Chuck FyfeJim Roberts

By Chuck Fyfe and Jim Roberts.

Many organizations are now asking themselves: Could we have been better prepared? As nonprofits look to the future, risk management and continuity planning is a high priority. Effective emergency and crisis management planning cannot foresee every possible scenario, but it can prepare organizations for addressing adversity from any quarter. Organizations need this type of planning to face the future realistically and avoid the optimistic bias of everyday operations.

Checklist for Planning
Your organization must systematically identify and prioritize risks, articulate prevention and mitigation strategies, develop contingency plans to ensure business continuity, and provide a framework for effectively managing through unavoidable emergencies. In addition, you should consider the possibility that some change may be permanent and require a modified business model. Addressing this whole spectrum is essential to prepare for what could lie ahead.

Key Questions in the Planning Process
• What are the key elements of your organization’s structure and the most important drivers of its success?
• What are the potential risks to your organization’s assets and success drivers?
• How can these risks be avoided, managed, or mitigated?
• What scenarios could arise despite such preparations that that would threaten your organization  and its success drivers, possibly precipitating a major crisis?
• What plans can be made to ensure the safeguarding of organizational core skills and continuity of the most essential activities in response to adverse scenarios?
• What policies and procedures are in place to manage crisis situations, including roles and responsibilities, financial safeguards, and communication plans?
• What feedback mechanisms will ensure that your organization honestly assesses its performance through a crisis, draws appropriate conclusions, and takes necessary actions to be better prepared for the future?

No process can accurately predict the future. But the habits of mind, organizational discipline, and patterns of communication developed in working through this process can successfully prepare organizations even in the face of the totally unexpected. The risk planning process clarifies essential ingredients of every crisis plan: who is in charge, where responsibilities lie, what the essential priorities are, how to meet them, and who speaks for the organization. The last question in our list is especially important. The process must set you up for systemic reflection: lessons learned through a crisis, what improvements can be made, what new opportunities seized, and what organizational changes are required to thrive in the future in what could be an altered external environment.

The current pandemic has reminded us of the uncertainty in which we live. Whether the impact has been felt by individuals, institutions, industry, small businesses, or nonprofits, we have learned that we need to be better prepared when something goes dreadfully wrong and impacts operations, public relations, resources, and personnel. Contact us if we can help your organization work through your risk planning for the future.