Updated: Jun 16, 2022
By Rita McCoy
Photo by Markus Winker on Unsplash
An executive director/CEO of a nonprofit has numerous decisions and problems to solve daily. When it comes to crisis management, it is yet another problem to solve although on a larger scale and of greater urgency. Of course, the type of crisis that an organization experiences depends on the nonprofit services, programs, and operations.
For instance, a nonprofit that provides homeless meals each night to 1000 individuals, could encounter an enormous increase in recipients if a destructive storm destroys hundreds of homes in their area causing an additional 800 people to line up needing meal service. The nonprofit, at that time, would have to make a decision: either secure additional funding and food to accommodate the increase of people, or turn them away (which is a very difficult decision to make), or collaborate with other nonprofits and/or governmental agencies to meet the needs. In this case, the executive director would spearhead the operations recruiting and securing the necessary personnel and volunteers and other agencies in order to solve the problem.
Another example is when a nonprofit anticipates a grant that never materalizes. The grant may have covered a third of the organizations program budget which could create devastating effects on its program recipients. In this case, the executive director's decision could be: develop other revenue streams through fundraising, or serve less people in the program due to lack of funds, or work closely with other nonprofit partners to have them assist recipient in the program, or incorporate a combination of all the above.
Crisis management requires immediate action. The executive director is redirected from the normal routines due to an unexpected situation. It requires a well-thought out plan and strategy to position the nonprofit in a positive light during a crisis. The executive director may need to consult with the board of directors, community networks, government officials, or lawyers depending on the circumstances. When putting together a strategy to handle a crisis, be clear on the direction and decisions that need to be made on behalf of the organization, the people served, and the community.
In some cases, it may require a strong public relations campaign to heighten the awareness of what the organization is experiencing to garner the support of the media and community at large. If the organization is trying to raise additional funds, an appearance on a local or national television station could increase donations.
Communication is key. Communicate to all involved. Make sure you keep the lines of communication open to the board of directors, staff and volunteers, media, and other community partners. Sure the executive director could make all the decisions without any input from others, but why do that when you should surround yourself with knowledgeable, skillful, and talented people who are willing to help you make the right decisions and turn decisions into action during a crisis.