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

August 8, 2012

Trak-1 Returns as a Corporate Sponsor

With a strong commitment to exceptional service and social responsibility, Trak-1 is returning as a Corporate Sponsor for the 2012 Risk Management and Finance SUMMIT for Nonprofits, scheduled for August 26-28 in Chicago. Since 1996, Trak-1 Technology has evolved from solely delivering background screening reports to today consultatively providing a range of technology, database tools, and expertise to help nonprofit clients manage risk and protect the people they seek to serve. Trak-1 joins a growing list of leading companies whose support makes the SUMMIT possible.

We’ve Opened “The Vault”

Effective today, August 8, 2012, the Center’s “learning vault” is now open to our AFFILIATE members. The “learning vault” contains 83 recorded webinars on a wide range of risk topics—all available for download and viewing at no cost, exclusively for Center AFFILIATES. Not an Affiliate? Apply online to gain instant access. The cost is $75 per month (nonprofits). Additional benefits to Affiliate members include: pro bono risk management advice from Center staff and associates; 25% discount on the registration fee for the RISK SUMMIT, and discounts on custom workshops and other Center services.

8 Essential Words

By Melanie Lockwood Herman

A few days ago I was reminiscing about the dinner table of my childhood with a close friend. Our conversation about language led me to recall a “word of the day” game that I played with my siblings and parents. Each evening one of the kids was expected to show up at the dinner table with an unfamiliar word. As we passed plates containing protein, starch and vegetables, each family member anxiously awaited the inevitable, always dramatic unveiling. After the kids and then adults tried to guess the definition of the unfamiliar term, the word bearer would reveal its peculiar meaning.

Assuming you have limited funds with which to “buy a vowel” or consign a consonant, what words or phrases are “must haves” in a risk manager’s vocabulary? In a toast to today, here’s my list of eight essential words.

  1. Aware Informed, practical risk management begins with being aware. What might go wrong? What could turn out better than we anticipate? What has never happened before… but could? Let’s agree to dispense with exhaustive exercises aimed at “identifying every risk,” and settle on increasing our sense of what’s possible. Simply put, let’s aim to be risk aware.
  2. Alternate This one-word alternative to the verbose-sounding “contingency plan” reminds us that escaping dire circumstances often depends on the availability of an alternate escape route. A different way out, around, or through the obstacle or dilemma at hand. Even the best run nonprofits need alternate routes.
  3. Back-up This term has different meanings based on how it is used. After your first encounter with the “blue screen of death” on a laptop, you’re likely to hear “when was the last time you backed-up?” from a member of your IT team. “Back up” also refers to the very wise choice of ensuring that no critical task in your nonprofit is owned and understood by a single individual. Let’s face it, stuff happens. We need reliable human and data “backups.”
  4. Explicit Many years ago I co-authored a booklet on abuse prevention whose title was an explicit statement noting the fact that supervision of young people never includes sex. I was a bit shocked when the client suggested the title. Yet when a recent story of inappropriate and illegal relations between a trusted adult and vulnerable teen was described in a local paper, I recalled the wisdom of that explicit advice. Instead of hiding behind euphemisms for prohibited conduct (e.g., “boundary violations”), today’s nonprofit risk leaders need to recognize when absolutely clear and explicit direction works best.
  5. Practical When I counsel nonprofit leaders about strengthening risk management practices I often find myself preaching about the importance of the “practical” method or approach. Lofty ambitions are of little value when you’re trying to guard against harm to mission, human beings and valuable property.
  6. Enforceable Policies and procedures that exist in name only are relics of organizational history, not effective risk management tools. Start pruning your risk management program today in order to lift the huge exposures these policies create.
  7. Truth Whether we’re advising clients about the best path for defensible reference giving (“truthful, verifiable information only!”) or helping a nonprofit leadership team evaluate and re-tool a performance appraisal process, the truth is an always necessary, never failing centerpiece of sound risk management.
  8. Compassion The discipline of risk management invariably involves policy formulation, staff training, supervision and accountability, record-keeping, and from time to time, accident reports, losses and liability claims. When your risk management program is grounded in compassion—abiding concern for the well-being of all human beings who you serve and who serve—your intuitive responses to unanticipated events, will be the right ones.

Melanie Lockwood Herman is Executive Director of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center. She welcomes your ideas about any risk management topic 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.



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