The discussion you don’t want to have but should…

Life, business and even the non-profit world involve risk. A top performer on staff could quit, donations may take a nose-dive, a storm damages your building, etc. No one likes to think about these risks but those who do consider them and have a plan to prevent and how to deal with them once they’ve occurred are those who can survive these events. While no one gets excited about discussing potential risks, the mission of your organization is too important for you to ignore this difficult conversation.  I’m not a lawyer and cannot provide you with legal advice. However, I do have the following tips for you to consider that can protect and preserve your organization.

  1. Get a lawyer.  We live in a litigious society where people will sue at even the slightest perceived provocation.  Protect yourself and your organization by having a lawyer review key practices and give you expert advice.  You may need liability insurance in case someone is injured while on your property, waivers or release forms for individuals participating in certain events, etc.  It is worth the investment of time and money now to prevent potentially large expenditures later in fines, penalties, and/or litigation.
  2. Conduct a risk assessment.  Meet with your leadership team to discuss the question that no one likes to consider: “What might happen that could take down or severely damage our organization?”.  That could include financial fraud, personnel scandal, destroyed building, lawsuits, etc.
  3. Develop mitigation and response plans.  Once you have a list of potential risks, discuss what can be done to prevent each risk and how you would react if one of these events occurred.  Document your plans, take action as needed and update these documents at least annually.
  4. Educate staff and volunteers.  Anyone who is representing your organization in an “official” capacity needs to be aware of your policies, when waivers or release forms are required, and what to do in an emergency situation.  Communicate these rules and provide training often.  Do not assume that people will remember – reiterate on a regular basis.


We all would prefer to think positively and not dwell on what could go wrong.  However, taking the time to consider the risks and how to prevent them will make your organization better prepared to handle whatever comes your way.  Please don’t make the mistake of thinking because you’re not a large corporation that you don’t need to consider risks.  You are just as, if not more, vulnerable to risks – especially if you don’t plan to prevent and handle them.

How does your organization identify potential risks and develop prevention plans?