The typical nonprofit organization is started because the founder or the founding group has a passion for a particular issue or cause. The passion drives the start-up board to roll up their sleeves, work hard and try to meet the needs associated with the cause. Unfortunately, the passion sometimes leaves the organization in a vulnerable position, unprepared for the unexpected. The best way to be prepared for the unexpected is to ask yourself what could happen, and then take it a step forward by putting a plan in place to be prepared for the worst. The preparation for what could happen are commonly known as a crisis management plan.
Every nonprofit should have a crisis management plan in place. A crisis could be anything ranging from a fire in your facility, to embezzlement, to an automobile accident where the organization’s driver is found to be at fault. Typically, a crisis brings with it publicity that is not welcomed. The goal, then of a crisis communication plan is to reduce the length of the news cycle; in other words, to get the focus off of the negative situation.
The first step in the development of a crisis management plan is to minimize risks that may occur within the organization. A risk can be identified as anything that can keep an organization from reaching its goals. Some risks to be minimized include:
- Screening volunteers
- Obtaining copies of motor vehicle driving records for anyone driving on behalf of the organization
- Providing a board orientation and training for the board to help board members understand the organization and their roles and responsibilities
- Purchasing liability and property insurance (including Directors & Officers’ Insurance)
- Addressing hazards associated with any fundraising event
- Implementing policies that can protect the organization from liability
Next, establish a crisis communications team. This team is responsible for providing the official message from the organization. Who will be the spokesperson? The spokesperson is usually the board president or the head of the organization. Because dealing with the media can be intimidating, it is important that the individual is comfortable communicating with reporters. The crisis incident should not be the first time the individual has ever spoken to a reporter.
As much as we would like to avoid conversations about the crisis, it is important to get in front of the news. Be honest, but concise. Don’t volunteer additional information, stick to the facts. Prepare a written statement that states that the organization is looking to the solution. If a solution has already been identified, now is the time to state what that is. Since crisis situations often leave people wondering about the organization and its work, the statement should also provide some information about the difference the organization is making in the community-what is your impact?
By following these simple steps, nonprofits can be prepared to manage difficult situations as they occur. Crisis situations do not have to mean “the end” for an organization, but can instead open up doors for communicating about the strength of the organization.
Does your organization need a crisis communication plan? Contact us today, we can help you put one in place so that you will be prepared when you need it.