Your nonprofit likely has some set messaging or communications guidelines. But do these plans account for how to communicate when the worst happens?
Imagine this scenario: your organization’s website crashes from too many online donations on a day of giving during your annual fundraiser. For a nonprofit, that’s probably not too hard to imagine. Some of you may have even experienced it before.
Crises happen every day and if your organization isn’t prepared ahead of time, it could cost you. You probably remember the Komen for the Cure fiasco from a few years back. And while it’s possible that their crisis wasn’t 100% avoidable, it definitely could have been handled differently with less long-term, negative impact on the brand. Don’t let a similar thing happen to your nonprofit. Don’t let a crisis take you unawares and unprepared.
Here are 3 reasons why your organization should create a crisis communications plan:
1. You’re Ready for the Worst Case Scenario
It doesn’t matter how careful you think you’re being, a crisis can happen in even the most unlikely situations. We’re not talking about your organization’s day-to-day operations, we’re talking about that one time when you just can’t bounce back. Because when a crisis does hit, things can go south pretty quickly — especially if you’re not prepared. And the sooner you’re able to accept that and assemble a team and a plan, the better off your organization will be long term. By definition, a crisis creates a long-lasting negative impact, but with a plan in place you can lessen the blow and get your nonprofit back on its feet sooner.
While you can’t prepare for every eventuality, you can come up with some likely crisis scenarios and create a plan for how your organization should respond to each. The more prepared you are with practice scenarios and drills, the better you’ll be able to handle the real thing.
An athlete training for the big game is going to practice different maneuvers and equip different workouts, gear and exercises to prepare themselves the best they can. Your organization should do the same and should think of the “big game” as your worst case scenario. By practicing, going through every bad scenario you can think of and equipping your team with the necessary information, your organization can hold its own against whatever comes its way. Even if you’re not encountering a full-fledged crisis, with a crisis communication plan in place, your organization will have the plans and communications in place to handle small issues with ease.
2. You Have Proper Communications & Regulations in Place to Ensure Safety
Keeping people safe is your biggest priority during a crisis. Not every crisis scenario puts people’s health and safety at risk, but for the ones that do, it’s doubly important to be ready and plan ahead of time. Immediate crisis communication is key when the worst happens and having a safety plan in place is one of the best ways to prepare. Some crises, like a fire or weather-related emergency, simply can’t be helped. We can’t control mother nature, but you can control how you respond to bad weather. By setting up communication and safety regulation plans, everyone in your organization will know what to do and how to minimize damage and injury.
With a well-thought crisis communications plan in place, not only can you be prepared for the worst to happen, but you can know how to communicate effectively to key stakeholders during a crisis. If there are victims, it’s especially important to know how to communicate to them and their families. Not only that, but internally communicated messaging and safety regulation plans just might save lives. I can tell you this much, your organization’s communication and safety preparedness will help more lives than it’ll hurt.
3. You can Save or Salvage Your Nonprofit’s Image — Or Keep it from Getting Tarnished in the First Place
The most important reason (after safety, of course) that you should invest the time in crisis management and preparedness, is to save, salvage or uphold your nonprofit’s image. The sooner you respond to a crisis, the better your organization looks. Saving your image could keep your nonprofit and its mission afloat. Negative PR can be a bad thing during a crisis, but if you’re equipped to handle media interviews and have prepared statements at the ready — which a good crisis plan should help you with — then you’re more likely to take initial negative press and turn it around by how you answer and address concerns from stakeholders and the community. Your response, timeliness and management of the press and media interviews are everything in a crisis.
At the end of the day, your organization must take responsibility for it actions — or in some cases, lack of action — and acknowledge the role it played in the situation. Don’t point fingers. Instead, address your brand’s role, be sincere and attempt to make amends. People will respect and forgive you more readily, plus it will help your organization look more trustworthy, especially if the crisis has shaken your stakeholder’s trust in you. Crises don’t happen every day, but when they do, they can make or break an organization’s image. And at the end of the day, your image is what keeps you going.
Nobody likes to experience a crisis or negative situation, but there are ways to prepare and make the effects of a crisis less lasting, negative or detrimental, and in some cases, with a crisis communication plan, keeping potential crises at bay. Being ready for if and when the worst happens is important. How your nonprofit reacts could dictate its future. Preparedness in the form of a crisis plan is the first step in crisis management. Before you even have to react or respond to a negative event, arm your organization with its best defense. As they say, the best offense is a good defense.
If you’re ready to arm your organization with a fully developed crisis communication plan, but you’re not sure where to start, look no further! You can download a free nonprofit crisis communications plan template.
What reasons would you add to this list in support of crisis communication planning? Drop us a line in the comments below.