Property damage. Financial damage. Reputational damage. These are just some of the crises nonprofits can face. In reality, they take even more shapes.
Few board members sign on to deal with a major crisis for their organizations, but in the era of nonstop mass communication combined with globalization, there is no time nor geographical limit to the severity of crisis an organization can encounter.
The board of directors needs to be ready to act, to speak and, most importantly, to make decisions quickly, no matter what the organization faces.
In a previous piece, we looked at crisis types, as well as recent examples. We also explored how a crisis management plan is a nonnegotiable tool for every mission-driven organization. Now, we’ll take a look at how technology, and specifically the nonprofit’s board management platform, can be invaluable in supporting the management of and recovery from the next crisis.
How to Use Technology to Manage Crises Effectively
Whether starting from scratch or enhancing an existing plan, every nonprofit’s leaders can benefit from reviewing their existing crisis management strategy with these elements in mind.
Build a Process that Keeps the Board Engaged
Once a crisis happens, the board is where the buck stops. This is the first truth that all directors must understand (and can and should be incorporated into onboarding messages.) So engaging the board before that point — in the process of creating a management plan — is equally critical.
Board management software is designed to simplify and streamline workflows, and keep team members involved without overburdening them. A full-featured solution like Diligent BoardEffect will include these benefits and more:
- Centralized, organized document storage
- Custom workflows, so every director knows when they are needed
- Straightforward agenda building
- Secure availability on multiple devices for asynchronous work schedules
Strengthen and Support Collaboration
A board team must come together quickly during a crisis, and emphasizing teamwork in quieter times is the best way to ensure a strong, cohesive response.
Your board management tool should include options for annotating documents directly in the platform. It should also facilitate easy-to-manage, accessible virtual meetings, and clear workflows that ensure every team member knows where they stand. Automated notifications are also invaluable to keep all team members informed — board, staff and any others called in as resources.
Use Tools that Keep Communication Lines Open with Stakeholders
In that vein, the number of people directly involved with the nonprofit can suddenly expand during difficult times. After all, board members are often desirable because of their networks, and calling in new expertise, willing workers and financial support will be a major priority, as will reorganizing staff and leadership.
Be sure the plan includes possible sources of support, as well as guidelines for how to recruit new help and how to communicate with them. Look for a board management platform that offers granular permissions that enable executive staff and board members to access the information they need at the right level — no more, no less. And automated notifications are also helpful in this case, mobilizing resources where and when they are needed.
Conduct an Assessment and Identify Risk
To craft an effective crisis management plan, directors and staff must be able to speak freely to each other and prepare and review sensitive materials. Whether avoiding, planning for or addressing a crisis, all stakeholders must be able to count on secure communication and documentation. Strong collaboration is important, as well as the opportunity to collect searchable reports in one place.
Risk assessments have another benefit beyond crisis preparation. In a writeup of the phases of a crisis, FEMA includes mitigation as a first step to reduce the exposure to risk. A significant benefit of this step in crisis management planning is creating the opportunity to reduce or remove risk ahead of a crisis.
Ensure the Right Elements are Included
A crisis management plan will, by necessity, be a robust collection of materials. Roles and responsibilities, communication strategies and decision-making processes are just the start. By storing all these materials in the board management platform, cross-linked and searchable, every team member can find what they need when they need it.
Document storage that is easily and quickly searchable creates not only a single source of truth, but also can build a repository of versions to understand how the plan has evolved.
Incorporate Testing, Training and Education
Creating the plan and making it consistently available both matter, but further steps are needed to ensure the plan is ready for deployment when your mission-driven organization faces difficulty. Information around the plan can be shared via the board management platform, as well as by using notifications to trigger testing opportunities. Organizations can also deliver mandatory training to users of the platform.
Pursue Continuous Improvement
Our world is changing rapidly, so the risks we face are changing, too. Plan to evaluate the materials regularly for updates to reflect leadership and staff changes, new risks, new technology and more. Testing and information-sharing will also surface suggestions and concerns that can shape the next version of the plan.
Getting Started on Your Crisis Management Plan
Whatever the status of your organization’s crisis management strategy, you’ll find opportunities to enhance, update and complete your plan by considering these factors. Your team can start with the Diligent Crisis Management Toolkit.
BoardEffect is designed with the unique needs of volunteer boards in mind. We understand the many risks mission-driven organizations face today, and we’re here to help your nonprofit use the right technology to reduce those risks, mitigate them and quickly return your organization to serving your audiences.