Dani Robbins

Posts Tagged ‘crisis management’

What Nonprofits can do NOW

In Leadership, Non Profit Boards, nonprofit executives, Organizational Development, Uncategorized on March 29, 2020 at 5:49 pm

The job of a nonprofit executive is to ensure their agency will open tomorrow, or if it shouldn’t, to shut it down.

The list of things we don’t know and information we don’t have is long:

·         How long will this last?

·         How big of an economic hit will it be?

·         What will happen to the people we serve?

·         How can I protect my team and my agency?

·         How many of our donors will be impacted?

·         Will our foundations loosen the restrictions?

·         Will I get the Federal loan?

·         Will I have to lay off staff?

·         Will I get laid off myself?

·         Will I have to shut down this program that I love and have spent no small part of my life cultivating?

Then there’s the much more personal and terrifying:

·         Will I get sick?

·         Will someone I love?

·         How can I pay the mortgage without a job?

·         How can I protect my family?

We are all scared and varying degrees of angry, anxious, grateful, bored and terrified and, sometimes, how we feel changes by the minute.

Moreover, for those of us who have spent our lives in the field, sitting at home doing nothing makes us feel helpless. 

We are not helpless.  We are trained professionals.  Let’s get to work!

We are at an unprecedented point in leadership. Every decision we make will determine what happens tomorrow, even as we are aware that we are all making those decisions with limited information while standing on constantly shifting sand.

Many agencies are looking at cuts. “Leaders should start developing models and anticipate what levels of revenue drops may occur … even “as substantial variances are likely based upon the type of” organizations, relationship with state legislature, and historical financial models.” (The Great Recession Was Bad…)

Where to start? As always, you start with your values, your mission and your commitment to intentional aligned leadership.

I recommend the Board of Directors:

  • Set the priorities for 2020 and 2021
  • Determine the level of saving that needs to be realized
  • Approve the cessation of services that will no longer be offered
  • Determine how long you will continue to pay staff
    • for work that can’t billed
    • for services that can’t be offered
    • who may not be able to work
  • Set severance levels

The CEO:

  • Review your policies including sick time, family leave, and severance
  • Review your insurance, including short and long term disability
  • Make recommendations to the Board for policy revision, as necessary
  • Reach out to every funder and ask for special circumstances
  • Review and apply for forgivable loans
  • Plan out interim leadership for every critical role, including yours
  • Cheerlead
  • Sell the story

The finance team:

  • Clarify the staff that can do billable work (identified as work that will still generate revenue)
  • Identify staff that might have to be furloughed based on work that is unable to be done
  • Assess income that is unable to be realized

The development department:

  • get clarity around if the money that they’ve projected for this year is actually going to come in
  • Clarify if any money that has been pledged is available for operating or if it is restricted to other expenses
  • Consider asking if any and all restricted gifts can be used for operating
  • Consider asking all capital donors if you can use their gifts for general operating this year, as possible
  • Prepare an emergency funding campaign that clearly tells the story and the need for additional support
  • Prepare on-going communication with donors

Once the above is completed, I recommend:

The Board approve a staged step down, as necessary:

  1. easy expense reductions that can happen now
  2. reductions in the next round based on the priorities and the savings needed
  3. Worst case cuts to keep the organization solvent

Other points of note:

  • Pay cuts require a Board vote, even “voluntary” ones. 
  • The CEO should not forgo their own paycheck or lend money to the agency. You can, of course, donate back a portion of your paycheck. If you do, make sure it is your choice, aligned with your family’s circumstances, and follows your donor acknowledgement procedures. Three More Things to Stop Doing
  • If necessarily, individual Board members can lend money to the agency, with an appropriate paper trail.  If you do, I recommend paying yourself back not be your first order of business once the smoke clears.

That’s my list for today. Hopefully, you won’t need it. If you do, I wanted to get a framework out there in case it’s helpful. If you have a framework you’ve developed that you can share, please do. We will get through this, together. We will persevere!

As always, I welcome your insight, feedback and experience. Please offer your ideas or suggestions for blog topics and consider hitting the follow button to enter your email. A rising tide raises all boats.

The School of Worst Case Scenarios

In Leadership, Organizational Development, Strategic Plans on November 21, 2013 at 9:13 am

I always joke that I went to the School of Worst Case Scenarios because when presented with any decision, I try to figure out the worst thing that could happen. It amuses my clients, yet it’s a helpful exercise. Once you know the worst case, you can roll the dice, create a plan to avoid it or decide it’s not worth it. Information is just information. It’s what you do with information that makes the difference.

There are a few plans and policies that will help you avoid or at least address a worst case scenario.

Strategic Plan

A Strategic Plan will keep you on the path that the leaders of your organization have elected to follow. There is less potential for failure on an agreed upon path.

If you don’t currently have one and your agency is not in the midst of a crisis, almost any time is a good time to do a Strategic Plan. There is one caveat: I’m not a huge fan of strategic planning with brand new (less than 6 months) Executive Directors. Give your new Exec 6 months before beginning a planning process.

All agencies should have a plan to align their staff and board as to where they’re going and how they’ll know when they get there.

The only time I flat out recommend against starting a plan is in a crisis. Even if you went to the same school (of worst case scenarios) as me, crises still happen. The middle of a crisis is not the time to conduct a strategic plan. In fact, a crisis is the time to pull out your crisis management plan and also your crisis communication plan. Having these in a crisis will greatly mitigate the actuality of the worst case scenario coming to pass and will increase the capacity of your staff to rise to the occasion. I recommend annual trainings on crisis plans.

A Crisis Management Plan will inform your team as to what to do in a wide variety of situations. Bomb threat- check.  Intruder in the building- check.  Shots fired in the neighborhood – check! Missing child- check.  Other things that are equally bad- check.

Knowing what to do is greatly preferable to guessing when the world is falling down around you. A good plan and a well trained staff can be your salvation.

If you are starting from scratch, make a list of all the bad things that could reasonably happen and then a plan for what your team should do in each case. Draft a few press releases for the files. Train your staff on responding to the media and if you don’t have one, create a crisis communication plan for your board to appoint a spokesperson. Select a crisis response team and keep all of their names and contact information at the end of the plan.

I used to update that list and send out the entire plan every time I went on vacation.  I considered it insurance.

A Crisis Communication Plan appoints a spokesperson and an alternate or two in case the initial person and the first alternate are implicated in the crisis. (Like in the case of the Exec and the Chair having an affair while married to other people; honestly, I couldn’t make this stuff up.) I usually recommend it be the Executive Director, Board Chair and Chair of the Marketing Committee.

Crisis avoidance is easier than damage control. The School of Worst Case Scenarios isn’t a party school but it can save your agency’s reputation and greatly enhance your career longevity.

What’s been your experience with crisis? Do you have great stories to share? As always, I welcome your insight, feedback and experience.  Please share your ideas or suggestions for blog topics and consider hitting the follow button to enter your email. A rising tide raises all boats.

What Went Right?

In Leadership, Organizational Development on December 17, 2012 at 10:02 am

I am devastated by the killings in Newtown CT, and the number of children and educators who were killed; the fact that a mass killing happened again, and so soon after the last one; the fact that we seemingly have no capacity to protect ourselves or our children.
There is one small sliver of hope in this tragedy. There was an obvious plan in place: the staff were trained; they had prepared for this possible reality, as horrific as it was, and they knew what to do.
Whenever there is a tragedy of this magnitude, or even tragedies of much smaller magnitudes, I always try to find the good.
What went right?
Teachers knew to hide the children in their classrooms, and they knew how and where.
The students knew to be quiet and to listen.
Someone told the children to “close their eyes and run.” I cry even as I write it, but imagine the forethought required to remember in the midst of terror, that we still have an obligation to protect children, at whatever level we can, and those children will be better because while they heard the bullets and knew the fear, they didn’t seen the carnage.
We all like to think that it couldn’t happen here. I’m sure the people of Newton CT (and Chardon OH) thought the same thing. It’s what I’d like to believe as well. But like them, I know that while I hope and pray it won’t, I need a crisis management plan for my organization in case it does. And like all plans that work when you need them to, the plan needs to include training and instructions for staff, children and visitors, a risk mitigation review and a building assessment. It needs to be taught, practiced, and reinforced, and things that came up during the year that shouldn’t have happened need to be discussed to ensure they don’t next time. Everybody needs to know the plan and their role in securing the building and protecting lives.
Planning and preparation won’t necessarily save us, but if evil comes to our corner of the world, it will help to minimize the loss, as it did in both Chardon and Newtown.
As always, I welcome your comments and experience.

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