How To: Develop an Employee Mentor Program

Mentor programs can benefit employee engagement, skills development, and retention. Maybe you’ve wanted to start a mentor program at your nonprofit, but wondered where to begin. Here’s a checklist that will help you create a great mentor program to fit your nonprofit’s needs.

Embrace Risk in Hiring and Supervision

“It is not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It’s the manager’s job to make it safe to take them.” – Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace When you hire and supervise people, there are some risks you should never take. Don’t assume payroll will take care of itself. Don’t pay someone a salary you … Continued

5 Steps to Retain More of Your Workforce

Nonprofit leaders understand that people are key to mission success. But the Great Resignation brought home for all employers the urgency to retain as many great employees as possible. No organization will ever have a 100% employee retention rate—many talented individuals will move on to new opportunities in time, as they should. But your organization … Continued

How To: Become a Menopause-Friendly Workplace

More than 50 million U.S. women are in the age bracket (42-58) when physical changes due to menopause often occur. Many of those women work in nonprofits, where they lead key projects and play crucial roles. The global economic impact of menopause on productivity and health care costs is estimated at more than $150 billion … Continued

How To: Manage Remote Employees

Whether you’re managing a remote team for the first time or the 10th, these steps can help you build connection and work with team members to reach their potential–wherever they work from.

How to: Hire and Work with Neurodivergent Employees

Neurodiversity is a concept that acknowledges and appreciates the diverse range of ways people’s brains function, including neurological differences. Those differences can include dyspraxia, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyscalculia, autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), Tourette syndrome, and others. Some neurodiverse people identify as having a disability, while others do not. Research shows that organizations … Continued

How To: Create a Cross-Training Action Plan

Cross-training is an essential risk management function. It ensures someone in your organization can perform key tasks if the person who usually handles them is out of the office or unavailable for any reason. But cross-training has other benefits too: it can offer employees new challenges, help reduce staff turnover, and break down silos in … Continued

2020 Risk Forecast: Risk Trends Facing Nonprofits

The jovial celebration of each passing year also ushers in a sense of unease and uncertainty: what will we face next? In 2020, nonprofit teams face new risks brought on by global megatrends as well as a few familiar risks that continue to morph and present new challenges. The NRMC team anticipates these risk trends … Continued

Building Meaningful Connections at Work

We spend much of our waking lives at work, but many of us have only superficial relationships there. That contributes to a broader loneliness epidemic that weighs us down and can even shorten lifespans. Connecting with colleagues doesn’t always happen easily, but the effort can benefit individuals and the organization, and make work more productive … Continued

5 Steps to Transform Performance Reviews from Dreaded Drudgery to Welcomed Opportunity

Most of us have experienced bad performance reviews: harangues about things that already happened—things we can’t change. Great performance reviews deepen an ongoing, regular conversation about performance. They are two-way conversations between a manager and an employee. And they focus on the future and how employees can reach their goals. Here are five steps to … Continued

Do You Know How Much These Nonprofit Jobs Pay?

By Rachel Sams The Great Resignation continues to play out, as more than 4 million Americans quit their jobs in November. Competitive pay isn’t all it takes to recruit and retain great nonprofit employees—but it’s essential. And inflation has impacted what it takes to make nonprofit salaries competitive. All nonprofits will need to invest time … Continued

HOW TO: Terminate an Employee (And Be Decent About It)

When you hire someone, you want them to find success with the organization. But sometimes, they don’t. Terminating someone’s employment is the riskiest action a nonprofit can take, but sometimes it’s also a risk-aware decision and possibly a necessary step in the employee’s journey to find a fulfilling role for which they are well suited.  … Continued

Inclusive Hiring Strategies and Practices

Job openings at your nonprofit present a tremendous opportunity to bring in new, diverse perspectives that will strengthen your team—or to hire people who look, sound, and think just like you, and will bring your nonprofit more of the same. Here are some ways to make your hiring process more inclusive. Create a diversity recruitment … Continued

Onboarding New Staff

A new employee’s first days with your organization can inspire them and confirm they made a great choice—or leave them treading water in a sea of doubt. Use this framework to ensure new employees experience a great start with your organization.

Let’s Talk About Workplace Conflict

85% of employees report having experienced some type of workplace conflict. With statistics this high, use this infographic to understand more about how ignoring conflict can lead to issues at your nonprofit. Learn practical conflict resolution tips and what type of conflict management style you and your employees use!

Ask Great Job Interview Questions

Knowing what to ask candidates can sometimes be confusing! How do you quickly learn about this person to make a decision about whether they’re the correct person for your job and your mission? Use this infographic to build your next interview question bank.

Create a Safe and Inclusive Workplace for Transgender Employees

Transgender people may experience discrimination in many ways, including at work. Employers have a legal and moral responsibility to accommodate the needs of transgender workers and not tolerate discrimination. Here are best practices and resources to ensure a safe and welcoming workplace for transgender employees. NOTE: keep in mind that some of the practices below … Continued

How To: Manage Across Generations

  For the first time in modern history, five generations are in the workplace at the same time. This presents both opportunities and challenges. Here are some tips for how to tap into the diversity of perspectives that come from managing multiple generations, and navigating cross-generational conflicts that may arise. Remember that your employees are … Continued

How To: Make Performance Reviews Meaningful and Memorable

Most employees dread performance reviews and many managers dread giving them. But it doesn’t have to be this way! With effective preparation, a collaborative approach, and a template to guide you, performance reviews will feel more meaningful and produce better results for your organization and your employees.

How To: Conduct Meaningful Stay Interviews

When a great employee leaves your organization, you may ask, “What could we have done to get you to stay?” The concept of the stay interview arose to get that kind of information at a time when your organization could still act on it.

Exit Interviews

An exit interview is an opportunity to thank a departing employee for their service and gather insights you can use to improve workplace culture and practices.

Employee or Volunteer? Classifying Teams

The proper classification of team members at your nonprofit is essential to ensure compliance with labor laws and avoid financial penalties or legal claims.

Pace of Change Worn You Out? You’re Not Alone

By Rachel Sams I led dozens of change management initiatives in my years running a newsroom. But the toughest professional change I ever faced came when I unexpectedly got a new boss. That’s a common reaction, according to an article from consultancy Gartner. Changes that affect someone’s daily work life, like an assignment to a … Continued

A Happier Hybrid: Managing The Risks of Hybrid Work

By Rachel Sams You likely worry about how hybrid work affects your nonprofit‘s employees. Then you probably get pulled right into the day’s crises or priority tasks. Crafting a smart hybrid work approach that fits your nonprofit sounds daunting. But excluding digital security, the big challenges of hybrid work center around office culture, productivity, and … Continued

Story Time: Risk Lessons from My Pandemic Reading List

Join the Nonprofit Risk Management Center’s CEO, Melanie Lockwood Herman, for a “story time” tour through her recently-favorited risk-related reads, all of which she absorbed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Explore lessons from inspiring leadership development books and other popular titles, and learn how Melanie applies these insights to the discipline of risk management. Leave the … Continued

Sexual Harassment Prevention for Nonprofit Teams

When sexual harassment and other forms of workplace misconduct occur, these situations have far-reaching effects on organizations. In addition to declining engagement and the departure of talented team members, nonprofits may face the risk of costly legal liability. This webinar explores the evolution of harassment risk in the workplace, the concept of illegal retaliation, relevant … Continued

The Resilience Mindset: 7 Musts if Your Mission Matters

By Melanie Lockwood Herman and Whitney Thomey Across the vibrant and diverse nonprofit sector in the U.S. and internationally, leaders and teams are recognizing that we’re not going back. Initial thoughts of returning to a pre-pandemic state are dissipating as we collectively grasp the significant implications of a risk event for which an entire world … Continued

Safe and Sound for the Holidays

By Melanie Lockwood Herman and Whitney Claire Thomey This holiday season, nonprofits face conditions unlike any other year. Along with traditional year-end stresses, many face employee relations questions that include nuanced issues related to staff and mission safety. The NRMC team wants to support you as you serve and support your community, whether it’s the … Continued

Attitude of Gratitude

By Whitney Claire Thomey “Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.” ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture Two humble words, “thank you,” have the power to ground us, build us up, and develop deep, meaningful connections. November in the United States is when many people are reminded … Continued

Future Focused: 3 Virtues and Vows

By Melanie Lockwood Herman “But you can build a future out of anything. A scrap, a flicker. The desire to go forward, slowly, one foot at a time. You can build an airy city out of ruins.” ― Lauren Oliver, Pandemonium This week I’ve been reading the October/November issue of Fast Company. In a piece titled “The … Continued

2020 Risk Forecast: Risk Trends Facing Nonprofits

The jovial celebration of each passing year also ushers in a sense of unease and uncertainty: what will we face next? In 2020, nonprofit teams face new risks brought on by global megatrends as well as a few familiar risks that continue to morph and present new challenges. The NRMC team anticipates these risk trends … Continued

The Most Important Skill for Risk Leaders? Guess Again. . .

“Almost all of us have some kind of communication problem that we don’t know we have.” – Alan Alda By Melanie Lockwood Herman I’ve just finished reading Alan Alda’s fascinating book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? I’m feeling fortunate to have chosen this title to read on the … Continued

Dream a Little Dream: Managing Sleep Deprivation Risks

By Katharine Nesslage Our ambitious 24/7 lifestyles, filled with unbalanced diets, low physical activity, excessive electronic media use, and psychosocial stress, are causing a precipitous decline in our sleep. But the safety implications of sleep deprivation have been known for decades. Precipitating causes of the Three Mile Island nuclear incident (1979), the Exxon Valdez oil … Continued

Rewarding Risks: The Prodigious Power of Volunteers

By Christy Grano It’s National Volunteer Week, an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of volunteers and the indelible impact that volunteer service makes on communities across our country. In the promotional materials for National Volunteer Week, the Points of Light Foundation reminds us that: “Whether online, at the office, or the local food bank; whether with a vote, a … Continued

5 Winning Ways to Wrestle Recruitment Risk

By Melanie Lockwood Herman and Katharine Nesslage If your nonprofit hasn’t already faced the difficult challenge of attracting new staff to fill the shoes of departing rock stars, get ready! According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), an estimated 7.8 million jobs will need to be filled by 2020. This unsettling headline has … Continued

5 Musts to Attract Mission-Motivated Millennials

By Melanie Lockwood Herman While traveling last week an infographic in the Dec 2018/Jan 2019 issue of Fast Company caught my eye. Titled “Millennials in the Corner Office, Gen Y Bosses Tell Us How They Lead,” Yasmin Gagne has compiled the results from a survey on millennial leaders conducted by Fast Company, Inc., and the … Continued

Not Here: Zero Tolerance for Inappropriate Workplace Conduct

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Last year I attended a leadership conference hosted by Camp Fire, a nonprofit dedicated to helping young people to “find their spark, lift their voices, and discover who they are.” During the opening keynote session, Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center, reminded his audience that “assumptions act as … Continued

Workplace Wellness: Managing Risks to Employee Health & Productivity

By Jules Finkelstein Although most nonprofits are founded on deeply-rooted principles of service and compassion, nonprofit leaders sometimes forget to care for their own employees. During the day-to-day grind, employees may also forget to take care of themselves. Employee wellness is a potentially powerful risk management resource; this article invites you to consider whether it … Continued

Pass the Remote! The Trials, Tribulations and Triumphs of Telecommuting Teams

by Delia Jones Remote Work: Benefit or Burden? “You should be able to work from anywhere.” A former boss of mine said that a lot and it sounded great. If an employee asked to work from home, my boss would agree with that announcement and leave the second level managers to implement a telecommute solution. … Continued

Sick of Power Plays? Manage Workplace Power Plays & Revenge Risk

“Every time we experience power… we find ourselves at… a fork in the road… we can act in ways that lead us to enjoy enduring power… or we can be seduced by the self-indulgent possibilities that power occasions. Which path you take matters enormously.” – Dacher Keltner, The Power Paradox By Melanie Lockwood Herman This week … Continued

Happy Knot: Managing Workplace Culture Risk

By Melanie Lockwood Herman This week I’ve been reading The Economist’s potpourri of prognostications: “The World in 2018.” In his introduction to the publication, editor Daniel Franklin writes that, “It promises to be a nerve-jangling year.” Check! In my recent risk adventures, it seems like many nonprofit leaders are either waiting for the other shoe to … Continued

Employment Practices Risk Resources

Explore this RISK eNewsletter filled with tips and resources for managing employment practices risk. CEO and Staff Succession Planning Avoid transition trauma by reading our practical articles on succession planning: Avoid Transition Trauma with a CEO Succession Plan Staff Succession Planning Employment Policies, Safety, and Screening Read The Employment Issue of our newsletter, Risk Management … Continued

Valiant Volunteerism: Managing Volunteer Risk & Reward

December 12, 2017 Enjoy this RISK eNewsletter filled with volunteer risk management resources! The Frankenstein Effect: Misclassifying Your Volunteers The NRMC team fields lots of questions about worker classification. If you misclassify a worker, you increase the likelihood of various downside risks, including financial penalties and poor morale. Read about The Frankenstein Effect to prevent … Continued

Workplace Harassment: An Unacceptable Risk

Of late, news is teeming with tales of workplace sexual harassment in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and elsewhere. While it’s important to recognize that both men and women are victims of workplace harassment, many American women are now stepping forward to report harassment they have experienced at work. I assume that the nonprofit sector does not … Continued


“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” – William Arthur Ward  We’re feeling overwhelmed with gratitude today. We are especially grateful to: the talented risk champions who attended the Risk Summit in Philadelphia; thank you for giving your time, your attention and your enthusiasm to our guest … Continued


By Erin Gloeckner The NRMC team enjoyed a lot of help in planning and executing our recent annual conference, the Risk Summit. Check out photos from the event to find yourself in the crowd or–if you couldn’t join us–to see what you missed. Our generous Corporate Partners helped us make the Risk Summit a reality, … Continued

From Doggie Paddler to Freestyler: How to Manage Intern Risks

Presenter: Christine Smith, Intern Can your interns “ride the wave” in your organization? As a supervisor for new recruits, you may be concerned with ensuring that they have ‘fun in the sun’ while also learning and benefiting your organization. Watch this webinar to learn more about managing risk and ramping up reward for your existing … Continued

Cheers to Your Good Health: Integrating Workplace Health Programs

Watch this webinar to learn about how integrating workplace health programs can benefit your nonprofit. Improving employee health can benefit nonprofits in many ways, from boosting employee productivity and morale, to decreasing health care costs.

Start Me Up: Designing an Effective Employee Onboarding Program

The first days and weeks at a new job are a critical time for employees to soak up knowledge and skills relevant to their new workplace, and for employees to make great first impressions. Effective employee onboarding is an investment in success for both the employee and the organization. This webinar addresses some practical items … Continued

Commandments of Supervisor-Employee Relationships

Dissatisfaction with supervision is a key factor of voluntary turnover. Fostering healthy and productive supervisor-employee relationships is critical to living out your nonprofit’s values, and to moving your mission forward by retaining talented, dedicated staff and volunteers. Unfortunately, some supervisors lack the soft skills required to foster positive relationships with their team members, and yet … Continued

Not Even Remotely: Understanding & Managing Remote Worker Risks

As the popularity of flexible working arrangements grow, more and more employers are allowing employees to work remotely or telecommute. Allowing flexible arrangements is even expected in many workplaces, but many employers do not fully understand the risks that may be associated with the set-up. This webinar addresses topics including: Determining whether telecommuting can work … Continued

Q&A: Transgender and Your Nonprofit

With an estimated 700,000 transgender people in the United States, the issues around their fair employment, access to facilities, healthcare, education, and discrimination can influence decisions made by your nonprofit. Are you prepared? Join us for a short question and answer session with Karen Ibach, partner at Montgomery McCracken and Nonprofit Issues Editor, Don Kramer.

Can’t Buy Me Joy (at Work) – Build Trust for Engagement

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Across the nonprofit sector, work teams are gathering for holiday-themed celebrations and modest gift-exchanges, wrapping year-end fundraising appeals and saying a fond farewell to departing board members. And in many workplaces, nonprofit executives, managers and supervisors are taking extra time and care to say ‘thank you’ to their most valuable assets: … Continued

Internal Crisis Communications: The Inside Track

By Melanie Lockwood Herman When a crisis threatens a nonprofit mission, top leaders instinctively focus on what to say to the rapidly encroaching outside world. A community-serving nonprofit may attract attention from far and wide when a disaster, scandal or tragedy strikes. Yet one of the most important steps to surviving and thriving while in … Continued

Drinking from the Hose: Is Your Executive Onboarding Program Effective (and Sane)?

By Erin Gloeckner Transitioning into any new job is often compared to drinking from a fire hose. How quickly can you learn everything about your new role and organization? How long will it take for you to fit in and live out the culture, policies, and expectations of your new workplace? And how can you … Continued

Effective Communication & Annual Reviews

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Communication let me down And I’m left here Communication let me down And I’m left here, I’m left here again! “Communication,” Spandau Ballet Last week’s Risk eNews, “Super Size It: Don’t Skimp on Supporting Your New Hire,” seemed to strike a chord with readers, based on the chorus of ‘Amens’ in my … Continued

Super Size It: Don’t Skimp on Supporting Your New Hire

By Melanie Lockwood Herman On her third full day in a new city, my daughter began her hunt for a part-time job. After surviving a stressful group interview, she was thrilled when she was offered a position at her favorite retail outlet. But after two weeks on the job, her enthusiasm–for the job and the … Continued

Managing Remote Worker Risk

By Melanie Lockwood Herman You’ve either heard the gossip about remote workers, been the subject of comments about your engagement as a remote worker, or perhaps you’re a dreamer, longing to replace an expensive, lengthy commute with a short walk to your home office. Recent research sheds a bright light on some of the myths … Continued

We Are the World: International Staff Screening

By Melanie Lockwood Herman The world gets very small after a while, if you stick around long enough. – Edie Falco Your goal of recruiting capable staff members who bring different perspectives and diverse backgrounds to your mission may lead you to  seek and consider applicants who have worked, lived, or even studied in a … Continued

Last Call: Effective Exit Interviews

When an employee departs your nonprofit, you have one final opportunity to ‘source’ insights and feedback from that person; similarly, the employee has one last chance to leave a positive mark on your mission. Attend this webinar to learn how to make the most out of exit interviews. We will provide tips on exit interview … Continued

Criminal History Background Checks: 10 Things You Probably Don’t Know but Should

Criminal history background checks are an important piece of the employee screening puzzle, but to conduct an effective background check, you need to understand the limitations of criminal history records, and the nuances of the background checking process. This webinar offers 10 insights about criminal history background checks that you might not know–but should–in order … Continued

Managing Risk in Performance Management

Every employee wants and deserves constructive feedback on their performance. Feedback it vital to helping staff address weaknesses and maximize their contributions to the mission of your nonprofit. This webinar will explore the risk/reward equation in performance management. You will learn how to avoid the pitfalls in the most common approaches to employee performance reviews. … Continued

Don’t Know Much About History: Criminal History Background Checks

Does your nonprofit use criminal history background checks? What happens when a check indicates that a crime was committed in the past? Many nonprofits fail to adequately consider what types of crimes or past history will disqualify an applicant until they are directly faced with the question. In this webinar, we will explore several myths and misconceptions associated with … Continued

Is a Penny Saved, A Penny Earned?

The weather is warming up, school is out, nonprofits are hiring temporary employees and interns. Summer is a time where nonprofits can utilize the skills of temporary summer interns. However, when putting together your internship program, there are several important considerations that you should take into account. Join the Center to learn more about designing … Continued

Employee or Volunteer: What’s the Difference and Why it Matters

Is there a legal difference between employees and volunteers? Do you know what it is, and why it matters? This webinar explores the subtle and not-so-subtle distinctions and why they matter. You’ll learn about The Frankenstein Effect, and how to avoid creating monstrous, costly liability for your nonprofit.

Human Behavior and Risk Management

When a nonprofit adopts a risk management framework,” deputizes members of a risk management committee, and approves a set of slick policies that have been blessed by counsel, one would expect that the organization’s risk management journey will be relatively smooth and uneventful. But not if there are human beings in the mix! This webinar will explore … Continued

Reference Checking

At one point or another, most of us have mistakenly hired an ill-suited candidate or someone who was a poor fit for the job or our nonprofit. Tune into this webinar to find out how and why reference checking is the most important asset in your screening toolkit. If you want to avoid hiring another … Continued

HR Risk: Take the High Road without Getting Lost

Employment risks bear a hefty price tag in a nonprofit workplace. From poor morale to costly litigation, allegations of wrongful, inappropriate or illegal employment practices threaten a nonprofit’s mission. This webinar offers practical, road-tested advice for minimizing the likelihood of employment claims and avoiding common HR missteps.

All That’s Sacred: The Erosion of Employment at Will, the Regular Workday and Other HR Icons

From employment-at-will disclaimer statements to strict warnings about inappropriate out-of-work-conduct, the tried and true HR risk advice you’ve relied on for years may no longer be effective in keeping your nonprofit safe from claims and damages. What can you say and do without running afoul of the National Labor Relations Act? What restrictions on employee … Continued

Employee, Independent Contractor or Volunteer: Status Matters

Most nonprofit organizations retain personnel who serve as full and part-time employees, independent contractors and volunteers. Yet many nonprofit leaders struggle with determining which staff belong in each grouping, and some wonder: does it really matter? Attend this webinar to learn why classification matters, and how to avoid common mistakes and costly penalties related to … Continued

Top 10 HR Risks Facing Nonprofit Organizations

Watch this webinar to learn what’s hot, what’s problematic, what’s on the horizon, and what to look out for in Human Resources in 2011. Tune up your HR practices with sound policies, careful reflection on past mistakes and mishaps, and a positive attitude.

Planning and Conducting Effective Interviews

For many years the Center has touted the in-person or telephone interview as an important staff screening tool. Yet many supervisors approach interviews on autopilot,” and fail to appreciate the tremendous opportunity that an interview affords the prospective employer. Attend this brand-new webinar to learn about the top three most important interview questions, the worst … Continued

Why Can’t We All Get Along? Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce

Within a few years, five generations of workers will be represented in the nonprofit workforce. Whether you’re a CEO, CFO, HR Director or other senior leader in a nonprofit, you’ve probably encountered a few challenges stemming from the varying perspectives and priorities that workers from different generations bring to your organization. Conflict between generations is … Continued

He Said, She Said: Managing Workplace Disputes

In a perfect world, every nonprofit employee would be content 100% of the time. Few if any nonprofits live in such a world. This webinar will explore the risks associated with discontent and offer practical suggestions for managing complaints and learning how to respond with finesse and fairness. The session will cover systematic approaches such as … Continued

Benefits in the Nonprofit Workplace: Balancing Risk and Reward

Employee benefits can include employee insurance coverage (medical, life, dental, disability, unemployment and worker’s compensation), paid leave and holidays, and contributions to retirement plans, as well as a host of other fringe benefits” that are valuable to attract and retain staff in a competitive hiring environment. Offering too many or too few, benefits can throw … Continued

Workplace Privacy: Steering Clear of Danger While Protecting Your Nonprofit

The issue of privacy in the workplace presents challenges for nonprofit employers. While on one hand employers do not want employees to feel uneasy because “big brother” is watching their every move, smart employers know that full access to an employee’s physical and electronic workspace is necessary for legal compliance and to protect the assets … Continued

Screening Employees and Volunteers

This 90-minute seminar presents a framework for staff screening based on the requirements of the position, the nature of the contact with service recipients, and legal limitations on the use of screening tools. The seminar also offers additional ideas for controlling staff-related risks. Screening is just the beginning of an ongoing process that generally includes … Continued

Conducting Effective Performance Appraisals in a Nonprofit

Few nonprofit supervisors look forward to conducting performance appraisals. Yet most managers understand that regular reviews are a vital risk management tool, and that inaccurate reviews can spell disaster when defending an employment decision in court. Watch the recording of this Web Seminar if: You have ever postponed conducting performance appraisals due to anxiety about … Continued

Staff Screening: What’s New and What You Need to Know

Screening paid and volunteer staff is an important component of risk management. Despite the availability of a wealth of information and tools on screening, many nonprofit screening programs are not as effective as they might be due to errors in planning and design. A growing number of nonprofits are subject to screening requirements imposed by … Continued

Employment at Will: Sacred Cow or Dinosaur?

The concept of “employment at will” is often comforting to nonprofit managers. For these managers the fear of employment litigation is lessened by the theory that “we have employment at will – we can fire people at any time.” Other managers believe the opposite: that terminating a staff member for any reason other than gross … Continued

Layoff Lessons: Downsizing with Care and Compassion

The loss of grant funds, government contracts or a decline in donations may necessitate the elimination of positions in a nonprofit. Downsizing is never a painless process, but it can be managed in a way that emphasizes care and compassion for affected employees while living up to the nonprofit’s commitment to honest employment practices. Watch … Continued

Exempt or Non-Exempt: How to Answer the Question

Nonprofit employers are not alone in the struggle to properly classify workers. Although new regulations issued in 2004 were intended to clarify federal wage and hour laws, confusion remains about the distinction between exempt and non-exempt personnel. This Web Seminar will offer a step by step approach to making the proper classification decision for each … Continued

When Employees Are Out of Work: Disability Leave, Workers Compensation Leave and Family Leave Solving the Puzzle

It is a true challenge when an employee is out of work: how long is the nonprofit required to hold the position open? What benefits is the employee entitled to while on leave? Balancing practical staffing needs and legal obligations to employees on leave is critical to ensure that a nonprofit does not violate any … Continued

How to Hire the Staff Your Mission Deserves

By Melanie Lockwood Herman and Arley Turner As the economy continues to rebound from the recent recession, hiring—not downsizing—is the name of the game in nonprofit HR. For leaders that have been in the difficult position of managing layoffs and coping with increased work demands due to vacancies, the availability of funds for new personnel … Continued

The Goldilocks Principle: Creating a Culture That’s Just Right

By Melanie Lockwood Herman and Alexandra Ricketts One of your best employees just left the organization and you feel a sense of urgency to replace her. But is it simply time to fill the open chair with a warm body? If your expectations for performance are low, then almost any applicant will do. But if … Continued

Foster Dissent, Quiet Consensus

April 27, 2016 By Melanie Lockwood Herman I’ve been a fan of dissent–over comfortable consensus–for some time. While finishing Adam Grant’s book, Originals, I discovered some new insights into why and how consensus and groupthink pair up to kill innovation. Grant describes how Polaroid made strides in electronic imaging in the early 1980s, and finished … Continued

Level the Playing Field Through Inclusive Meetings

May 4, 2016 By Emily Stumhofer It’s all about perspective. Diverse perspectives can contribute to a more complete and whole view of an organization and its challenges and strengths. Most of us understand the value of obtaining diverse perspectives, and including a variety of people and stakeholders in discussions and meetings, but are we doing … Continued

Employee Engagement: Why Good Isn’t Good Enough

May 12, 2016 By Melanie Lockwood Herman “Respectful treatment of all employees at all levels,” tops the list of factors contributing to over all job satisfaction, according to the 2016 SHRM Employment Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey. Also positive, SHRM–the Society for Human Resource Management–reports that U.S. employees are “more satisfied with their current jobs … Continued

Reality Check: Using References Effectively

November 4, 2015 By Emily Stumhofer Do you ever wish you could meet a literary character in real life, rather than from simply reading about the character through the eyes of a narrator? Although a face-to-face meeting Sherlock Holmes, Jane Eyre, Robinson Crusoe, or even Hermione Granger might be fun, to get the clearest picture … Continued

Lend a Helping Handbook: Employment Policies Worthy of Your Mission

By Erin Gloeckner On the first day at a new job, most of us probably arrive wondering things like, “What will it be like to work here?” “What will my role entail?” and “How will I learn everything I need to know in order to do my job?” Whether you are a new hire or … Continued

There’s No Mystery to Your History: Using Background Checks in the Screening Process

By Melanie Lockwood Herman “ Many organizations fall prey to the misconception that criminal history background checks are the only effective way to prevent the hiring of an unsuitable employee. ” Most nonprofits use some type of background check to vet potential employees and volunteers. However, the term “background check” is used to mean very … Continued

Join the Culture Club

December 23, 2015 By Melanie Lockwood Herman Assuming you love your job, what is it about your nonprofit that makes it a wonderful place to work? Despite the undeniable uniqueness of nonprofits, most organizations have the following elements in common: a compelling mission, a defined leadership structure, multiple stakeholder groups and vulnerability to financial stress … Continued

Sensible Risk Resolutions for 2016

January 6, 2016 By Melanie Lockwood Herman Each year, many Americans adopt unrealistic New Year’s resolutions. My first resolution for 2016 was to stop booking business trips that require late evening departures or landings. I was a bit surprised to learn that, according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 75% of people who make a … Continued

Risks of Sleep Deprivation: Get Your Beauty Sleep for Safety

By Erin Gloeckner Did you know that on average, today’s worker sleeps an hour and a half less each night than they did 50 years ago? In the workplace, sleep deprivation does more damage than you might think. In her interview with Charles A. Czeiler, professor of sleep medicine at the Harvard Medical School, freelance … Continued

Be The Boss You Want to Work For

January 20, 2016 By Melanie Lockwood Herman In last week’s Risk eNews, Erin Gloeckner dared readers to promote workplace safety by managing the downside risk of employee sleep deprivation. In the Schumpeter column in this week’s edition of The Economist, (“The other side of paradise,” The Economist, January 16th, 2016), I was intrigued to learn … Continued

Adopt a Total Ban on Personal Electronic Device Use While Driving

January 26, 2016 By Melanie Lockwood Herman Since we began offering free RISK HELP to our Affiliate Members in 2012, we have answered a wide array of risk questions–some highly unusual. Last week we received this quirky question from two incredibly different member organizations: should we adopt a complete ban on the use of personal … Continued

Closing Time: Effective Exit Interviews

By Melanie Lockwood Herman “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end…” – Closing Time, Semisonic Upon learning that an employee or volunteer will be leaving your nonprofit, you might schedule a time for the departing team member to turn in their keys, return equipment, and receive a briefing on post employment benefits. Departing … Continued

Get with the Program: Wellness in the Workplace

July 1, 2015 By Lexie Williams and Erin Gloeckner Life-saving medical treatments and devices have lulled many Americans into believing that an increase in life expectancy is a sure thing. But former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona provided sobering news when he said that “Because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits, and … Continued

Why We Shouldn’t Just Get Along

By Melanie Lockwood Herman During an interview for a recent Risk Assessment, a staff member at a client nonprofit asked, “Why can’t we just get along?” She continued by describing the actions of senior leaders in her organization, whose behavior toward one another negatively affected employees at all levels of the organization. Instead of inspiring … Continued

Mindful Leadership

July 29, 2015 By Melanie Lockwood Herman During a recent consulting engagement, a member of my team reminded our client that when an organization adopts a large number of ambitious, complex goals, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Instead of feeling “doable,” success may feel out of reach. The key to tackling big goals, she explained, … Continued

A Little Respect

August 5, 2015 By Melanie Lockwood Herman As anyone who’s ridden in my car, visited my home, or asked me about my taste in music knows, I’m a huge fan of Channel 33 on SiriusXM. My “First Wave” station plays music from the 1980s–from upbeat dance tunes to the bizarre poetic musings of Morrissey. One … Continued

Why Sorry is the Hardest Word

September 9, 2015 By Melanie Lockwood Herman This weekend I had an opportunity to watch a program titled “Cardinal Seán” featured in a re-run of the television program, 60 Minutes. The subject of the program was Cardinal Seán O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston. One of the most compelling moments in the broadcast was a video clip … Continued

Thank you!

September 16, 2015 by Melanie Lockwood Herman The principal purpose of this week’s RISK eNews is to say “thank you” to the generous sponsors of the 2015 Risk Summit. Without financial support from these corporate risk champions, the conference simply wouldn’t be possible. As past attendees know, our Risk Summits deliver practical workshops, inspiring keynotes, … Continued

How the Grinch Stole the Workplace

January 22, 2015 By Erin Gloeckner It’s normal to have a cranky day at work, but string together too many cranky days and you might start sounding like the Grinch. You’ve worked with a Grinch before—that employee who makes snide remarks, starts rumors, complains without end, or uses body language and other behaviors to display … Continued

Magnify Your Mission: Inspire Customers for Life

By Melanie Lockwood Herman An article titled “Inspiring More at Gap Inc.” featured in the March 2015 edition of HR Magazine begins by describing the goal of the Gap’s founders, Doris and Don Fisher, to “do more than sell clothes.” According to Gap’s senior VP of HR, Dan Henkle, Gap is more than an employer: … Continued

Ask and You Shall Receive

May 6, 2015 By Melanie Lockwood Herman I’ve been a movie fan since December 1971, when I saw a film on a big screen for the first time, Bedknobs and Brooksticks. So I was immediately drawn to an article titled “The man of many questions,” co-written by successful movie producer Brian Grazer and featured in … Continued

Fight, Flight, or Freeze?

May 13, 2015 By Arley Turner Does your organization have a well thought-out plan to address the risk of an active shooter on your premises? For many organizations, the default response is to implement a “lockdown,” or immediately freeze all activities and shelter in place while waiting for police and emergency assistance. In practice, this … Continued

Inspire True and Triumphant Teams

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Few leaders are willing to face the wrath of their friends and peers and speak ill of “teamwork.” Yet too often we use the words “team” and “teamwork” when we really mean work groups or a process involving a group of co-workers, while ignoring some of the difficult challenges that arise … Continued

Curiosity Trumps Competence

“I now consider potential to be the most important predictor of success at all levels, from junior manager to the C-Suite and the board.” — Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, “21st Century Talent Spotting,” Harvard Business Review, June 2014 By Melanie Lockwood Herman This week I’ve been reading a fascinating article about the benefit of emphasizing potential over … Continued

Lessons Learned: Sharing Staff Screening Setbacks

By Erin Gloeckner A few years ago I had an opportunity to expand my role by co-managing the hiring process for two openings on the NRMC team. Looking back on it, I was pretty darn lucky to experience such ideal results from my first foray into hiring. Not every hire turns out so well, and … Continued

Big Thoughts in Small Talk: Context Matters

By Erin Gloeckner When NRMC moved into a historic house at 204 South King Street in Leesburg, VA in 2014 we threw a party for clients, Affiliate Members, and friends from the Metro DC area to show off our new space and our incredible team of dedicated professionals. Before the party began, I had a … Continued

Orientation Renovation

By Melanie Lockwood Herman With the release of our Staff Screening Notebook, and the hiring of three staff members this summer, I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching about a perennially risky function: screening. We often assume that screening ends once a new employee is hired, but screening should encompass the full employment life cycle, … Continued

Workplace Investigation Tips from Sherlock Holmes

By Erin Gloeckner Recently, many of our clients have focused on increasing their readiness to respond to and manage employee complaints, workplace investigations, and employment practices liability (EPL) claims. An excellent example of EPL claims risk is Sherlock Holmes himself. If you’re a fan of the stories, you might remember Sherlock’s interesting treatment of Dr. … Continued

Boiling the Frog: Fighting the Slippery Slope of Ethical Indiscretions in the Workplace

By Emily C. Stumhofer A familiar anecdote suggests that if a frog is dropped into a pot of boiling water, he will immediately jump out, but if he is dropped into a pot of cool water that is gradually heated, he won’t perceive the danger, and will be cooked to death. Although some recent science … Continued

Meet, Greet, Grin and Adjust

By Melanie Lockwood Herman After a whirlwind month during which we hosted three, back-to-back risk conferences, life at the Nonprofit Risk Management Center has returned to “normal.” What’s normal? Working with dedicated leaders from a diverse array of mission-directed public entities and nonprofits on projects ranging from the development of a cloud application for one … Continued

May I Help You?

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Last week I was among the weary passengers on board a flight stranded at Chicago O’Hare Airport. After our delayed flight from sunny California landed around 8:30 pm, the pilot brought our plane to a ¥complete stop’ about 200 feet from the terminal. We remained parked there for 90 minutes due … Continued

Developing Position Descriptions

Position descriptions are a critical part of the staff screening process. Position descriptions spell out the requirements of the job and help to identify possible risks associated with that position. By understanding these risks, organizations are better able to select individuals who are capable of performing the position’s duties, but who do not constitute an … Continued

Employee or Independent Contractor

By the Nonprofit Risk Management Center What’s the Difference and Why Does It Matter? Misclassifying employees as “independent contractors” can get a nonprofit financial hot water with the U.S. Department of Labor, the applicable state DOL or both. If federal or state regulators determine the nonprofit has mistakenly misclassified employees as contractors, enforcement personnel may … Continued

Drafting a Memorandum of Understanding

By the Nonprofit Risk Management Center An effective Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) prevents misunderstandings and disputes by clarifying the expectations of the partners. The process of developing an MOU is an instructive and potentially invaluable experience in partnering. You will learn how responsive your partner will be—are your calls returned promptly? Does your partner give … Continued

What Basic Insurance Coverage Should a Nonprofit Consider?

By the Nonprofit Risk Management Center  The first issue for any nonprofit seeking to purchase insurance is to find an experienced, trustworthy insurance agent or broker who understands and specializes in serving nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits are different from commercial businesses and public agencies, and are best served by an insurance professional who appreciates those differences … Continued

Employee Handbooks: Risk Management Road Maps

By the Nonprofit Risk Management Center  Creating written workplace policies and procedures that are legally up-to-date and easy to follow is as important as having adequate insurance. Policies that are clearly communicated to staff and consistently applied serve to safeguard against improvised solutions that can result in a lawsuit. Written policies are the starting point … Continued

Protecting Workers Who Are Victims of Domestic Violence

By Jennifer Chandler Hauge Scene: Your nonprofit. Situation: The phone rings. Your administrative assistant tells you she/he is not coming in today. This isn’t the first time this has happened. This employee has missed a few days here and there due to “illness” or “doctors visits,” but this is the first time she/he has been … Continued

Health Insurance Is a Claims Trap for the Unwary

By the Nonprofit Risk Management Center Eligibility of health insurance coverage under an employer’s group plan terminates when an employee is separated from employment. However, due to the health insurance benefit continuation requirements under COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) and many similar state laws, most employees can elect to continue their health insurance coverage … Continued

My Generation Reaping the Rewards of a Multigenerational Workforce

My Generation: Reaping the Rewards of a Multigenerational Workforce By Melanie Lockwood Herman and Arley Turner Nonprofit missions require high performing, collegial work teams. And increasingly, nonprofit workplaces are staffed by individuals from three, four or even five generations. These intergenerational staff teams are charged with delivering services and programs that advance ambitious, communityserving missions. … Continued

Think Again: What You Don’t Know but Should About Interviewing & Reference Checking

By Erin Gloeckner “Death will be a great relief. No more interviews.” — Katharine Hepburn Walking into an interview is like walking into a pressure-cooker. As an applicant, you sense that the interview is your best chance at winning a job. Most nonprofit hiring teams would agree that an interview would make or break a … Continued

So How Are We Doing?

By the Nonprofit Risk Management Center When was the last time that the CEO/executive director of your organization received a performance appraisal? If you answered, “I can’t remember” or “a few years ago” your organization may be in good company, but missing a significant opportunity—and facing unnecessary risk. A recent report, “Boards of Midsize Nonprofits: … Continued

Employment Law Issues Continue To Pose Risks

By the Nonprofit Risk Management Center Employment practices lawsuits continue to be among the more prevalent and most draining legal actions that a nonprofit is likely to face. Discrimination claims filed with the EEOC rose 9% in 2007 — the biggest jump in close to a decade. Nearly one-third of those claims included an allegation … Continued

On Board With Diversity

By the Nonprofit Risk Management Center Team  A controversy over the merits of diversity on boards of nonprofits has simmered during recent months, stirred by proposed legislation in California, AB 624, that would have required foundations to disclose the composition of their boards and staff. The legislation also would have required foundations to identify grants … Continued

Risks and Rewards of Fringe Benefits in the Nonprofit Workplace

By the Nonprofit Risk Management Center Team  The August webinar hosted by the Nonprofit Risk Management Center highlighted both the risks and rewards of fringe benefits offered by nonprofit employers. Did you know that numerous studies have shown that employees value flexible work hours and telecommuting on a par with health insurance and other more … Continued

Effective Training is Key to Managing the Risks of Staff Turnover

By the Nonprofit Risk Management Center Team Turnover is a recurring challenge for nonprofit organizations. Paid and volunteer staff may move on to new challenges or better paying positions. From time to time, a nonprofit may need to terminate the employment of a poor performer or lay off employees during an economic downturn. In all … Continued

Be Proactive in Times of Crisis

By the Nonprofit Risk Management Center Team  The unexpected happens. Even with insightful planning and sound risk management—people are injured, fires destroy, and investments evaporate. When “stuff happens,” savvy nonprofits know that action is needed and that action has to be communicated to stakeholders. Speaking recently about the challenges posed by the economy, Rebecca Rimel, … Continued

Full Speed Ahead: Managing Technology Risk

By the Nonprofit Risk Management Center Preventing Employee Misuse of Technology A nonprofit employer places a great deal of trust in its employees when providing equipment and an electronic connection to the outside world. The survival and viability of your nonprofit may depend on how, and whether, employees uphold that trust, and how well you … Continued

Truth Be Told

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Truthfulness is an important value in the nonprofit sector. We see ourselves as people with integrity and we encourage and expect that our staff, volunteers, clients and other stakeholders will be truth-tellers. We recognize the critical need for truthfulness when issuing financial statements, reporting on the use of grant funds, filing … Continued

Meet Me in the Middle: Compromise in a Risky World

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Compromise and consensus are common themes in the nonprofit world. When debating controversial issues we are eager to discount “extreme” views and look for middle ground. Compromise—“the middle way between two extremes” is intuitively appealing. But another definition of compromise—“settle by concession”—offers a hint of the downside of our compulsion to … Continued

What Do You Know? Are You Certain?

By Melanie Lockwood Herman There is a powerful visual that forms the basis of the expression “the fabric of society.” When a wrong is committed, the fabric is torn. Sometimes the wrong amounts to a snag, sometimes a hole is created. In both instances the fabric is damaged. And in some cases it becomes entirely … Continued

2010: An Odyssey of Your Making

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Instead of dreaming about sugar-plums, many nonprofit leaders will fall asleep tomorrow evening dreaming about better times for the organizations they serve. Let’s face it, 2009 was a rough year for the vast majority of organizations that provide vital social services, deliver inspired cultural programs, and conduct research and advocacy to … Continued

The Essence of Youth Protection: Rules, Reporting and Consequences

By John C. Patterson Organizations are obsessed with ferreting out sexual predators and preventing them access to young people. Unfortunately, in their zeal to do this, organizations focus too much on the sexual predator, and not enough on the safety of the children they want to protect. Nearly every organization that offers services to children … Continued

Reputation versus Reality: “Mind the Gap!”

By Melanie Lockwood Herman If you have ever had the good fortune to travel to London you may have heard the expression, “Mind the gap!” This admonition is broadcast to subway riders so that when they step out of the subway car, they won’t inadvertently step into the gap between car and platform. Nonprofit leaders … Continued

The Taxman Cometh

By the Nonprofit Risk Management Center Team  What’s on the agenda for the IRS this year? Lois Lerner, the Director of Exempt Organizations, Internal Revenue Service, addressed a gathering of lawyers and accountants in Washington, D.C. last week to share how the IRS views the impact of the economy on the charitable sector and how … Continued

Contractor or Employee? Time to Get it Right

By Melanie Lockwood Herman  It’s nice to know that you’ve answered correctly, particularly on matters over which the Internal Revenue Service has authority. But when it comes to classifying workers as either employees or independent contractors, many nonprofit leaders select the more convenient option. Instead of holding your breath and hoping that the IRS will … Continued

Summer Interns: Volunteers or Employees?

By Jennifer Chandler Hauge Now that summer is around the corner, many nonprofits are fortunate to have lined up students or recent grads as “interns.” Such summer help is greatly appreciated by nonprofits but could come at an unexpected cost if the nonprofit is paying the interns and is not prepared to treat them as … Continued

Back to Basics: Effective Risk Management May Require Culture Change

By Melanie Lockwood Herman When nonprofit leaders reach out to the NRMC for advice on weaving risk management into the fabric of their organizations they often assume that what’s missing is a long list of policies. While adding new or updating existing policies may be in order, a bigger-picture issue almost always requires more immediate … Continued

Employee Separations: Learn to Say Goodbye

By Melanie Lockwood Herman The Jackson Five version of the Davis Clifton song “Never Can Say Goodbye” has enjoyed a lot of airtime lately. Although the song has nothing to do with employer-employee separations, hearing it reminds me of the heartache that many nonprofit executives face with they realize that it IS time to say … Continued

Mastering the Basics: Learn to Walk Before You Run

By Melanie Lockwood Herman During a lunch meeting today with three colleagues from our Toronto affiliate—the Insurance and Liability Resource Centre for Nonprofits ( —the Centre’s Manager, David Hartley reminded me that many of the Canadian nonprofit leaders who attend the Centre’s workshops are eager to undertake the equivalent of a risk management marathon without … Continued

Risk Management Culture and Your Volunteers

By Melanie Lockwood Herman We’ve been obsessed with “culture” in recent weeks. At a conference I attended in Toronto in mid-August Nancy Axelrod, governance guru and founding President of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center told an audience of nonprofit CEOs that “culture trumps strategy.” Nancy’s comments reminded me that no matter how carefully a nonprofit’s … Continued

Can You Hear Me Now?!

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Last week I had an extraordinary opportunity to train a team of nonprofit leaders on workplace conflict resolution. The members of the team work for an international, multi-cultural nonprofit. Working together over several days we explored the process of re-framing areas of dispute and disagreement that are inevitable in the workplace. … Continued

It’s Hard to Be Humble

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Confidence and leadership appear to go hand in hand. Effective leaders both project and inspire confidence. Since those responsible for risk management in a nonprofit organization are leaders it seems to follow that confidence should be part and parcel of every risk management effort. Yet according to business guru and author … Continued

The Customer by Any Other Name…is Still a Customer!

By Melanie Lockwood Herman During a recent trip I experienced an unfortunate series of unsatisfactory “customer service” events. In one instance the staff of a nonprofit told me that I did not need a nametag or other credentials to participate as a speaker at the organization’s conference. As I walked away I noticed a statement … Continued

Buyer’s Remorse

By Melanie Lockwood Herman In a thought-provoking “CEO to CEO” feature article in the September/October 2010 edition of Associations Now magazine, four CEOs were asked: “If you could take back one business decision you’ve made in the last five years, what would it be?” Three of the four answers revealed regret in the area of … Continued

All Dressed Up

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Invitations to office parties, family get-togethers and school events seem to fill mail boxes and e-mail inboxes this time of year. Although a growing number of nonprofits are experimenting with events for which one is expected to purchase a ticket but “stay home,” invitations to make an appearance continue to be … Continued

Salty and Sweet

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Recently I’ve noticed an interesting trend in restaurant desserts: the addition of salt as a prominent ingredient. Experienced home cooks know that a small amount of salt is typically present in even the sweetest desserts. But the trend of featuring salt in the name of the dessert and prominently in the … Continued

The Risks of Automation

By Melanie Lockwood Herman During a recent flight to the west coast I had the opportunity to see a film titled Extract. Although I pride myself on having a sense of humor, I’m often surprised when something touted as “funny” fails to make me laugh. It generally happens in the form of video clips sent … Continued

The Right Stuff

By Melanie Lockwood Herman The Tom Wolfe book “The Right Stuff” chronicles the lives of a group of navy test pilots as well as the early years of the U.S. Space Program during the late 1940s to mid 1960s. The film version of the book reinforces the theme that while decidedly human, these pioneers of … Continued

Mastering the Basics

By Carlye Christianson I thoroughly enjoy the NCAA “March Madness” series of tournaments which began this year on March 17. This year’s line-up includes 65 men’s teams and 64 women’s teams playing in single elimination games. The tournament concludes on April 6th with the final match-up. NCAA tournament games provide some expected results, some storybook … Continued

Reality Check: The Myth of Multitasking and Debunking The Blame Game

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Feedback from a reader of the NRMC’s eNews reminded me of one theme in one of the most thought-provoking “books” currently residing on my electronic reading device. The book, by Joseph T. Hallinan is titled: Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All … Continued

Kicking and Screaming

By Melanie Lockwood Herman This past weekend I served on a panel at the annual conference of the National Association of Planning Councils. The session topic was “social media” and I was asked to speak about the risks associated with the use of social media tools in nonprofit organizations. It was a terrific opportunity to … Continued

Transitions: Make the Most of Organizational Change

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Long-time residents of the Greater Washington area become accustomed to the abrupt change in seasons. After a record-setting winter and what seemed like only a week of moderate spring weather, summer conditions have once again arrived before the calendar marks the new season. Steamy hot days interrupted by very brief storms … Continued

Listen While You Work

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Earlier this month I had an opportunity to hear a keynote presentation on leadership by Dr. John C. Maxwell. During his thought-provoking address at the 2010 General Assembly of YMCAs, Dr. Maxwell discussed “levels” of leadership and the reasons why we follow others. He pointed out a common error made by … Continued

Soul Connection

By Melanie Lockwood Herman It’s not unusual to hear a nonprofit employee express enthusiasm for the mission and programs of the organization. Many employees are eager to explain how the nonprofit’s vision and mission drew them in. Unfortunately, too many nonprofit leaders allow the passion of dedicated staff professionals to drip out of the organization. … Continued

A League of Your Own

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Last weekend two close friends who are enthusiastic members of a bowling league persuaded me to join them for an outing to our local bowling alley. Prior to Sunday I perceived bowling to be an individual sport. I’ve watched winning bowlers celebrate their high scores and losing players take the walk … Continued

Adapt to Thrive

By Melanie Lockwood Herman A new article on the “teenage brain” caught my attention last week while I was killing time in an airport bookstore. The feature article in this month’s National Geographic Magazine explores new research on the evolving brains of our teenage friends and family members. But contrary to previously published studies, this … Continued

Brain Freeze

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Once again I’m intrigued by and caught up in the latest research and analysis on the human brain. I’ve been re-reading “The New Science of the Teenage Brain,” featured in the October 2011 issue of National Geographic, and I’ve begun reading Michael Shermer’s new book, The Believing Brain. Both publications offer … Continued

Love and Politics

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Although I will readily acknowledge my eclectic taste in reading material, this week I’ve been reading two books that couldn’t be any further apart with respect to style and substance. Handbook for the Heart is a collection of thirty-four essays on love, happiness and personal growth. In his essay titled “The … Continued

Is Your Door Open?

By Melanie Lockwood Herman I enjoy reading about and observing the intersection of human nature and “best practices” in organizational management. This week I had an opportunity to read the October 2011 edition of HR Magazine, the monthly publication of the Society for Human Resource Management, and I also finished reading Mob Rules: What the … Continued

It’s a Wrap

By Melanie Lockwood Herman December is a popular month for wrapping things up and filling things in. Whether you’re wrapping up an end of the year report to stakeholders, filling a sleigh with brightly wrapped packages, or finalizing a budget spreadsheet with numbers in red and black ink, you’re probably wrapping, filling, shipping, or filing … Continued

In Search of the Perfect Swing

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Many years ago I signed up for a series of golf lessons with an instructor who insisted on the series approach to learning the game. He explained that golf was a “process,” and one needed to start at the beginning, with the grip, and continue step-by-step through the follow through before … Continued

The Long Shadow

By Melanie Lockwood Herman If you had an opportunity to tune into your local or national news yesterday you’ve probably already heard the news. When Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his burrow he saw his shadow. According to the legend associated with the world’s most beloved groundhog, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club and, “If Punxsutawney Phil … Continued

Beneath the Halo

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Author Duncan Watts’ discussion of “The Halo Effect” in his book, Everything is Obvious Once You Know the Answer led me to reflect on the halos that hover above nonprofit organizations. The Halo Effect is in essence a form of cognitive bias that alters our perception of people and things. The … Continued

One Enchanted Leader

“Not every enchanting person has your best interests at heart. Resisting enchantment, therefore, is a valuable skill that requires avoiding tempting situations, looking far into the future, and finding a devil’s advocate.” — Guy Kawasaki, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions By Melanie Lockwood Herman I was pleased to learn that some … Continued

Everything’s Coming Up Weeds

By Melanie Lockwood Herman After record rainfall in April and May, the front yards, gardens and farms look especially lush in the area of Virginia where I live. Everything is thriving… including the weeds. Extracting the bumper crop of weeds from my flower beds is requiring a bit more time than I had budgeted for … Continued

People Who Need People

A SOURCE for Tools, Advice, and Training to control risks… so you can Focus on your Nonprofit’s mission.   June 29, 2011 People Who Need People By Melanie Lockwood Herman Without people the mission of your nonprofit is all promise and no action. As a result, you’re probably well aware of the importance of effective … Continued

Baby, It’s Hot Outside

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Eight long months ago, in an article titled “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” I wrote about how increasingly cold temperatures prompted me to reflect on the idea that thoughtful planning and goal setting go “hand in glove” with effective risk management. Now that the temperatures in the Mid-Atlantic are hovering uncomfortably close … Continued


By Melanie Lockwood Herman When a member of my family questions my somewhat eccentric father about a recent purchase, Dad’s standard response is “normal is boring.” Family members have learned that there is no point questioning any acquisition—whether it’s a vintage motorcycle found on eBay, or a fiberglass sailboat from Craigslist that is in desperate … Continued

Reader’s Choice Award: Exempt vs. Non-Exempt

By Melanie Lockwood Herman The results are in: “Classification Conundrum” is the most popular article on the Center’s website. This piece, updated just this week, offers soothing relief for a common source of heartburn among human resource professionals: Is employee X an exempt or non-exempt worker? Determining whether nonprofit staff members are eligible for overtime … Continued

Got Instinct?

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Earlier this week, a friend who works in the entertainment industry told me that at the point when the curtain goes up on a Broadway show or the band emerges from the wings at a sold-out concert arena, the team behind the scenes must rely principally on instinct. He explained that … Continued

The Layover

By Melanie Lockwood Herman I generally dread flight layovers of more than an hour in duration. While many fellow frequent fliers seem to find comfort in a long layover believing it reduces the downside risk of a missed connection, I’d much rather sprint from one gate to the next than have to find somewhere to … Continued

Leadership Lessons from the First Century, BC

By Melanie Lockwood Herman On Christmas Eve I had the opportunity to watch Jon Meacham interview Pulitzer Prize winning author Stacy Schiff on the PBS program Need to Know. The less than ten minute interview peaked my interest and I took a short break from holiday preparations to order a copy of Schiff’s new book, … Continued

We’re All Human

By Melanie Lockwood Herman When nonprofit leaders approach NRMC for advice about strengthening their risk management practices, most imagine that what they need is a new “system,” a toolkit, workshop, a list of definitive do’s and don’ts, or a checklist. NRMC resources include all of the above. But what we often discover in our risk … Continued

Award Season Is Upon Us

A SOURCE for Tools, Advice, and Training to control risks… so you can Focus on your Nonprofit’s mission.   February 9, 2011 Award Season Is Upon Us By Melanie Lockwood Herman The first quarter of a new calendar year ushers in a familiar round of award shows that disrupt network television’s customary prime time programming. … Continued

Remember to Share

By Melanie Lockwood Herman From time to time one overhears the parents of boisterous or bickering children pleading with their offspring to “share.” The admonition to “share with your siblings” is advice that many of us heard repeatedly from our wise parents, particularly when a beloved toy or a favorite treat was up for grabs. … Continued

The Performance

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Despite the fact that I have two left feet and a tin ear, I enjoy going to the theater to see talented professionals dance and sing. Of course it’s possible that my lack of talent and skill in these “departments” makes me an especially appreciative audience member. Last evening I attended … Continued

Be Intentional, Seek Candid Feedback, and Practice Until it Hurts

By Melanie Lockwood Herman A cross-country flight offers the perfect opportunity to turn the pages of a real book. On Monday evening after hearing the aircraft door slam shut in “preparation for taxi and take-off” and dutifully stowing my prohibited electronic gadgets, I opened my recently acquired copy of “Talent is Overrated,” by Geoff Colvin. … Continued

He Says We Need a Revolution

By Melanie Lockwood Herman This week I’ve been engrossed in “Beyond Management: Taking Charge at Work,” the new book by featured SUMMIT keynote speaker Mark Addleson. The author of “Beyond Management” offers a sobering perspective on the discipline of management. According to Professor Addleson, when performance falls short of expectations or lack of cooperation among … Continued

Black, White and Sometimes… Grey

By Melanie Lockwood Herman On Sunday I had the good fortune of visiting The Phillips Collection, a wonderful, too-often-missed museum in the heart of Washington, DC. I was lured by the opportunity to see a special exhibit (“Variations on a Theme”) of the work of Jasper Johns. Before proceeding to see “Variations on a Theme,” … Continued

Tough Lessons for Organizations Serving Vulnerable Clientele

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Last week’s verdict in the criminal case against Jerry Sandusky offers a sobering reminder about the risk of sexual misconduct or abuse facing every nonprofit that provides services to vulnerable clientele, including children, individuals with disabilities and the elderly. While it remains true that vulnerable service recipients are statistically safer while … Continued

Something Old, Something New

By Melanie Lockwood Herman In less than a month’s time I will have the honor of attending the wedding of a dear colleague. Although she is definitely a trendsetter, rather than a slave to fashion, I will not be surprised if she wears “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue” as she glides … Continued

Keep the Crunch but Avoid the Bite in Sales and Fundraising

By Erin Gloeckner At a Risk Summit held in Chicago, we featured a workshop exploring the “sales” and “customer service” roles of nonprofit risk managers. The session was well attended by leaders keen to learn how to promote sound risk management and excel in serving the needs of constituencies within their organization. When I was … Continued

What I Learned Working at an Awesome Nonprofit

By Erin Gloeckner I’m writing this on my final day (of my first stint!) at the Nonprofit Risk Management Center. Melanie told me I could write about whatever I want…so here goes. Work is hard. Even when you love your job, work can be mentally draining, exhausting, and frustrating. Many of my prior jobs were … Continued

A Complaint is a Rose Waiting to Bloom

By Kay Nakamura Every nonprofit has received a call or member complaint. It doesn’t feel good. It is awful to know that you have let someone who believed in you down but should you chalk it up to a one-time event and let it pass? Embrace the negative! It is feedback in its truest form. … Continued

Try a Little… Kindness

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Last week I wrote about the connection between managing risk and a happy workforce. Yesterday I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Christine Carter speak about “Raising Happiness at Camp” at the opening keynote session at the American Camp Association annual conference in Atlanta. Dr. Carter is a sociologist at UC … Continued

It’s Hard to Talk about Child Abuse

By Erin Gloeckner and Melanie Lockwood Herman Child sexual abuse is so repulsive, that it is truly difficult to talk about. It is painful to admit that any person would harm a child in such a vulgar, intimate way. The sad truth is that we need to talk more about child abuse in order to … Continued

No Surprises in Volunteer Management

By Erin Gloeckner Volunteers are at the heart of most nonprofits, but your nonprofit’s heart may beat a dangerous rhythm without volunteer risk management. Every nonprofit with volunteers is at risk of experiencing these surprises: The risk of a volunteer abusing a client The risk of a volunteer’s actions harming the nonprofit’s reputation The risk … Continued

Staff Screening and The Voice

By Melanie Lockwood Herman A popular reality TV program that has recently caught my attention is “The Voice.” The show features competing singers like “American Idol.” The quirky thing about “The Voice” is that when evaluating the potential of a contestant, the four judges turn their backs to the stage. Each judge hits a giant … Continued

When One Door Closes

By Melanie Lockwood Herman After many years as a nonprofit leader and more transitions than I care to count, I’ve collected a handful of tips that help me close doors safely and walk with greater confidence across new thresholds. Resolve to see transitions as opportunities. The end of any relationship is an opportunity for your … Continued

The Essence of Youth Protection: Rules, Reporting and Consequences

The Essence of Youth Protection: Rules, Reporting and Consequences By John C. Patterson Organizations are obsessed with ferreting out sexual predators and preventing them access to young people. Unfortunately, in their zeal to do this, organizations focus too much on the sexual predator, and not enough on the safety of the children they want to … Continued

Command Less, Care More

By Melanie Herman “What does it take to thrive and to do genuinely good, human-centered work in a human world of individuals who have failings, foibles, and doubts, a world of social relationships that range from strong to awkward to awful? The answer is flexibility plus a sense of responsibility, accountability and commitment—it takes care.” … Continued

Wanted: People Willing to Talk About Risk

By Melanie Lockwood Herman “…the traditional division of authority and power is an anachronism that blights the work of public-sector employees as much as private-sector work teams and nonprofit project groups, amongst other things, encouraging the attitude that workers, like little children, should do as they’re told, not think and be seen, not heard. It … Continued

Poor Communication = Declining Morale

By Melanie Lockwood Herman According to a survey of more than 300 HR managers, a lack of “honest and open communication” tops the list of factors causing low morale in the workplace. The survey, conducted by Accountemps, revealed that the #1 source of low morale in any workforce is poor communication. Although ineffective communication bears … Continued

It’s Not Me, It’s You!

By Melanie Lockwood Herman One of my favorite parts of the Seinfeld episode titled “The Lip Reader,” is when Gwen tries to soften her break-up with George by saying, “It’s not you, it’s me.” George responds, “You’re giving me the ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ routine? I invented ‘It’s not you, it’s me.’ Nobody tells … Continued

Myths of Volunteer Risk Management,‹ Part 3

by Hal Denton and Fiona Lally This is the third in a series of articles concerning myths about volunteer liability. This installment covers the concept of agency as it relates to volunteer activities and how an organization should address its potential liability for the actions of its volunteers. Myth 3 Organizations can’t completely control what … Continued

Six Tips for Playing it Safe: At Work, At Home, On the Web

Six Tips for Playing it Safe: At Work, At Home, On the Web by Dennis M. Kirschbaum, ARM We have all heard the saying, To err is human; to really foul things up requires a computer.” The fact is, computers do not foul things up, people do. But computers allow us to foul them up … Continued

Blogs Are Here to Stay

Blogs Are Here to Stay It’s time to update your policies By Jennifer Chandler Hauge Attendees at the 2007 Summit for the Nonprofit Sector in Winston-Salem heard a lot about the Internet and cyber-safety from plenary session speaker and national syndicated columnist Larry Magid as well as the Center’s executive director, Melanie Herman. Both speakers … Continued

Technology: Boon or Bust?

Technology: Boon or Bust? By Jennifer Chandler Hauge

Set the Story Straight with a Financial Dashboard

By Erin Gloeckner Take yourself back to college math class; perhaps you studied statistics or calculus. You may have been one of the lucky few who aced every exam, but more likely, you had trouble staying awake during lectures. Numbers can be boring, confusing, and overwhelming when you’re not a math whiz. Still, nonprofit leaders … Continued

Risk Management Heat Wave

Risk Management Heat Wave by Melanie Lockwood Herman Most human beings want to be loved and respected. And that includes risk leaders in today’s nonprofit organizations. Whether your title is “Risk Manager” or “Chief Financial Officer,” “General Counsel” or something else, your commitment to champion effective risk management shouldn’t make you any less lovable than … Continued

Happy Endings

By Melanie Lockwood Herman As another calendar year draws to a close, the subject of “endings” comes to mind. Every day across the U.S., nonprofit leaders experience endings of one kind or another. The departure of a long-time employee, the retirement of a board member, and the decision of a small commercial vendor to narrow … Continued

I Have a Complaint!

Let’s face it no one’s perfect, including nonprofit organizations created to support individuals, improve lives, and strengthen communities. Even with a dedicated leadership team and hard-working staff, mistakes are made, egos are bruised and things go wrong in the life of every tax-exempt, nonprofit organization. From time to time, individual stakeholders may be inspired to … Continued

Checking Criminal Histories: Considerations Before You Begin

Every nonprofit organization is responsible for taking reasonable measures to protect service recipients from harm. This responsibility extends to all facets of a nonprofit’s interactions with its clientele. While not a panacea, careful screening of the paid and volunteer staff who work with vulnerable populations is an important risk management strategy. The failure to adequately … Continued

Stop Identity Theft — From the Inside Out

Masters of disguise are using others’ identities to support lavish lifestyles. Using one or two verifiable pieces of data identity, thieves construct a life for themselves and commit someone else’s money to supporting it. Armed with name, address, Social Security number, credit cards and PINs (personal identification numbers) stolen from personnel files, office waste baskets … Continued

EEOC Resources Offer Valuable Help

By Jennifer Chandler Hauge, Esq. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the enforcement body that will challenge an employer’s hiring or employment practices when a discrimination complaint is lodged by an employee, a former employee or an applicant. However, the EEOC is also in the business of helping employers avoid acting in a discriminatory … Continued

Sound Policies and Timely Investigations

By Melanie Lockwood Herman and Leslie T. White Employer liability for sexual harassment continues to attract the media’s attention. Multi-million dollar judgments and recent Supreme Court rulings have generated renewed interest in the topic. Consequently, employees have a growing awareness of the availability of legal remedies for perceived sexual harassment. Every nonprofit should commit to … Continued

Whistleblower Protections in the Nonprofit Sector

By Jason M. Zuckerman Since the enactment of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX), publicly traded companies have begun to focus on protecting whistleblowers and providing mechanisms for employees to raise concerns. This results from numerous provisions in SOX that mandate whistleblower protection, a high number of SOX whistleblower-retaliation complaints filed with the U.S. Department … Continued

The Road to Safety

The Road to Safety New Book Explores Practical, Legal, and Effective Employment Policies The following text is excerpted from the introduction of the Center’s new book: Taking the High Road: A Guide to Effective and Legal Employment Practices for Nonprofits. To order a copy, call (202) 785-3891 or click here to order online. Revisiting the … Continued

Creating an Effective Employee Handbook for Your Nonprofit

Employers often use handbooks and manuals to inform employees of their employment policies and to enforce their at-will policies. Although no express employment contract exists, courts have held that handbooks and manuals can be implied contracts if the language creates an impression that employees can only be dismissed for cause. The employee must be aware … Continued

Five Things That Should Never Appear in an Employee Handbook

By Melanie Lockwood Herman An employee handbook is a valuable risk management tool when it lays down the organization’s expectations and spells out the consequences if employees don’t live up to the expectations. There are numerous resources available to help guide you with regard to essential handbook components. This article focuses on five common mistakes … Continued

Lessons From the High Road

Lessons From the High Road New Edition of Employment Law Nonprofits Defensible Policies By Jennifer Chandler Hauge and Melanie Lockwood Herman

Strengthen the Weakest Link in the Chain

Strengthen the Weakest Link in the Chain If asked to name the number one resource that your nonprofit has, I’d wager that it would be your staff of paid and volunteer people. Whether that’s one person and a telephone or thousands of people spread throughout the country, who represents your organization is of utmost importance … Continued

Always on the Record: Crisis Management, the Media and Your Nonprofit

Always on the Record: Crisis Management, the Media and Your Nonprofit There’s no time like the present to begin making a list of “New Year’s Resolutions” for your nonprofit. The good news is that you don’t need to actually start tackling the “to do” items until after you’ve flipped your wall calendar to 2003. One … Continued

Avian Flu Precautions

Avian Flu Precautions By Barbara B. Oliver A recent made-for-TV movie has given rise to questions from caring nonprofit leaders about what they should do to prepare for a potential avian flu pandemic. The answer is to step back from the fear the word “pandemic” engenders and look at three critical risk management issues: 1) … Continued

Keeping Your Organization Viable for the Future

Keeping Your Organization Viable for the Future By Dr. Peggy M. Jackson For generations to come, September 11, 2001, will be remembered as a day in which innocent lives were lost and businesses were destroyed. Yet, it doesn’t take a cataclysmic event to threaten the viability of a business or your nonprofit organization. Torrential rainstorms, … Continued

Leaving With the Captain?

By George L. Head, PhD Special Advisor, the Nonprofit Risk Management Center A colleague recently asked me to contribute some ideas for her presentation to an audience interested in evacuating aged and disabled occupants from high-rise residential buildings. Born with cerebral palsy and never able to stand, I believe my experience as a disabled person … Continued

Employee or Volunteer: What’s the Difference?

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Nonprofit organizations frequently depend on the service and commitment of volunteers as well as the labor of employees. The skills and talents of both types of workers bring nonprofit missions to life. At first glance, the simple difference between these two types of workers is that employees get paid and volunteers … Continued

Grievance Procedures and Internal Dispute Resolution

Practical Tips for Resolving Internal Disputes Peaceably The following text is excerpted from Section 3 of NRMC’s book: Taking the High Road: A Guide to Effective and Legal Employment Practices for Nonprofits. Having an internal mechanism for resolving disputes is like wearing a seat belt — the internal restraint can help a nonprofit avoid harm … Continued

Human Resource Risks and the Forest of Fog

Human Resource Risks and the Forest of Fog By Melanie Lockwood Herman

The AFL-CIO Split: What it Means to Non-Union Nonprofits

The AFL-CIO Split: What it Means to Non-Union Nonprofits By Karla Grossenbacher, Partner, Seyfarth Shaw LLP At the end of July 2005, during the AFL-CIO’s annual convention in Chicago, four of the largest AFL-CIO unions — the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, UNITE-HERE and the United Food and Commercial Workers … Continued

Volunteer or Employee: Do You Know the Difference?

Volunteer or Employee: Do You Know the Difference? To get RISK HELP on classification and other HR issues throughout the year, join the Center as an Q: What is the definition of a volunteer? A: Federal law, under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, (FLSA) defines individuals that provide services without any expectation of compensation, … Continued

Looking Back, Looking Ahead: Employment Law Changes for 2009

Looking Back, Looking Ahead: Employment Law Changes for 2009 By Jennifer Chandler Hauge

Liability and Screening: Proceed with Caution

Liability and Screening: Proceed with Caution Second edition of popular text offers new insights Recently the Nonprofit Risk Management Center released the second edition of the Staff Screening Tool Kit — one of the organization’s most popular books since its debut in 1994. The new edition, subtitled Building a Strong Foundation Through Careful Staffing,” includes … Continued

Background Checks, Screening and Your Nonprofit

by Melanie Lockwood Herman The term “background check” means different things to different people. Some nonprofit leaders use the term loosely to refer to a variety of screening tools, such as criminal history background checks, credit checks, reference checks, or the verification of prior employment and higher education. One former client initially told me that … Continued

Screening Prospective Staff is Sound Risk Management

Know whom you are hiring up front to save yourself wasted resources down the line. Lawsuits, grievances, loss of productivity, and low staff morale are all some of the possible side effects of a bad hire. And a significant number of crises affecting nonprofit organizations involve employees who should never have been hired in the … Continued