, here is the link for the Net Impact Fellows and the Alumni Board Connect from the University of Chicago that Linda mentioned.)

Story of Good: Creating a Legacy
In 2008, a bill was passed (after many years of lobbying and advocacy) that became known as Danny's bill. It was a great collaboration of different groups, led to the requirement that products are tested before released to the public and provided a legacy for Danny that his parents Linda and Boaz so appreciated. 

Next Guest: Next week, I'll be releasing a solo episode where I share how CROSO has structured our board and committees. We'll return to the normal interview format on 7/31.

To see the "6 Outstanding Podcasts You Should Know About" list from the Nonprofit Network, click here.