A SOURCE for Tools, Advice, and Training to control risks... so you can Focus on your Nonprofit's mission.

December 28, 2011

Policy Drafting Help is a Click Away: My Risk Management Policies

If you’re looking for help developing custom risk management policies for your nonprofit, look no further. The Center is pleased to offer My Risk Management Policies, an affordable, easy-to-use online tool that helps you create custom policies in a matter of minutes. Policy templates are organized into 22 categories. Creating a new social media policy, youth protection policy or code of conduct is a snap using My Risk Management Policies, and requires far less time that it takes to find a mildly suitable sample using an Internet search engine.

2012 Cyber Training Schedule Announced

The Nonprofit Risk Management Center will deliver sixteen informative webinars on a wide range of critical risk topics during 2012.

First Wednesdays webinars cover topics ranging from “Risk and Decision-Making,” to “Managing Social Media Risk” and “Crisis Management and Crisis Communication.” Each one-hour program costs $59. Save $249 by registering for the entire series! Participate “live” or view and listen to recorded programs at your convenience.

Third Thursdays webinars focus on human resource risk. Four, 90-minute programs will be offered during the period January-April 2012. Each webinar costs $89. Save $97 by registering for the four-part series! Participate “live” or view and listen to recorded programs at your convenience.

No Surprises: Harmonizing Risk & Reward in Volunteer Management—5th Edition

Now available as a 5th edition, No Surprises is the Center’s best-selling book on volunteer risk management. If your nonprofit engages volunteers to advance your mission, you’ll find practical wisdom and value in this handy reference guide, available in hard copy and eBook formats. This easy-to-read guide addresses topics ranging from volunteer screening to volunteer supervision and discipline. Authored by Melanie Herman, the Center’s executive director, No Surprises invites readers to embrace risk-taking in volunteer management while paying close attention to the nature of volunteer service, evolving volunteer roles, public relations and volunteers, and much, much more. Learn more or order a copy today, here.

The Opposite

By Melanie Lockwood Herman

One of my favorite episodes of the sitcom Seinfeld is called “The Opposite.” In that episode, which aired in 1994, Jerry Seinfeld persuades his friend George Costanza that George’s natural instincts frequently lead him astray. George decides to take Jerry’s advice and “do the opposite of everything he would normally do.” By following “the opposite” of what he instinctively thinks he should do, he winds up getting a date, a job with the New York Yankees and is finally able to move out of his parents’ home into an apartment. (For more information on the episode, see: www.imdb.com/title/tt0697744/plotsummary)

As I watched a re-run of this popular Seinfeld episode, I began to wonder about the “instinctual” approach to risk management in nonprofit organizations. Do our instincts about risk and appropriate risk management lead us to sound decisions and appropriate risk mitigation steps, or do they lead us astray? Is there any value identifying “the opposite” of our gut instincts about risk? Here are some tips for managing risk by ignoring your instincts.

  • Look for Swallows Instead of Black Swans During several recent risk assessments for nonprofit organizations, clients have expressed their hope that hiring a third-party consultant would lead to the discovery of “Black Swan” risks rare and unpredictable events that threaten an organization’s ability to survive. These clients have been surprised that engaging a third-party consultant such as the Nonprofit Risk Management Center rarely leads to the identification of “black swans.” But an independent set of eyes and ears may enable the identification of more common risks (which I’ll call “swallows”) whose familiarity caused them to be overlooked. Examples of familiar but often overlooked risks include inadequate governance processes and structure; ignored complaints from consumers, volunteers and employees; and poorly trained volunteers.
  • Resist the Urge to Assume and Challenge Assumptions Nonprofit leaders looking for ways to economize may be guilty of cutting corners, skipping steps and assuming that staff and volunteers will “know what to do.” In their book, “Surviving and Thriving in Uncertainty: Creating the Risk Intelligent Enterprise,” authors Frederick Funston and Stephen Wagner invite leaders to try a tool they refer to as “Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis.” Here is the authors’ explanation of the tool:
    “TAS is useful for challenging assumptions, revealing flaws in conventional risk management approaches, and fostering evolution in ideas. Essentially, TAS calls for the statement of a thesis—an intellectual or (apparently) factual proposition or assumption, such as “Man cannot reach the moon”—and the statement of its opposite, the antithesis—“Man can reach the moon.” The third step is to develop a statement that reconciles the two propositions, the synthesis—“Man can build a vehicle to take him to the moon.”
  • Seek Wisdom from the Crowd Instead of from the “Experts” In many nonprofits the development of risk management policies begins with a meeting of experienced, senior leaders. Instead of starting with the “enforcers” why not begin your brainstorming process with a team of people who will be required to follow your new policies?
  • Turn the Question of Risk Around Instead of bringing everyone down by inviting the board to reflect on “the risks we should try to avoid in 2012,” energize your board by inviting it to consider “the big risks we should take to advance our mission in 2012.”

While I can’t promise you’ll make a love connection, land your dream job, or finally move out of Mom and Dad’s basement, allowing yourself to contemplate “the opposite” when it comes to risk and reward can be a freeing experience. And it might inspire you to take your nonprofit’s risk management program in an entirely new direction.

Melanie Lockwood Herman is Executive Director of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center. She welcomes your ideas about any risk management topic, feedback on this article and questions about the Center’s resources at Melanie@nonprofitrisk.org or (202) 785-3891. The Center provides risk management tools and resources at www.nonprofitrisk.org and offers consulting assistance to organizations unwilling to leave their missions to chance.

Evolving Risk Management Programs: Our Specialty

Whether you’re trying to better understand your nonprofit’s appetite for risk-taking, sharpen your risk management skills, evolve your risk management efforts in response to changing circumstances, or educate your board about risk-taking and risk management, don’t hesitate to reach out the team at the Nonprofit Risk Management Center for assistance. We can support you in a number of ways. We’re available to help you:

We offer advice and consultation on topics ranging from developing or updating youth protection policies, to strengthening governance practices. Why make the evolutionary journey alone when you can partner with a team of nonprofit specialists who live and breathe nonprofit sector risks? Contact Melanie@nonprofitrisk.org or call (202) 785-3891 to discuss your needs and learn how we can help.



Pass it On!

If you enjoy reading the Center’s enews and know others who would as well, please use the Forward email link that appears at the bottom of this issue. The link offers an easy way to share this issue with a colleague. When you use the link your colleague will receive an invitation to subscribe.

Forward Email