Crisis management is like good health & safety: you’ve got to have a plan

Recent high profile problems at some of the most famous charities prove that no organisation, however long established and respected, is immune from a crisis. Every charitable and not-for-profit organisation needs to think the unthinkable and plan for the worst – the best strategy for minimising damage if things ever do go wrong.

What does a crisis management plan cover?
A crisis management plan can cover a wide range of eventualities, from suspected fraud through to safeguarding, bullying and abuse claims. Its bare bones would include the key people who need to be involved in handling a crisis, which could include decision makers such as the chief executive and heads of legal, HR, finance and public relations teams. It should address how to respond to press enquiries – who is authorised and trained to speak to the media, how much to say and the message you want to convey – and how to coordinate or liaise with affected stakeholders.

A typical plan would also outline key steps to take when the first signs of a possible crisis appear. Other aspects to consider include how, when and where to approach individuals suspected or accused of wrongdoing. A workplace confrontation could lead to violence or evidence being destroyed/assets being dissipated. What if accused individuals are found to be innocent? It’s as important to consider in advance what not to do in given situations.   

Why develop a plan?
Developing such a plan in advance of any crisis actually arising is recommended for a number of reasons. It reduces the likelihood of unnecessary delays in taking action. A rapid response then helps with damage limitation – whether in terms of lost funds or assets, or reputational harm – and also makes it more likely that appropriate evidence can be gathered. Everyone knows what their role in responding to the crisis is and the action they should, or should not, take. Having a plan can provide donors and stakeholders with the confidence that you are prepared.

When a crisis hits
If and when a crisis does arise, decisions will need to be taken, such as whether your organisation has the resources (time, people and skills) to be able to handle the situation itself – external experts may sometimes be needed to achieve the best outcome. Another decision concerns whether to involve the police. Sometimes the priority will be to recover funds, minimise publicity or protect reputation, rather than press charges. Having a plan already in place will ease the pressure on making the immediate decisions and help you take the necessary action without delay.

Crisis management planning is similar to good health and safety planning. We’re all used to fire drills – and that discipline saves lives. Making sure your key people know what to do in any crisis is basic common sense.  

If you’d like to discuss planning for a crisis in your organisation so you’re always prepared, get in touch with one of our risk specialists or contact us here.


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