Nonprofit Risk Management Center A source for tools, advice and training to control risks ... so you can focus on your nonprofit's mission

May 19, 2010

Randy Park to Keynote 2010 Summit

As one concerned about risk management, your job involves seeing what others are missing. But how do you do that? And how do you make sure you’re not missing something?

During today's tumultuous times, "predicting" the future can be very difficult, especially since the natural approaches that humans use to make decisions often lead us in the wrong direction.

The opening keynote speaker for the 2010 Risk Management and Finance Summit for Nonprofits is Randy Park, a Toronto-based expert in the practical aspects of decision making and problem solving. Randy’s presentation on October 11th in Philadelphia will guide you through the essential steps that are necessary prior to the implementation of effective risk management strategies: understanding your own biases, beliefs, assumptions, and the way you make decisions.

Drawing on his experiences from a wide range of industries and activities, his background in Physics and Engineering, and his extensive study of how humans look at situations and make decisions, Randy will take Summit attendees on an entertaining, enlightening look into the strengths and pitfalls of human decision making. When can the future be predicted? And what is a practically-minded leader to do when it can’t? While listening to Randy Park you will gain valuable insights and practical tools for preparing effectively for the future.

Online registration for the 2010 Summit is now available at the following webpage: Stay tuned for a detailed line up of workshop topics and conference schedule.

Out of Control

By Melanie Lockwood Herman

Being “in control” feels good on a number of levels. When road conditions are optimal and the sky is clear, motoring down a country road can be a joyful experience. Inching along in bumper to bumper traffic with no apparent reason for a back up is enough to try the nerves of even the most forgiving and patient driver.

Last Friday I found myself waiting with a group of frustrated passengers at a small airport. All but one flight to the hub had been cancelled and I could overhear an airline employee explaining that many flights from the hub had also been cancelled due to inhospitable weather. Despite an initial sense of frustration about not being able to return home on schedule, my attitude quickly turned to “que sera sera.” I realized that I was powerless to free up a seat on that final, fully-loaded outbound plane. I concluded that no matter how loudly I complained my vocal protest would not change the path of the oncoming storm. As I stood waiting in line for the details of my new itinerary, I reflected on the importance of focusing attention on strategy and behavior in the face of uncertainty, rather than obsessing about the challenge of accurately predicting the future.

My colleague Felix Kloman has reminded me on several occasions that risk management is really about managing human behavior in the face of uncertainty and its subset, “risk.”

Felix writes:

“Uncertainty is the overwhelming condition in which we live our lives, as individuals and organizations. Risk is a sub-set of uncertainty where we try to measure probabilities based on our knowledge, experience and even wishful thinking.”Risk" doesn't “happen”: the events or situations described by risk happen or don't happen.

In his insightful book, The Prediction Trap, author Randy Park explains the difference between anticipating and predicting the future. He notes that the “goal of trying to predict a single future is asking for failure.” Park writes that “…like predicting the weather, there are tools and approaches you can use to minimize the surprises and allow you to be prepared no matter which future unfolds.” This seems to me to be a more elegant means of being “in control,” at least to the extent that events allow us to be in control. Anticipating what might happen in the future and developing plans for how we will cope with these events is a way of incorporating the wisdom of both Felix and Randy. To hear Randy Park’s wit and wisdom in person, make plans to attend the Center’s upcoming national conference in Philadelphia. For details, visit:

In his article on “summer safety” featured on the Center’s homepage, my colleague Michael Gurtler explores the need to think about a range of possibilities when gearing up for special summer programming, including the use of outdoor pools and visits to lakes and ponds. Mike’s article is a terrific reminder about the mindset, preparation and due diligence that are required when swimming is offered as a service or activity.

During the Center’s upcoming webinar on July 7 we will explore the topic of “Evaluating Organizational Structure.” The program will include a discussion of the opportunity to look beneath the exterior of your nonprofit at the infrastructure that helps keep the organization’s mission and programs on a solid footing. That (infra)structure must be carefully constructed while remaining flexible to withstand the storms that are impossible to predict. During the webinar scheduled for August 4 we will explore the topic of “Reputation Risk.” As too many nonprofit leaders have discovered, a hard-earned reputation can be damaged or lost in short order. During the one-hour, recorded webinar we will explore how to anticipate possible reputation loss due to the perceptions of various stakeholder groups and also what actions are key to protecting the name and reputation of your nonprofit. To learn more about these programs, or to register, visit:

At a business luncheon I attended this week fortune cookies were distributed as an after lunch treat. I found myself staring at the wrapped cookie for a few minutes before opening it. Although I am not superstitious, I was hoping that the “fortune” inside my cookie would be upbeat and reassuring. Many years ago I made a silent vow to resist the urge ever to open another fortune cookie after I received one containing the following message: “You have made a good start. Now try harder.” As I grappled with the temptation to open this week’s cookie, I recalled the advice of Felix Kloman about focusing on managing behavior in the face of uncertainty rather than managing uncertainty. Sometimes risk management comes in small doses.

Melanie Lockwood Herman is Executive Director of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center. She welcomes your feedback on this article and questions about the Center’s resources at or (202) 785-3891.

Melanie’s most recent books include Ready…or Not: A Risk Management Guide for Nonprofit Executives. Information on this and other recent Center publications can be found at

2010 Webinars

The Center’s 2010 Webinar Series continues June 2nd at 2 p.m. (Eastern) with the sixth program in the year-long series: Shred or Retain? A Closer Look at Records Destruction/Retention Policies. For more information on the 2010 series, visit:

Risk Management Essentials Now Available

The March edition of the Center’s newsletter, Risk Management Essentials, is now available. Click here to read or download the PDF of the issue.

To read the lead stories online, visit:
Going Up? Elevator Talk, Risk Management and the Nonprofit Board, by Melanie Lockwood Herman
Online Social Networks, CyberRisk and Your Nonprofit: What You Need to Know, by Jeffrey S. Tenenbaum, Esq. and A.J. Zottola, Esq.

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Mark Your Calendar! 2010 Risk Management & Finance Summit for Nonprofits

The Center will host its sixteenth annual conference this October 10-12 at the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia. Conference details will be announced in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, consider reserving your room at the Loews by using the hotel’s online reservations process. The process is explained on the 2010 SUMMIT page. Click here for details.

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