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When Faced With a Crisis, Make Sure You Have a Crisis Plan

Posted May 27, 2016 10:25 AM
Nonprofits do incredible work to make our communities better places to live. Rarely are these organizations ever in the news. Unfortunately, when a nonprofit is in the news, it's usually because of something negative. Do you have a plan to handle media and public inquiries when a crisis strikes? Cynthia Flash at Flash Media Services writes a guest blog post talking about the importance of having a crisis communication plan when your organization faces an unforeseen disaster.

Written by Cynthia Flash, Flash Media Services

Your organization does good work. You're small. You're hardly ever in the news.

Then, disaster strikes. Despite your best intentions, there's nothing you could have done to prevent it. A car slams into your building. A power outage traps your clients in the elevator. In early May we even saw a "crisis" strike the fundraising efforts of all nonprofits that participated in the GiveBIG campaign. The vendor's website became overwhelmed and stopped working, making it difficult for donors to GiveBIG. Who would have predicted this?

All of these scenarios have nothing to do with your organization's work. Most likely organizations involved in healthcare or servicing high risk populations have crisis communications plans in place in case something goes wrong. But every nonprofit should have one - even if your work has nothing to do with life and death.
TV cameras arrive to do a story. Reporters are clamoring for comment. What should you do?
You should have a crisis communications plan. What needs to be in this plan? At the very least, it should include the following:
  • List of potential disasters/crises that your organization could face.
  • Background sheets on various crisis scenarios.
  • Communications dos and don'ts.
  • List of members of the communications team and spokespeople who will address the media (including all and best ways to reach them 24/7).
  • List of key organization leaders with best ways to reach them 24/7.
  • A step-by-step guide to handling a communications crisis.
  • A list of people to distribute information to. This includes members of all appropriate audiences, not just the media.
  • Tips for senior management in a crisis.
  • Tips for communicators in a crisis.
Despite our best efforts, it's impossible to prevent a crisis from occurring. But you can mitigate the impact by being prepared with a detailed crisis communications plan.
Cynthia Flash owns Flash Media Services, a PR and media consulting firm for nonprofits. She can help your organization create a detailed crisis communications plan. Learn more.