Just like any business, non-profits must have a strategy for managing a crisis. The success of a non-profit (and its continued existence) relies on the trust that its target audience has in its mission and its work. And to protect their reputation, they must prepare for a range of crises from financial irregularities to natural disasters.
What is a Crisis?
A crisis is an event that has the potential to disrupt your organisation’s activity, threaten people or property, damage your reputation, or negatively affect your finances.
These are some of the non-profit PR crisis examplesthat your organisation may have to deal with:
- Financial issues such as redundancies, bankruptcies, embezzlement
- Employee issues such as sexual harassment claims, bullying
- Cybersecurity issues such as a cyber breach or stolen data that affects the privacy of your donors and clients
- Reputation issues such as scandals, rumours and threats
- Community dissatisfaction, such as protests
- Natural disasters such as fires, floods and hurricanes
- Violent events, such as hostage situations, terrorism
So how will you mitigate the damage if you experience one or more of the above? Here are six suggestions for crisis management for your non-profit.
Don’t be one of the organisations that only look at how to handle a crisis when it happens. To manage a crisis well, you must have a clear crisis management plan in place before disaster strikes. Find out more about the kinds of situations or scenarios that are likely to affect your not-for-profit and start planning for them. This is where a PR agency can be invaluable. Use their expertise to draft crisis communication and management plans.
Understand that Crises Come in All Shapes and Sizes
We’ve given you some examples of different types of crises above. Some may be more high profile than others but whatever shape they take, they’ll likely attract the attention of the media – particularly social media. Whether it’s embezzlement of funds by an employee, a cyber-attack that threatens the privacy of donors or an accident involving a volunteer, you’re going to need a strategy to deal with the fallout. Each of these incidents will require a different response, so you’re going to need to prepare for all of them.
This kind of preparation will ensure that you can mitigate the damage to your non-profit’s reputation should the need arise.
Develop a Logistical and Communications Plan
While it’s important to have a clear communication strategy to deal with a crisis, you also need a logistical plan to deal with the practical aspects of the crisis itself. For example, if there was a fire, you need to have clear fire evacuation plans in place. A risk management program will detail the steps to be taken should an incident occur that results in loss of life, damage to property or an insurance issue. It should also include the people who will manage the evacuation plans, notify appropriate help and rally people into action.
To deal with the public relations aspect of a crisis, a communications plan will include details of the crisis management team, a spokesperson, who needs to be informed and when, together with pre-prepared materials for communicating concerns and how you’re going to take action.
Respond to Social Media
If you have a presence on social media, you’ll need someone to manage that media during an emergency. It’s very difficult to control the information on social media so you’ll need to respond quickly. However, you can counteract wrong information by giving accurate and useful facts to quell any rumours. Don’t just ignore the situation – respond to comments, questions, or complaints. It will help to build credibility with your followers. Use your profile to show the human side of your organisation and always be kind, polite, accurate and a source of unbiased information.
Get Ready to Speak
Speed is of the essence and it’s vital that you respond to a crisis immediately. Even if you release a statement to say that you’re aware of the situation, that few facts are available and you’re working on a resolution – it is better than staying silent until you know exactly what is going on. As things develop, be sure to provide updates. With good planning, as indicated above, you may already have a prepared statement to address the issue.
Whenever you communicate, show how concerned you are and always, always tell the truth, even if you have to say that you don’t know right now. You’ll lose far more credibility and support and face a potential public loss of confidence in your organisation if you choose not to speak to the media, so communicate as soon as you can.
Don’t Risk a Media Meltdown
Prior media training will prove invaluable during any kind of crisis. Set up a training program as part of your crisis management strategy. Anybody who may need to be a spokesperson should receive training and you may also want to consider including your top fundraiser and volunteer coordinator in the session. Update the training regularly as new people come into the organisation or to provide refresher training to the existing spokespeople.
After the Crisis is Over
Successful handling of a crisis is the goal of any crisis management plan. After the crisis is over, always conduct a review to evaluate the effectiveness of your response tactics and the crisis response team. Use this analysis to update your crisis management plan and, if necessary, retrain the crisis response team. It’s all part of remaining confident that you can handle any crisis that may come your way.
The best public relations agency team at Pure Public Relations specialise in creating crisis communication and management plans for charities and not-for-profits public relations. Whether you want to plan for the future or are dealing with an urgent problem right now like the non-profit PR crisis examples above, we’ll help you to manage communications and media relations in Sydney when something goes wrong.