Most not-for-profits are intensely focused on present needs — not the possibility that disaster will strike sometime in the distant future. Yet it’s critical that all organizations have a formal continuity plan to guide them should a natural or manmade disaster disrupt operations.
You likely already have many of the necessary processes in place — such as safely evacuating your office or backing up data. A continuity plan can help you organize and document existing processes and address any other issues you might have overlooked. If your nonprofit provides basic human services (such as medical care and food) or disaster-related services, you generally need a more detailed and extensive plan so that you’ll be able to serve constituents — even without a full staff and other resources.
No organization can anticipate or eliminate all possible risks, but you can limit the damage of potential risks specific to your nonprofit. These vary by organization type, location and technology. So, the first step in creating a continuity plan is to identify the threats you face when it comes to your people, processes and technology. Also assess what the damages would be if your operations were interrupted.
For example, if you had an office fire, what are the possible outcomes regarding personal injury, property damage and financial losses? Designate a lead person to oversee the creation and implementation of your continuity plan. Then assemble teams to handle different duties, such as a communications team responsible for contacting and updating staff, volunteers and other stakeholders. Other teams might focus on IT issues, decide how to preserve and retrieve critical inventory or devise evacuation procedures.
It only takes one
Keep in mind that the disaster doesn’t have to be a cataclysmic event such as a major fire or hurricane. Something as seemingly mundane as an extended power outage or virulent flu season could prevent your organization from carrying out its mission. Your financial advisors can help you determine risks and point you to helpful information.