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

February 8, 2012

Save the Date!

We invite you to mark your calendar with the dates of August 26-28, 2012 and plan now to attend the 2012 Risk Management & Finance Summit for Nonprofits. This year’s conference will be held in Chicago. Additional details will be announced in the weeks to come!

Inspired at the Front Line

By Melanie Lockwood Herman

Front line leaders are key players in the delivery of programs and services in a nonprofit organization. With daily client contact, employees working in branch offices, chapters, local affiliates, community-based service sites or field offices work hard to bring the mission of a nonprofit to life. Those on the front lines of service delivery also have the potential to proactively protect or inadvertently jeopardize assets that are essential for mission advancement.

Simply preaching the necessity of risk management and sending formulaic requirements down the line to the local level is unlikely to work in the long-term. Without a clear understanding of how the risk management program supports local goals and interests, some local, branch or field office leaders will look for ways to work around what they perceive as a one-size-fits-all, authoritarian risk management program. In other cases requirements that seem compelling and clear at the Board or national risk management committee level may be as clear as mud when interpreted against the backdrop of a local unit’s daily reality.

Instead of packaging strict rules and requirements at headquarters under the theory that managers at the top of the organizational chart “know best,” commit to build risk assessment and risk management capabilities at the local level. Create a pipeline that sends creative ideas for managing in the face of risk upstream. Effective and sustainable risk management in an organization with community-based service delivery requires a commitment to nurture a risk aware culture at the front lines where risk-taking and risk management happen in real time, each and every day. The following tips may be helpful in getting started with a front line, upstream approach:

  • Always solicit feedback on the potential impact of new risk policies before implementation. Encourage front line leaders to be creative and candid in identifying possible unintended, mission-eroding consequences of new policies or requirements.
  • Consider testing any new risk management protocol in one or more offices, chapters or locations before implementing the program organization-wide. Collect and analyze test data to identify changes that will increase the odds of success when the roll out takes place.
  • Ask local leaders what adaptations or adjustments they need to implement risk management policies and achieve the intended outcome (e.g., an internal control framework that considers the actual staffing of the local office instead of a typical staffing matrix).
  • Encourage front line leaders to always take the time necessary to reflect on, share and learn from near-misses, accidents and mistakes, and resist the urge to attribute every mistake to “operator error.” Repeated requests for “success stories” from the front may send a signal that headquarters would prefer not to know about mistakes. A mistake under wraps or dressed in camouflage is not only hard to see but is also likely to happen again.
  • Give generous credit and positive feedback to front line leaders who adapt and improve risk management programs or activities by customizing them to suit local needs and circumstances. Share examples of program adaptation throughout your network to encourage others to adapt and customize. Look for ways to inspire, rather than extinguish, creativity in your risk management program!


Iím pleased to welcome the newest AFFILIATE members of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center: Metropolitan Arts Partnership (MAP), PSA Insurance & Financial Services (PSA) and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN). MAP members are certified nonprofit arts groups based in Sacramento and neighboring counties. PSA is an independent broker that provides a choice of coverages at competitive prices offered by top insurance carriers. MCN is the largest state association of nonprofits in the U.S. Welcome aboard!

Why Join?

As a Center AFFILIATE your nonprofit’s members, chapters, councils and field or branch offices 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 or requests for new offerings or services. We look forward to serving you in the months and years ahead!

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 latest 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: http://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.



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