7 tips for handling a crisis

Many nonprofit leaders pride themselves on analytical thinking and calmness under pressure. It is easy to lose one’s head, however, during times of crisis.

During her workshop “Mamma Mia! Tools and Tips for Managing a Crisis” during the 2015 Risk Summit, Nonprofit Risk Management Center Executive Director Melanie L. Herman provided seven steps for crisis handling.

* Decide upon leadership roles within your organization regarding their roles in a crisis.

* Identify key audiences in the event of a crisis. This could include board members, employees, volunteers, service recipients, funders, donors, business partners, vendors, media, regulatory agencies and the general public.

* Prepare key communication pieces before a crisis. Have answers to questions such as what your organization does, the population it serves and how it is funded.

* Pick your response platform and stick to it. Key platform messages include “we value safety,” “we value our employees and volunteers,” “we are fiscally responsible,” “our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this tragedy,” and “we are doing all we can to ensure that this never happens again.”

* Own up to mistakes. Provide updates and remember that saying sorry doesn’t cost anything, can diffuse anger and is capable of reducing the risk of litigation.

* Keep a crisis activities log. Track when a member of the organization takes a crisis-response-related action.

* Debrief with a self-assessment. What were the major causes of the crisis? Were there warning signs? Was the existing crisis plan useful? What changes should be made to the plan?