Nonprofits do immense good in the world, and typically, that is what they are recognized for. However, on occasion, bad things can happen to good organizations. We must be prepared and ready to handle crisis situations to the best of our ability should these situations ever arise, to protect the reputation and brand of our organization, and to sustain our donors and employees in spite of the difficult circumstances that may be present. Here are just some general tips for weathering the storm:
1) Be prepared and quick to respond – Being somewhat prepared AHEAD of time is always preferable. Develop a crisis communications team and plan. This will help alleviate some of the stress when a crisis does present itself. Feel free to email me at email@example.com and I will be happy to email you a crisis communication plan template.
2) Even though you want to be quick to respond, you also want to pause long enough to gather the facts and calm yourself a bit before making a statement. A panicked response can quickly cause regret.
3) When responding to the media, acknowledge the situation and assure the public that you are taking the situation seriously, but make sure not to overshare. You can express empathy and concern without implying guilt or accidentally stating falsehoods should you not have all the information. “No Comment” should never be used because it inadvertently can imply guilt. There are ways of making a statement that acknowledges the situation with empathy and concern, however, protects your organization at the same time. Carefully word those statements, and if possible and time allows, consult with your board and/or legal counsel before making a statement.
4) Focus on your organization’s values and hold true to those throughout the crisis.
5) Thoughtfully communicate with your donors, community partners and employees as quickly as possible when a crisis develops. Your donors and your employees are vital to your organization in many ways, and failure to communicate with them effectively will seriously damage your relationship with both.
6) Determine how you are going to deal with false information that may be spread on social media, by the media and/or others. Again, this can be fleshed out before a crisis when developing your crisis communication plan.
7) And last, but not least, attempt to stay upbeat and optimistic throughout the situation. This too shall pass, and never forget all the GOOD that your organization accomplishes and will accomplish again!