Emergencies and disasters are unthinkable everyday occurrences. Some big, some small. They impact us as individuals, families, communities and sometimes as a nation. The question is not if an emergency or disaster will occur, but when. Being prepared makes a difference. As a nonprofit leader your responsibilities in the area of preparation extend beyond those we have as individuals and family members. You are responsible for creating a COOP – a continuity of operation plan for your nonprofit.
As the name implies, you need to plan for your nonprofit’s continuity. But continuity requires more than a plan. Attitude, adaptability and flexibility all influence individual and organizational survival. Continuity isn’t just about surviving the first day of a disaster: it is about continuing operations in what may be a very different environment. Emergency preparation can save lives, but organizational survival will depend upon how well your nonprofit can adapt to a new environment; new needs and demands from current and new clients; and how you operate without key personnel, data, or your building. Flexibility, innovative thinking and an entrepreneurial perspective help nonprofits survive, and most importantly serve the community.
Creating and implementing a plan, training all employees and volunteers in the mechanics of the plan, and regularly updating it can reduce the impact of an unexpected event and prepare your organization to best be of service: perhaps in the greatest hour of need.
Your COOP may be complex or relatively simple, depending on the specifics of your organization. You will need to know the risks and vulnerabilities associated with your organization, and what can you do to survive them. Many nonprofits will have common elements to their plans – who is in charge? how do we communicate with employees and clients? how do we perform mission-critical functions? You will need to document how the organization will respond to the different emergencies that may arise, and what to do in case of a disaster.
In creating a continuity plan it is important to think of employees: How will they get in touch with their families if they are at work? If they are at home, how will you reach them? What accommodations will be made so employees can care for their families and still fulfill their important work responsibilities? How will they get paid?
If you haven’t already done so, bring together a cross-functional team of employees to create your COOP. The process of creating the plan, putting in place the documents, processes and training will strengthen your organization’s ability to survive and serve. In the case of a disaster your employees will be the organization’s first responders. Help make sure everyone is prepared. Your life – and the people you serve – depend on it.
You can download easy-to-use resources from www.readyshelby.org/resources.
Copyright 2013 – Mel and Pearl Shaw
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success.” They position nonprofits for fundraising success. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com.