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

January 25, 2012

Friends, Not Food

By Melanie Lockwood Herman

There are a host of memorable quips and conversations in the 2003 film Finding Nemo. One of my favorite moments in the film involves the strangely lovable shark, Bruce, and his epiphany about friendship at sea. Bruce reflects on the need to change his image by changing his behavior when he says: “I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine. If I am to change this image, I must first change myself. Fish are friends, not food.” A similar sentiment—about change “starting with me”—is set to music in the song “Man in the Mirror,” recorded by Michael Jackson.

Recalling Bruce’s revelation and Michael’s music has led me to reflect on how fear about what others think or might think sometimes dampens enthusiasm to shine the light on our organizations to internal and external audiences. Myths about nonprofits spread like tiny fish food pellets in a tank, and bad news about nonprofits is devoured with the gusto familiar to any tropical fish owner. One of the unfortunate results of the speed with which inaccurate or damaging information spreads, is the decision by some sector leaders to shirk from, rather than embrace, the call for greater transparency.

During conversations with sector leaders in recent weeks I’ve been asked “how transparent do we really need to be?!” and “Do we really need to tell the full board about that?” I’ve begun talking about the benefits of internal and external transparency as valuable levers in a risk management program. A concerted effort to increase transparency:

  • Reduces miscommunication and missteps that result from wrongful assumptions and “I didn’t know!” moments;
  • Increases the opportunity to surface past or ongoing mistakes that require reflection and action;
  • Inspires confidence on the part of the staff and board, which in turns fuels the deep commitment needed from all personnel who deliver the nonprofit’s ambitious mission and execute its strategies and plans; and
  • Demonstrates humility, a quality that both leaders and organizations in our sector need.

But as Bruce realized in Finding Nemo, changing our “image” begins with changing our behavior. If we hope to reap the benefits of transparency and attract true partners to advance our missions, we need to get comfortable being transparent and we also need to stop feasting on the misfortunes of our nonprofit friends. And for some sector leaders and leading organizations, it may take a bit of practice to feel at ease with the curtains drawn back and light streaming in.

Revealing OUR Partners Center AFFILIATES

This week we’re celebrating friendship and collaboration at the Nonprofit Risk Management Center. We are very proud to unveil a brand-new AFFILIATES Program that has been 20 years in the making. Since the founding of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center in the late 1990s we’ve logged hundreds of calls from nonprofit and private sector leaders seeking a way to connect, on a formal basis, to the Center. Until now we have invited these callers to take advantage of the buffet of resources we offer, but we’ve been unable to offer a membership option. That is all changing this month as we proudly announce our two-tiered AFFILIATE member offering. We’ve developed what we hope is an enticing array of benefits and an affordable, modest monthly fee.

I want to offer a special note of thanks to our founding AFFILIATE members: 13 organizations that offered a resounding “yes” when we conducted an initial test of the AFFILIATE member offering with long-standing clients and partners. These organizations, in order of enrollment, are:

  • Maine Association of Nonprofits - MANP is a membership organization offering professional skill development programs, affordable healthcare and benefits plans, discounts on related programs and services and advocacy resources, and is part of a national network of state associations.
  • Texas Association of Nonprofit Organizations - TANO is the statewide membership association reflecting and promoting Texas’ growing nonprofit community in all its diversity.
  • Hays Companies of Washington, DC - Hays Companies is one of the fastest growing, privately held insurance brokers in the country.
  • Harleysville Insurance - Harleysville is a super regional insurance carrier ranked as one of the top 60 property/casualty insurance companies and groups according to A.M. Best Company.
  • Housing Authority Insurance Group, Inc. - Housing Authority Insurance Group serves public housing authorities, 501(c)(3) nonprofits, affordable housing providers, low-income housing and multifamily apartment owners under the low income housing tax credit program with special, niche insurance programs.
  • YMCA of the USA Y-USA recognizes that lasting personal and social change comes about when we all work together. That’s why, at the Y, strengthening community is our cause. Every day, we work side-by-side with our neighbors to make sure that everyone, regardless of age, income or background, has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive.
  • Career Opportunities Development, Inc. - CODI is a multi-service organization dedicated to motivating, inspiring, and supporting individuals with disabilities and disadvantages to optimize potential and maximize independence.
  • Alabama Association of Nonprofits - AAN is a membership based organization formed to serve the needs of Alabama’s growing nonprofit sector.
  • Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life Hillel is the largest Jewish campus organization in the world and provides opportunities for Jewish students at more than 500 colleges and universities to explore and celebrate their Jewish identity through its global network of regional centers, campus Foundations and Hillel student organizations.
  • National MS Society - NMSS is a collective of passionate individuals who want to do something about MS now—to move together toward a world free of multiple sclerosis.
  • Council Services Plus, Inc. The mission of CS Plus is to provide quality service, comprehensive coverage, and competitively priced insurance and employee benefits to nonprofits and related organizations in a manner that strengthens the work of the New York Council of Nonprofits and the nonprofit community.
  • N.C. Center for Nonprofits The Center’s mission is To enrich North Carolina's communities and economy through a strong nonprofit sector and voice.
  • Michigan Nonprofit Association - For over 20 years MNA has focused on increasing the capacity of Michigan’s nonprofits to serve, strengthen and transform communities.

Why Join?

As a Center AFFILIATE your nonprofit’s members, chapters, councils and affiliates will enjoy access to an array of free and discounted risk resources, including complimentary viewing of this year’s First Wednesday Webinar series and unlimited technical assistance by telephone and email. Nonprofit AFFILIATES include national nonprofit federations, regional agencies, and local organizations. The nonprofit customers of for-profit AFFILIATES (brokers, background checking companies, specialty carriers, law firms, CPA firms, and management consulting firms) enjoy the same access to money-saving risk resources.

The cost to nonprofit AFFILIATES is $75 per month, and the cost to for-profit AFFILIATES is $100 per month. If only ONE of your staff, chapters, or members calls us each month or watches a single webinar, you’ll save money AND benefit in a tangible way from your membership in the only national nonprofit dedicated to helping nonprofit sector leaders become risk aware and resilient in our changing and uncertain world.

We hope you’ll visit the AFFILIATES Program webpage, peruse the list of benefits, and click to enroll. And don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have questions about the program. Welcome aboard!

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.

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 issues involving volunteers, and much, much more. Learn more or order a copy today, here.

New Edition of Risk Management Essentials, Now Available

The brand new edition of the Center’s newsletter, Risk Management Essentials, is now available. This special “volunteer issue” includes answers to the top questions we received about volunteers during 2011. Read the issue’s feature articles online, view or print a PDF version, or peruse the “turn the page” edition online at: www.nonprofitrisk.org/library/newsletter/rme.html.

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.

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.

2012 Cyber Training Schedule Announced

The Center’s monthly webinar education program is off to a great start this month as we delivered the first two programs. During 2012 we will deliver a total of sixteen informative webinars on a wide range of critical risk topics. It’s not too late to take advantage of these accessible, informative workshops. Keep in mind that if you enroll as a Center AFFILIATE, you’ll enjoy complimentary access to the recordings of the First Wednesdays series—a $459 savings.

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.



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