We Can Work It Out: Managing Workplace Disputes

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Few things are more frustrating in the workplace than feeling unheard, especially when it comes to sensitive matters such as interpersonal workplace conflicts. And according to a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, “respectful treatment of all employees at all levels” is the number one contributor to overall … Continued

The Dark Side of Leadership

By Melanie Lockwood Herman and Emily Wilson Few nonprofits can thrive or even survive without strong leadership. Yet what happens when forceful leaders cross the line and become bellicose bullies or just plain bad bosses? Sadly, the nonprofit sector is not immune from the harm that destructive leaders leave in their wakes. Destructive leaders are … Continued

Clash of the Nonprofit Titans: Managing Board and CEO Conflicts

By Emily Wilson and Melanie Lockwood Herman Passion and conflict go hand in hand. As heartfelt passion for an organization’s mission is often the selling point that entices people to look for paid and volunteer roles at a nonprofit, it is not surprising that this passion leaves few nonprofit workplaces without conflict. Fortunately for the … 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

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

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

Hitting the Nail on the Head: Prioritizing Safety at Your Nonprofit

  By Emily Stumhofer Countless Center consulting clients and Affiliate Members list safety “Safety incidents at a nonprofit can result in the loss of life or permanent injury, plummeting employee morale, reputational damage, insurance claims and costly financial and human resource burdens for the nonprofit.” risks at the top of their concerns. Yet some organizations—especially … Continued

Fact Sheet – Active Shooters

December, 2015 Key Considerations and Approaches More than 160 active shootings were documented in the U.S. from 2000 to 2013 and the number of events escalates each year. The agreed-upon definition of an active shooter by U.S. government agencies‹including the White House, U.S. Department of Justice/FBI, U.S. Department of Education, and U.S. Department of Homeland … Continued

Four Quick Tips to Understand Commercial Insurance Policies

1. Take Advantage of Electronic Formats — Many insurance companies now issue policies in an electronic format with headings that can be clicked on to zero in on a particular policy section or particular endorsement. This makes it much easier to navigate and review the policy. 2. Seek Assistance from Your Agent — Regardless how … Continued

Contemplating Coverage: Insurance for Nonprofits

By Melanie Lockwood Herman and Erin Gloeckner Are you suddenly responsible for buying insurance for your nonprofit? Or perhaps you have been responsible for some time but have just realized that there are a few gaps in your understanding of what you buy, why you buy it and how to evaluate providers, products and the … Continued

How to Read an Insurance Policy

By Emily Stumhofer Reading a commercial insurance policy is not an intuitive practice and most people find insurance policies difficult to comprehend. Unlike a good book, it is not a document you can curl up with and casually read from beginning to end. Policies are known for being confusing and complicated, and sections frequently cross-reference … Continued

What Do You Know About D&O?

This issue of Risk Management Essentials is devoted to exploring nonprofit insurance policies and coverages. While there are many different policy types and forms with which risk leaders should be aware, one of the most talked-about and valued policies for nonprofits continues to be directors and officers liability insurance, commonly known as D&O. Question #1: … Continued

Operational Risk Management A Word from the Wise Guys

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Although a growing number of nonprofit leaders profess to be ready for Enterprise Risk Management, a far greater number admit that their operational risk management programs are far from adequate. What is operational risk management? The term refers to risk identification, risk assessment and risk management activity focused on day-to-day activities … Continued

Waivers and Young Participants

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Except in very rare instances*, a contract signed by a minor** is voidable by the minor until he or she reaches the age of majority. A “voidable” contract is legally binding on both parties unless the minor chooses to void the contract, at which time it will no longer be enforced. … Continued

Travel Safe: Managing the Legal Risks that Arise from International Operations

  by Jefferson C. Glassie, Esq., FASAE, and partner Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, LLP Nonprofit organizations are becoming increasingly active in global activities, which are very complex because of cultural, linguistic, operational, and risk issues. Adding to the complexity are legal issues. When does United States law apply, and when does the law of the … Continued

Liability and the Board: What Governing Teams Need to Know

By Melanie Lockwood Herman With more than 1.5 million registered, tax-exempt organizations in the U.S., it’s likely that many times that number of Americans currently serve on nonprofit boards. Board service involves a commitment of time, attention, enthusiasm, and in many cases, a personal financial contribution. When you serve on a board you’re likely to … Continued

Enterprise Risk Management: The Final Frontier

By Melanie Lockwood Herman It’s hard not to notice the growing use of the term “Enterprise Risk Management” among risk professionals. Yet there seems to be little agreement about what that combination of three words really means, and perhaps more importantly, whether the addition of “enterprise” to the more familiar term “risk management” makes a … Continued

The Nitty Gritty of a Risk Committee

By Melanie Lockwood Herman “Let’s form a committee!” is the frequent battle cry of nonprofit leaders facing a complex problem for which there are no obvious, immediate or cheap solutions. When more than one brain is needed to ponder a perplexing problem, forming a committee seems to be a good first step. But are risk … Continued

Operational Risk Management: A Word from the Wise Guys

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Although a growing number of nonprofit leaders profess to be ready for Enterprise Risk Management, a far greater number admit that their operational risk management programs are far from adequate. What is operational risk management? The term refers to risk identification, risk assessment and risk management activity focused on day-to-day activities … Continued

We Are the Champions, My Friends: Risk Champion Q&A

By Erin Gloeckner Risk management is a team sport. A team approach encourages the consideration of alternative perspectives on risk, as well as integration of aligned risk management practices throughout your organization. Still, it helps to have an experienced risk management thought leader on board; this ‘risk champion’ can inspire buy-in from the whole team … 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

How Lifestyle Figures in an Appropriate Mentor Match

By John C. Patterson There is a fine line between gathering the necessary information for making the appropriate match and infringing on the privacy of all parties involved. Yet, the parents’ right to set limits on who they feel is an acceptable match for their child requires information about the lifestyle of the mentor matched … Continued

Play by the Rules or Leave

Violence cannot build a better society. Disruption and disorder nourish repression, not justice. They strike at the freedom of every citizen. The community cannot‹it will not‹tolerate coercion and mob rule. — Commission on Civil Disorder, 1968 Violence pervades the lives of America’s youth… Surveys document that today’s youth are aware of violence and feel less … Continued

Take Children Safely Out to the Ballgame

Organized sports and recreation can improve physical fitness, coordination, self-discipline and teamwork, but these beneficial activities put participants at risk for injury unless precautions are in place. Half of organized sports-related injuries are preventable, reports the National SAFEKIDS Campaign. It’s a matter of protecting bodies while they are still growing and developing motor and cognitive … Continued

Protecting Vulnerable Clients from Abuse

By Mark E. Chopko, Esq. This article is an excerpt from a chapter of the Center’s soon-to-be-released publication, Exposed: A Legal Field Guide for Nonprofit Executives, by Melanie Lockwood Herman and Mark E. Chopko. To pre-order a copy of the book, which will be shipped or available for download in September, click here. Many community-based … Continued

Preventing False Accusations of Child Sexual Abuse

Recently there was a story in The Washington Post about a Montgomery County, MD schoolteacher who had been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior by seven sixth grade students. The teacher was immediately suspended and his life was turned upside down. Upon closer investigation, it was revealed that one of the students, upset over being disciplined, … Continued

Child Pornography: Not Our Problem?

By John Patterson, Senior Program Director Recently, we learned of several youth-serving organizations that had employees or volunteers charged with Internet crimes against children. The most common crime was possession or distribution of child pornography. Most often the incriminating evidence was found on the personal computers of the individuals charged. Some cases had images of … Continued

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

Risk Management Strategies for Nonprofits Serving Young Adolescents If youth is the season of hope, it’s often so only in the sense that our elders are hopeful about us; for no age is so apt as youth to think its emotions, partings, and resolves are the last of their kind.  Each crisis seems final, simply … Continued

Perspectives on Gangs and Gang Violence

The stereotypical media image for youth gangs is only partially accurate. According to the Justice Department, a gang is a well defined group of youths between 10 and 22 years old.” To be considered a “youth gang” a group must be involved in a pattern of criminal acts. The criminal acts, especially acts of violence, … Continued

Zero Tolerance for Workplace Violence

Key Component of Workplace Safety Workplace safety is one of those better-safe-than-sorry areas of management where prevention is critical. Although an organization’s hiring and supervision policies appear to preclude violent behavior in the workplace, early intervention helps prevent more serious acts. Instituting a zero tolerance for workplace violence policy sends a clear message to all … Continued

Swimming With Sharks and Other Perils of Special Events

By Barbara B. Oliver ‘Tis May, ’tis May, the merry month of May, when thoughts turn to sports competitions, street fairs, music festivals, parades and other special events. It’s a wonderful time of year to promote a nonprofit’s name, encourage participation of a new crop of volunteers, and perhaps earn some unrestricted funds to support … Continued

Preventing Crime on Your Premises

Imagine the shock of discovering that one of your employees, volunteers, or service recipients has been the victim of a crime. Now, imagine the even worse shock of discovering that the crime was committed on your organization’s property, and that you could have prevented it. Such incidents can devastate the victims and the organization. Increasingly, … Continued

Workplace Safety Preserves and Protects

By Barbara B. Oliver and Jennifer Chandler Hauge Workplace safety is about preventing injury and illness to employees and volunteers in the workplace. Thus, it’s about protecting the nonprofit’s most valuable asset: its staff members. By protecting the staff’s well-being, you can reduce the amount of money paid out in health insurance benefits, workers’ compensation … Continued

We All Do It: Mistakes in Nonprofit Life

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Human beings are prone to making mistakes. In his poem titled, “An Essay on Criticism,” eighteenth century English poet Alexander Pope reminds us that occasional screw ups are inevitable and rooted in our humanity. The best known line from the poem is “To err is human, to forgive divine.” If mistakes … Continued

Volunteers, Social Media and Risk

Here are a few tips for managing the risks that arise from volunteer use of social media or the use of social media to attract, support and connect volunteers. Don’t overreact — Posting a “tit for tat” response to every negative post by disgruntled volunteers may cast your nonprofit in a negative light. Stakeholders may … Continued

Myths of Volunteer Risk Management,‹ Part 2

by Hal Denton and Fiona Lally This is the second of a series on common myths associated with the risks of using volunteers in nonprofit organizations. We’ll look at each myth for its impact on liability assessment, the purchase of insurance, and risk management planning. Myth #2 Risk management for volunteers is primarily a question … Continued

Tempting But Confusing and Dangerous: Paying Volunteers Just a Little Something

by George L. Head, Ph.D. A thoughtful, appreciative board or executive director may want to pay a nonprofit’s volunteers “just a little something” beyond reimbursing individual volunteers for their expenditures on the organization’s behalf. Some nonprofits rationalize a monetary gift as a demonstration of thanks for the loyalty volunteers have shown to the organization: “Buy … Continued

Myths of Volunteer Risk Management, Part 1

by Hal Denton and Fiona Lally This is the first of a six-part series on common myths about the risks of using volunteers in nonprofit organizations. We’ll look at each myth for its impact on liability assessment, the purchase of insurance, and risk management planning. Myth #1 The biggest risk associated with the utilization of … Continued

Keeping Volunteers Safe From Harm: Street Smarts for Unfamiliar Turf

By Barbara B. Oliver Volunteer safety takes many forms in a community-serving nonprofit. From a thorough orientation program to “on-the-job” training, careful supervision and incident follow-up, nonprofits have various opportunities to help their volunteers stay safe. Start at the Beginning Don’t assume that you know what your volunteers are worried about or afraid of. Ask … 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

Trying My Patience

“Patience is quiet hope and trust that things will turn out right. You wait without complaining. You are tolerant and accepting of difficulties and mistakes. You picture the end in the beginning and persevere to meet your goals. Patience is a commitment to the future.” – The 52 Virtues Project By Melanie Lockwood Herman Mother’s … Continued

Liability Trends for Nonprofit Organizations

by Eric Schall Employees. Former employees. Donors. Grantors. Third parties. Fellow board members. You probably don’t like to think of them as liability risks to your nonprofit organization, yet all of them can make your nonprofit the target of a lawsuit. Such lawsuits can easily cost a nonprofit organization hundreds of thousands of dollars, not … Continued

Top 10 Fundraising Risks for Nonprofits

By Melanie Lockwood Herman The words “fundraising” and “risk management” are rarely used in the same sentence. One reason the topic of “fundraising risk” is infrequently discussed by nonprofit decision-makers may be because responsibility for “fundraising” is often assigned to the development team, while “risk management” is led by the finance department or client services … Continued

Tech Risk Q & A

Tech Risk Q & A by Melanie Lockwood Herman & Erin Gloeckner Q: What questions should we ask the references of a prospective new tech vendor? A: Checking references for any new vendor is a good idea and sound risk management practice. When checking references for a new technology vendor, try to ask questions that … Continued

Making Net Gains

Staying Safe While Making a Name for Your Nonprofit on the Internet The following article is adapted from a chapter on managing the risks of Web functionality and content featured in a new book by the Nonprofit Risk Management Center titled: Full Speed Ahead: Managing Technology Risk in the Nonprofit World. Given how easy it … Continued

Setting Your Sites: Fraud Resources on the Web

This month we profile several websites that offer helpful information on fraud prevention. American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) website: AICPA sells a number of publications that provide very specific guidance on the topics of fraud and fraud investigations. Institute of Internal Auditors (IAA) website: The Institute of Internal Auditors The IIA website … Continued

Love that Web Site… but not the links to information about political candidates

Here’s a REMINDER to all public charities and churches: A link to a political candidate’s web site from a nonprofit’s web site may violate federal law. IRS regulations allow 501(c)(3) nonprofits to engage in limited “voter education” activities, such as preparing or distributing non-partisan voter guides. However, public charities and churches may not voice either … 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

Strategic Risk Management: Looking at Both Sides Now

By Melanie Lockwood Herman and George L. Head, Ph.D. An effective nonprofit manager has a thoughtful perspective on his or her organization’s past, and an educated idea of what lies ahead. Some of you dream big — predicting large new grants, praiseful national publicity and a growing demand for your services. Others of you see … Continued

Calculated Risk: Rocket Man

by Dennis M. Kirschbaum, ARM Movin through the spheres, faster than light On our way to some planets that were outta sight! We said space driver, give it a spin And take us to some places We ain’t never been. — “Is That You Mo-Dean?” by the B-52’s OK, I admit it. I was a … Continued

Calculated Risk: Fear of Excellence

by Dennis M. Kirschbaum, ARM “When one makes a journey, one has stories to tell.” — German Proverb) Think globalization is a new concept? Think again. This summer my journey of a thousand miles began with a single step — on to a Washington, D.C. metro train. Every year the Smithsonian Institution sponsors its Folklife … Continued

Sustaining Nonprofits During Economic Downturns

by George L. Head, Ph.D. As economic downturns reduce household incomes and lower investors’ and consumers’ confidence in the economy, nonprofits face especially troubling times. On one hand, most nonprofits’ incomes fall during these recessionary times: private contributions decline as individual, corporate, and foundation donors are less inclined to give; governmental funding declines or disappears; … Continued

Risk Management and Religious Organizations

Melding Practicality and Spirituality in a Risk Management Program by Jeff Hanna When a senior pastor recently proclaimed, “God would not let a faithful church burn down,” an opportunity for the church business administrator to discuss church safety and security issues was lost. Sadly, this mentality is prevalent today in many churches. Far too many … Continued

Calculated Risk: Rocket Man

by Dennis M. Kirschbaum, ARM The world rests on three foundations: On study, on service, and on acts of benevolence. — Ethics of the Fathers (a classic work from around the year 200.) My grandfather died in April at the age of 96. It came as somewhat of a shock for my family. Thanks to … Continued

Calculated Risk: Good Surprise, Bad Surprise: The Law of Unintended Consequences

by Dennis M. Kirschbaum, ARM When my son was just learning how to run, he often took a tumble. Occasionally, he would fall down a bit hard and though he wasn’t really hurt, the shock and the injustice of the accident would bring him to the edge of tears. On these occasions we would try … Continued

Your Staff Has a Thousand Eyes

By George L. Head, PhD, CPCU, ARM, CSP, CLU, Special Advisor, Nonprofit Risk Management Center Only the very largest nonprofits in the U.S. — about one in a thousand — have a person on staff with a job title like “risk manager” or “insurance manager.” Instead, the most direct responsibility for preventing or financing recovery … Continued

Your Special Skills in Managing Risk

Sifting for Truth By George L. Head, Ph.D. This column focuses on how executive directors and other senior managers of community-serving nonprofits can use the special knowledge and skills they apply in advancing their nonprofit’s mission to manage their organizations’ strategic risk management. Everyone, to some degree, learns in life to discern when someone is … Continued

Managing Restricted Grants: Routine or Risky Business?

The article below was adapted from Mission Accomplished: A Practical Guide to Risk Management for Nonprofits, published by the Nonprofit Risk Management Center. For more information about the book, click here. (Mission Accomplished has been replaced by Enlightened Risk Taking: A Guide to Strategic Risk Management for Nonprofits.) Managing Restricted Grants: Nature of the Risk … Continued

Calculated Risk: Journey of a Lifetime

by Dennis M. Kirschbaum, ARM Feeling inadequate? Dreaming of doing something with your life? Want to make a difference? Get real! Here is a work of miniscule proportions that will lower the bar — again! Do you strive for perfection? Do you spend countless hours doing and redoing just to get something just right? Are … Continued

Risk Management Resolutions

Easier than a diet; good for the health of your nonprofit By Melanie Lockwood Herman Were you one of thousands of Americans who received a gym membership gift tucked neatly in a card from a loved one? Each year, millions of Americans jot down resolutions, most of which have something to do with the three … Continued

Your Special Skills in Managing Risk

Recognizing Conflict, Reaching Consensus By George L. Head, Ph.D. This is the first in a series of columns asking you to consider how the special knowledge and skills that executive directors and other senior managers of community-serving nonprofits apply in advancing their nonprofit’s mission can also be used in strategic risk management of their organizations. … Continued

Calculated Risk: Left Behind

by Dennis M. Kirschbaum, ARM The smallest sprout shows that there is really no death? — Walt Whitman Late last summer they took down a giant oak near the center of my small town, located about 25 miles from the nation’s capital. Aerial photos of the area show Washington Grove, Maryland as a tiny green … Continued

Stepping Back: The Outer Rim of Risk

By Melanie Lockwood Herman The discipline of risk management invites a close-up examination of events and circumstances that threaten the mission and goals of an organization or that offer the promise of mission-advancing benefit. Nonprofit CEOs, CFOs, senior staff and even board members are instinctively drawn to taking a closer look at the risks that … Continued

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

Maximizing Seasoned Employees’ Contributions

By Barbara B. Oliver In the next several years employers will see a definitive upward shift in the age of available workers. The renowned baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), who were expected to leave the workforce starting in 2011, are reconsidering retiring at 65, and the pool of younger workers is predicted to … Continued

A Golden Opportunity

A Golden Opportunity The age distribution of the American public is changing. Healthier lifestyles and medical innovations have increased the longevity of the American population. Our citizenry now includes not only higher percentages of senior Americans, but greater numbers of elderly members who are living well into their 80s and 90s. Unfortunately, medical technology and … Continued

Less Is Really More

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Nonprofit execs often worry they don’t have enough handbooks, manuals, and guidelines setting forth the organization’s risk management policies. This article suggests that the real worry should be that those documents are overweight and inefficient. The article suggests ways you can streamline and energize your program-policy documents. This article first appeared … Continued

What Is a Risk Management Plan?

During the past two years the Nonprofit Risk Management Center has been engaged in a process of defining what it means to create a risk management plan. While that exercise could have been both interesting and insightful for its own sake, our motivation was the need to create a software tool that helps nonprofit leaders … Continued

Putting on Your Own Mask First

When the Abstract and Reality Collide By Melanie Lockwood Herman This February I had an opportunity to hear a presentation by Patti Digh, author of the new book titled “Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally.” Throughout Patti’s speech, I was reminded how her advice seemed to apply … Continued

Reality TV and Risk Management

By Melanie Lockwood Herman This article first appeared in riskVue, the Webzine for risk management professionals. For more information, visit When the first generation of reality TV programs debuted in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was appalled. The ratings for programs like COPS (1989) and MTV’s The Real World (1992) seemed to … Continued

Managing Risk in Turbulent Times

Mix equal measures of optimism and resolve and bake until golden By Melanie Lockwood Herman I’ve been told that I am an incurable optimist. No matter where I stand or sit, I can’t help thinking that tomorrow is a fount of wonderful possibilities. I’ll admit that there have been a few moments in the last decade … Continued

Resolve to be a Risk-Aware Nonprofit

Hold your head high and be proud of where you have taken your organization. Whether you know it or not, your organization is an inspiration. The mission matters, and when mission fulfillment happens every day, that’s inspiring. At the Nonprofit Risk Management Center, we are grateful to hear your stories about missions that inspire us. … Continued

Culture Shock: Embracing Risk Management is Necessary, But Never Easy

by Melanie Lockwood Herman This article was inspired by the writings of Diana Del Bel Belluz, M.A.Sc., P.Eng., President of Risk Wise Inc., a Toronto-based risk management consulting firm. To read Diana’s inspirational eZine, visit “We can rebuild him. We have the technology.” Some readers may recall these statements from the opening credits for … Continued

New Year, New List Five Risk Management Resolutions for Your Nonprofit

Five Risk Management Resolutions for Your Nonprofit By Melanie Lockwood Herman During a recent airline trip I opened the in-flight magazine and saw an ad for an expensive piece of exercise equipment that promised an effective cardiovascular workout with only four minutes of effort. The longer I stared at the photo of the machine, the … Continued

New Resources Emerge from Collaboration

A recent collaboration between ChoicePoint and the Nonprofit Risk Management Center has led to the creation of a Risk Management ToolKit for customers of ChoicePoint’s state of the art background checking services. As part of the company’s continuing efforts to help nonprofits effectively manage risk, ChoicePoint has launched a new Web site and toolkit. The … Continued

Risk Management Resolutions

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Although the first month of your New Year is history and no doubt you have already made progress on many of your annual resolutions, we’d like to suggest three really important ones from a risk management standpoint. Unlike a resolution such as jogging 10 miles that can be painful to achieve … Continued

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 your peers who … Continued

Risk in the Cloud

Risk in the Cloud by Erin Gloeckner   Remember the craze over beanie babies in the 1990s? I was just a kid during the 90s, so I innocently endorsed that craze. My parents suffered through my childhood, spending heaps of money when I demanded to have the next bear, skunk, or whale in my collection. … Continued

Stepping Around or Stepping Up?

Coping with difficult risk management issues By Linda Varnado Recently, my newspaper in San Antonio — and many others across the nation — carried an article1 with a startling headline: “Body lay in kitchen for 2 years.” The headline compelled me to read the short news item. The story reported that an elderly woman in … Continued

Calculated Risk: The End of the World as We’ve Known It Not!

by Dennis M. Kirschbaum, ARM During the last century, a handful of historians and academicians debated the question of who was the first risk manager. In his new book, The Polar Bear Strategy, author John Ross traces back the history of risk management to a seventeenth-century Monk named Blaise Pascal, who suggested that it was … Continued

Planning for Summer Fun

Planning for Summer Fun By Michael Gurtler The beginning of the summer swim season is just around the corner. Many pools, beaches, lakes and ponds will see high rates of use over the summer weeks. In addition, many nonprofit organizations will sponsor special summer events that involve swimming and other forms of water-inspired recreation. While … Continued

Personal Devices at Work

by Erin Gloeckner Employee-owned versus organization-owned… the battle wages on. As employees, many of us prefer to use personal phones and laptops for work because they are convenient, commonsense, and a lot cooler than what the IT department provides. Nonprofits know there is no way to prevent all employees from accessing personal phones at work, … Continued

Calculated Risk: The Risk Management Checkup: Ten Tips

by Dennis M. Kirschbaum, ARM Most of you who are reading this newsletter have given some thought to managing risk within your organizations. You’ve taken a look at your insurance requirements, reviewed your personnel policies, examined your service delivery to make sure that safety procedures are being followed, and that your financial controls are fully … Continued

People — Your Most Pivotal Resource

By George L. Head, Ph.D. Three large groups of people are essential to your nonprofit’s success in pursuing its mission: Your staff (including your officers, employees, and volunteers) who jointly perform all the planning, speaking, driving, carrying, cooking, cleaning, negotiating, decision-making, and all the other activities that we tend somewhat loosely to say your nonprofit … Continued

The Eye of the Beholder: Managing Reputation Risk

By Melanie Lockwood Herman William Shakespeare unknowingly offered timeless wisdom to risk management professionals immersed in crisis planning when he wrote: “The purest treasure mortal times afford is a spotless reputation.” Yet no amount of wishful thinking will ensure that a spotless reputation will be available when we most need it. Reputation is what gives … Continued

“Let’s Work Together” – The Sweet Sounds of a Board-CEO Partnership

by Melanie Lockwood Herman and Erin Gloeckner On paper nonprofit boards and CEOs are required to work together. Typical CEO position descriptions include items such as: Keeping the board apprised of issues impacting the nonprofit’s mission and necessary to govern, Reporting to the board at regular meetings and other times as necessary, Executing contracts per … Continued

Let’s Get Entrepreneurial

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Are nonprofits “entrepreneurial”? Or is the term only applicable to for-profits? The website offers the following definition of an entrepreneur: “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.” Effective nonprofit leaders demonstrate initiative and embrace risk-taking when they launch programs to … Continued

Tell Me About It: Communicating With Key Constituencies During a Lawsuit

The article below is excerpted from a new publication available from the Nonprofit Risk Management Center, The Best Defense: 10 Steps to Surviving a Lawsuit. The article addresses the topic covered in Step 6: Communicate with Constituencies. Receiving notice of a lawsuit can be terribly upsetting. Your first inclination may be to start talking with … Continued

Key Questions: Evaluating CEO Performance

Attorney Eileen Morgan Johnson has developed a list of key questions for the Board and the CEO that can be helpful in a CEO performance review process. Questions for the Board Did the CEO meet the goals that were agreed on between the board and the CEO at the beginning of the year? In what … Continued

Accountability Measures: A Closer Look at Service Statistics

By John C. Patterson, Senior Program Director In this age of increased accountability, nonprofits are subjected to increased scrutiny in financial management, outcome measurement, and new service statistics. Service Statistics Service statistics may include an organization’s membership, numbers of clients served, and hours of service delivered. Organizations have a great deal of discretion in defining … Continued

Broken Promises, Shattered Trust

Preventing and Responding to Fraud and Misuse of Assets in a Nonprofit Organization by Melanie Lockwood Herman During the recent 39th annual Risk and Insurance Management  Society (RIMS) annual conference held April 29-May 3rd in Atlanta, GA, a panel-style workshop on the topic of “Fraud” was held as part of the annual Nonprofits Industry Session. … Continued

The Audit Committee and Its Expanding Role in Risk Management

By H. Felix Kloman The National Association of Corporate Directors and The Center for Board Leadership have just published Audit Committees: A Practical Guide.” It is the work of a Blue Ribbon Committee on Audit Committees and will have a major effect on the practice of risk management. Risk and risk management are now board … Continued

The Care and Feeding of a Healthy Organization

Healthy nonprofits are committed to maintaining a steady, robust income stream; developing and implementing sound investment strategies; and paying daily attention to accounting controls. Robust Income Streams Truly healthy nonprofits enjoy diverse funding sources. They protect the continuity and stability of every income stream. They assign a single staff member to pay particular attention to … Continued

Insurance for Cyber Risks

by Melanie Lockwood Herman Today’s nonprofit leaders are aware that dependence on data, software, systems and tech vendors brings untold benefits as well as potential downside risks. From the impact of data loss to claims alleging the failure to safeguard personal information, a nonprofit’s reputation and resources are ‘on the line’ in the online age. … Continued

The Additional Insured

By George L. Head, PhD, CPCU, ARM, CSP, CLU, Special Advisor, Nonprofit Risk Management Center A nonprofit’s commercial general liability policy (CGL policy) goes to great length to specify whom (organizations or individuals) that policy protects. To grasp this, take a look at the Declarations page (dec page) and the section titled “Who Is an … Continued

PERI Unveils Online Self-Assessment and Educational Tool

In May 2009, the Public Entity Risk Institute (PERI), a nonprofit research institute focused on support for risk management, launched, an innovative website that helps small and medium-sized nonprofit organizations assess their insurance needs and submit requests for insurance quotes to participating insurers. According to PERI Executive Director Gerard Hoetmer, “InsuranceForMyNonprofit is more than … Continued

Insurance for Volunteer Programs

The following article is excerpted from Chapter 9 of No Surprises: Harmonizing Risk & Reward in Volunteer Management, 3rd Edition. Claims Against the Volunteer Fear of incurring personal liability for volunteer service isn’t uncommon among the estimated 90 million Americans who perform volunteer service each year. Volunteer board members may be targeted in suits alleging … Continued

Who Can Sue a Nonprofit Board?

One of the myths associated with nonprofit D&O exposures is that there are few sources of claims since nonprofits don’t have shareholders. While it is true that the vast majority of lawsuits filed against nonprofit boards are filed by current and former employees (alleging wrongful employment practices), nonprofits serve large and varied constituencies to which … Continued

Abuse Coverage Isn’t as Elusive as a Needle in a Haystack, but It Will Cost You

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Hardening market conditions cause nonprofit risk managers to lose sleep and patience after receiving nonrenewal letters, notices of changes in the terms and conditions of coverage, and word from weary brokers and agents explaining that the same or less coverage purchased in the past may cost more than last year. The … Continued

Do You Need a New Broker? Here’s Your Sign!

By Melanie Lockwood Herman This article first appeared in riskVue, the Webzine for risk management professionals, and is reprinted with permission. In 1997 Comedian Bill Engvall released the best-selling comedy album of the year, a work that introduced millions of Americans to the comedian’s favorite punch line: “Here’s Your Sign.” A classic “Here’s Your Sign” … Continued

Is a BOP Right for Me?

Most nonprofit organizations struggle with their insurance program. What policies, coverages, limits and deductibles should we buy? How much will it cost? Are we protecting our assets and people adequately? With incorrect choices you can be insurance rich but coverage poor; therefore, you always want the best coverage for the right premium. Everyone needs property … 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

How to be the Worlds Smartest Risk Manager

By Melanie Lockwood Herman I’ve just finished the National Geographic book, “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler.” Who doesn’t want to be the world’s “smartest” anything?! As a big fan of the expression, “don’t believe everything you read,” I had no expectation of becoming the world’s smartest traveler when I cracked the cover of … 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

Friends, Not Food

By Melanie Lockwood Herman There are a host of memorable quips and conversations in the 2003 film Finding Nemo. One of my favorite moments in the film involves the strangely lovable shark, Bruce, and his epiphany about friendship at sea. Bruce reflects on the need to change his image by changing his behavior when he … Continued

Risk Management for Rental Properties

How Landlords Can Protect Themselves Legally When Renting Their Land to Outside Groups by Stanley P. Wellman, Esq. and Stephanie P. Karn, Esq. Most property owners and landlords appreciate fully the risks and potential liabilities that can occur when they operate campgrounds, conference centers, and other facilities open to the public on their property. These … Continued

Facilities Risk Management: Understanding Leasing Exposures

Q: Our nonprofit leases space from other entities for our office and occasional special events. What exposures do we have because of this? A: Leasing relieves you from some obligations and exposures with regards to repair, maintenance and compliance with regulations, however, it’s important to know that you still have facility exposures. Your nonprofit may … Continued

Enforcing Board Member Responsibilities

By Melanie Lockwood Herman It’s impossible to be too grateful to a member of a nonprofit board. Volunteer board members donate countless hours to the causes and organizations they love. And many of the tasks for which the board’s attention is required seem distant from the compelling mission at the heart of the organization. Yet … Continued

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 to your mission. In the Beginning To … Continued

Lessons From the High Road

New Edition of Employment Law Nonprofits Defensible Policies By Jennifer Chandler Hauge and Melanie Lockwood Herman The article below is excerpted from the Introduction to Taking the High Road: A Guide to Effective and Legal Employment Practices for Nonprofits — 2nd Edition, just released by the Nonprofit Risk Management Center. Purchasers of the book enjoy … 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

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 NRMC’s new book: Taking the High Road: A Guide to Effective and Legal Employment Practices for Nonprofits. To order a copy, call (703) 777-3504 or click here to order online. Revisiting the “Golden … 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

How to Create and Iterate Firearms and Weapons Policies

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Safety at work is top-of-mind for employees across the diverse nonprofit sector. In some workplaces, employees feel comfortable sharing their concerns about the risk of workplace violence, mass shootings, terrorism, and other events that potentially put them in harm’s way. In other situations, employees keep their concerns to themselves. Strong views … Continued

What Nonprofits Need to Know About Conflict De-Escalation

By Rachel Sams Imagine you’re the director of client services at a nonprofit that serves unhoused people. You hold an open house to educate the public about your work and the challenges unhoused people face. A community member aggressively and repeatedly questions your executive director. She politely thanks the community member for his feedback and … Continued

How to Report on Risk to Your Board

Have you been asked by the Board to provide a risk report or briefing? It’s natural to be a little nervous about that. But an open dialogue about risk can build trust, shape strategy, and help your nonprofit better execute on its mission. Here are some steps to help you have a great discussion about … Continued

How to Manage Employee Turnover in Your Nonprofit

When you seek resources on how to manage employee turnover in your organization, you’re likely to find resources for how to stop turnover. That makes sense—if employees leave your nonprofit frequently after short tenures, it can be a sign that something is wrong in the organization and needs investigation. But not all turnover is bad, even when … Continued

How to Create a Concierge Experience for Job Applicants

Most of us have been “ghosted” by a prospective employer—even after a promising interview. It’s not cool, and it’s totally avoidable. The time and effort your nonprofit invests to give all job candidates a great experience will produce results. Your top candidates will be more likely to want the job, and those who aren’t selected … Continued

Winding Down: A Risk Management Checklist

A wide range of options should be explored anytime a nonprofit faces serious operational challenges, financial shortfalls and other circumstances that make it impossible to continue normal operations. This Risk Management Checklist offers an overview of the process of dissolution (which is an action governed by state law) as well as a list of the … Continued

How to Ensure Your Nonprofit’s Culture Lives Up to Its Promise

You probably love to talk about the strength of your organization’s culture with job candidates, donors, and your board. But do employees and clients experience your organization’s culture the way you intend them to? If not, they may question whether they want to work for or with your organization. Culture might seem like a squishy … Continued

I Just Got Promoted. Now What?

Many nonprofits pride themselves on promoting leaders from within their organization. If you’re reading this because you recently got promoted at your nonprofit, congratulations! Here are some tips to help you adjust to your new role. Ask lots of questions. You might be tempted to pretend you know everything there is to know about your new … Continued

How to Be a Great Mentee

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably found a mentor, or are working to do so. Congratulations! Mentoring can help you grow as a professional and open new doors in your career and even your personal life. Here are some tips to make the most of your mentoring relationship and be a great mentee. Know what you’re looking … Continued

How to Be a Great Mentor

Mentoring a colleague or intern can be an incredibly rewarding experience for both parties; the lessons and learning from a mentorship can be beneficial to your nonprofit’s mission as well. If you’re a mentor, here are some ways to build a great relationship with your mentee. Get to know your mentee. Ask about their professional interests and … Continued

How to Safely Negotiate the Return to Workplace Travel

As business travel continues to rebound post-COVID, make sure your nonprofit is ready. Here’s a checklist to evaluate the risks and benefits of travel and navigate health and security issues wherever your team is headed. Cornerstones of Safe Business Travel Create or update your organization’s travel policy. Keep in mind that a travel policy for … Continued

How to Maximize the Benefits of Hybrid Work

Many employees feel most comfortable in a hybrid work environment, where some work takes place remotely and some happen in person. The best strategy to excel in a hybrid work environment is one your team has likely used to excel in other areas: set and reiterate clear expectations, try new things, and adapt quickly when … Continued

Destinations Unknown: How to Create Travel and Transport Policies That Balance Safety and Flexibility

By Melanie Lockwood Herman If you haven’t updated your travel and transportation policies lately, they may be out of sync with your current reality. This article explores a pragmatic approach to creating new or updated travel and transport policies that will help you get out in the community where your mission comes to life. Make … Continued

Transport Technology for Nonprofits: Maximize Benefit, Address Potential Harm

By Rachel Sams If your nonprofit transports the people you serve, it’s time to step up your knowledge of technology. The array of tools marketed to help organizations transport people safely and efficiently exploded in recent years. Options range from telematics to vehicle sensors, cameras, interactive dashboards, and autonomous technologies such as parking assistance. Advances … Continued

We’ll Get There Together: Risk and Reward in Nonprofit Transportation and Travel

By Rachel Sams I recently took my first post-COVID business trip for NRMC, from my home in Albuquerque to San Francisco. NRMC Executive Director Melanie Lockwood Herman and I both found that our airline tickets cost at least 30% more than we might have expected a few years ago. I chose to spend an extra … Continued

How to Become a Pro (or at Least Get Better) at Time Management

Do you struggle to meet deadlines and complete tasks? Almost everyone can get better at time management, and even small investments can yield big rewards. Your work will improve, you’ll be less stressed, and you’ll have more time to work on the things that interest you most—or to focus on the rest of your life. … Continued

How Your Team Can Reframe Challenges as Opportunities

Have you ever sensed  that your nonprofit team adopts a negative frame when you’re talking about a challenge or downside risk? Reframing a challenge as an opportunity could help your team break out of frustration mode, get curious, and form new ideas. Here are some ways to do so. Don’t reframe things that shouldn’t be … Continued

8 Things Nonprofit Leaders Can Do for Their Teams in Tough Times

The past few years have been especially challenging for nonprofits, their teams, and the people they serve. You’ve likely steered your team through many challenges, from budget strains to community grief about injustice and acts of violence. And there will be many more challenges to navigate. Here are some ways to take the best possible … Continued

How to Encourage Collaboration in the Workplace

Collaboration in the workplace can catalyze more creative ideas, help with employee retention, and make it more fun to go to work every day. But it won’t happen without some effort and focus. Here are some ways to foster collaboration in your nonprofit team. Learn employees’ likes and dislikes. Ask your team members what types … Continued

How to Give Great Presentations

A great presentation could help your nonprofit land that transformative grant, find a new partner, or kick off a strategy that will energize your team. Most nonprofit professionals will give presentations during their career, but few receive training on how to present well. Presentations can be a huge source of anxiety, but they also provide … Continued

How to Have Better Meetings

We’ve all attended unproductive or pointless meetings. Why am I here? When will this end? Why am I feeling frustrated and confused? But done well, meetings can bring emerging issues to the forefront, catalyze exciting ideas, build consensus, and form a sense of connection and partnership. Here are some ways to make your next nonprofit … Continued

How to Experiment with a Four-Day

Many workplaces are experimenting with some version of a four-day workweek to help address issues around work-life balance, burnout, and employee retention. Research on four-day workweek trials looks promising, but also identifies challenges. Here are some things to know if you decide to explore this option. Variations on a Four-Day Workweek The 32-hour, four-day workweek: … Continued

How to Secure Private and Confidential Data

Your nonprofit works hard to build trust with the people and communities you serve. To maintain that trust, you must safeguard the data that clients, constituents, partners, website users, and others share with you. Many nonprofits don’t have an on-site cybersecurity expert, but creating and applying some simple data security principles can make a big … Continued

How To: Tell Employees About Layoffs, Restructuring, or Cutbacks

At some point in their life cycle, many nonprofits will have to lay off employees, restructure their operations, or make other budget cutbacks. Here are tips to help you communicate the news to employees in the most humane and helpful way possible. Before Conveying Difficult News Make a plan. Determine how and when you will … Continued

How To: Offer a Sabbatical Opportunity

The concept of work sabbaticals has existed for a long time. It’s gaining popularity in nonprofits as organizations work to stem turnover and address work-life balance. A sabbatical gives an employee a designated period of time to disconnect from work and rest, recharge, and focus on other aspects of their lives. If your nonprofit wants … Continued

How To: Foster Flow (Instead of Distraction) In Your Workplace

When was the last time a work task occupied your full attention? When you looked up and found that an hour or more had passed? This elusive state of being immersed in something, feeling creative and productive, is called “flow.” It’s difficult to find in today’s workplaces, with constant interruptions from various devices and other … Continued

Providing Mental Wellness Support and Services to Staff at Small Nonprofits

The pandemic made clear that nonprofit employers must recognize and respond to employees’ mental health and wellness needs. It also brought to light workplace patterns that take a mental toll on teams. Learn how to provide assistance your employees value and avoid common pitfalls. Listen. Staff surveys, exit interviews, and all-staff meetings can give you … Continued

3 Reasons Workplace Friendships Are Worth the Risk (and 3 Ways to Support Them)

“For our sake—to feel less burned out by our work (and therefore feel more energy when we’re away from work), we would be wise to foster supportive friendships at the very places where we need to protect ourselves from the effects of stress.” – Shasta Nelson, The Business of Friendship When you entered the workforce, … Continued

7 Steps to Train a New Manager

The transition from individual contributor to manager can be one of the toughest times in a person’s professional life. Leading others requires skills people might not have developed working independently. But many people can become outstanding managers. New managers’ supervisors play a huge role in their success. Here’s a seven-step plan to help the new … Continued

Simple Steps to Infuse Your HR Practices with the Platinum Rule

An often-cited maxim for how to treat people is the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But in our diverse workplaces, our colleagues might want to be treated very differently than we do. Bring a more inclusive approach to your human resources practices by applying the Platinum Rule: … Continued

How To Be Age-Inclusive in Your Hiring

Age diversity can make your nonprofit team more creative and innovative. And if that’s not enough motivation, age discrimination against people over 40 is against the law.* Here are some tips to ensure your hiring is age-inclusive. Set a Foundation for Age Diversity Within Your Organization Share information about your nonprofit’s open positions widely within … Continued

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

Recession Lessons and Insights

We asked experienced nonprofit leaders to share their experiences managing risk in previous recessions, and what they learned. Here are three of their stories. I was in charge of our accreditation department during the 2020 recession caused by COVID. I think for 2020, at the end of the day, my focus was always on the … Continued

Recession Risk: Look Back and Forward to Fortify Your Mission

By Rachel Sams How are you sleeping these days? Many nonprofit leaders might struggle to fall asleep due to worries about the economy. Experts believe 2023 will bring a U.S. recession, despite the economy making a stronger showing than expected at the end of the year. Fannie Mae, which finances mortgages, predicts the U.S. economy … Continued

Scope Out Scenarios to Inspire Confidence During a Recession

By Melanie Lockwood Herman The prospect of a recession—whether it’s the short-term variety we experienced in 2020, or the long-term version whose impact stretched well beyond 2008—should inspire a commitment to pause and reflect. None of us know how and when the most mission-impactful risks will materialize. But any planning we do now will serve … Continued

Applying a Risk-Aware Frame to Your Nonprofit’s Most Impactful Decisions

Many nonprofit leaders might not think about risk until a board member or committee asks them to or an unanticipated development or event disrupts operations. A risk-aware approach can help your nonprofit make better decisions in all aspects of its work. Bringing a risk lens to your work doesn’t have to be taxing or complex. … Continued

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

Hiring Employees with Criminal Records: An Inclusive Approach

Many nonprofits seek to build staffs whose lived experiences mirror those of populations they serve. As part of that effort, some organizations hire employees with criminal records. Here’s what to consider to ensure you take an inclusive approach to recruiting and hiring employees with criminal records. Set goals. Why does your nonprofit want to implement a … 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

How to Build Your Nonprofit’s Resilience

A resilient organization has a strong foundation to weather adversity and bounce back better. With forethought and planning, all organizations can become more resilient. Here are nine ways to do it. Don’t rely on one source for your organization’s essentials. Have multiple sources for your nonprofit’s key supplies and services. If your nonprofit is small and … Continued

How Hiring Employees with Disabilities Can Benefit Your Organization

Hiring employees with disabilities brings new perspectives to your nonprofit and helps you meet the needs of the community you serve. Many resources exist to help your organization become an outstanding employer of people with disabilities. Here are some of the ways that work can benefit your nonprofit. First, the basics: Federal law requires organizations … Continued

How to Do a Compensation Review For Your Nonprofit

Compensation reviews can reveal pay equity issues at a nonprofit, or individual cases in which staff members aren’t being paid appropriately for their duties. Here’s how to do an accurate, informative, and valuable compensation review for your organization. Set goals for the review. Why is your nonprofit doing this? Do you hope to uncover and remedy … Continued

2023 Risk Insights: Question Everything

If you have mixed feelings about what 2023 will bring your nonprofit, you have good reason. You and your team are probably exhausted. The demand for nonprofit services surged early in the COVID pandemic and, for many, hasn’t abated. Staffing crises and supply chain issues deepen, compound, drag on. But you’re probably energized for this … 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

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

How to Build and Fortify a Critical Incident Process

By Rachel Sams Want employees to buy into your nonprofit’s critical incident reporting program? Use the words “critical incident reporting” sparingly, says Regina Wright, Senior Advisor for Child and Adult Safeguarding at Save the Children US. When Wright speaks with Save the Children employees, she explains in jargon-free language why incident reporting matters. She strips … Continued

How to Handle the One Thing That’s Certain: Uncertainty

By Rachel Sams What are the big issues your nonprofit’s leaders worry about when they can’t sleep? Racial and social justice? Climate change? Inflation and economic uncertainty? All of the above? Does your nonprofit invest time to talk about these issues and potential ways to address them? Or do leaders move from one pressing day-to-day … Continued

Take Action on Risk: Make a Plan, Not a List

By Rachel Sams “Research has shown that of all forms of human motivation the most effective one is progress. Why? Because a small, concrete win creates momentum and affirms our faith in our further success.” – Greg McKeown, Essentialism Are you a compulsive or habitual list maker? If so, you’re not alone. Many risk management … Continued

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: Be More Inclusive in Staff Supervision

Managing other employees is one of the most important roles a leader can have. Inclusive supervision should be a top priority for nonprofit leaders who manage others. But most leaders have never been taught to do that. Here are some practices that will help. As you’ll see, your team members’ feedback will paint a picture … 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

What Youth-Serving Nonprofits Need To Know About Youth-On-Youth Abuse

By Rachel Sams and Melanie Lockwood Herman Youth-serving nonprofits invest a great deal of time and effort addressing the risk that an adult associated with their programs could harm children. Many youth-serving nonprofits may not have gone to the same lengths to address the risk that youth participants in their programs could harm other young … Continued

Youth Mental Health: Responsibilities and Opportunities for Nonprofits

By Rachel Sams This article contains information about how to identify and respond to signs of mental health issues and suicide risk in young people. Have you ever looked into the eyes of a young person your nonprofit serves and seen that they were hurting? What did you do? If it hasn’t happened yet, what … Continued

2022 Risk Insights

Can’t bear to consider what unanticipated challenges might lurk around the corner for your nonprofit in 2022? We get it. (Even though, if you’re reading this, thinking about that is probably your job.) As a global pandemic unfolded over the past two years, one catastrophic risk after another became a reality. Nonprofits and their risk … Continued

Managing Executive Turnover Risk

By Melanie Lockwood Herman In the coming year, thousands of nonprofit CEOs will leave their organizations to enjoy retirement, pursue preferred pastimes, and resume travel plans to exotic locales that were delayed by the global pandemic. For most organizations, the departure of a long-time, well-respected CEO will be seen as a costly loss. The best … Continued

Managing Risks and Reaping the Rewards of Remote Teams

By Whitney Claire Thomey Remote work—a facet of the working landscape for three-plus decades—quickly became the default construct for businesses and nonprofits alike in 2020. In short order, leaders across the nonprofit sector learned that remote work was not only possible but also practical at a fantastic scale. Experience corroborated what the research indicated—many people … Continued

Tackle Training Tactfully

By Katharine Nesslage All employees will, at some point, encounter occasions when they need to learn or adapt their skillset to succeed in their role. Workplace training and cross-training enable staff to gain the necessary proficiencies to perform their duties while contributing to the organization. Strong training programs aid in risk mitigation, increase employee engagement, … Continued

Word to the Wise: Three Phases of Executive Succession

By Don Tebbe, Author, Speaker, & Consultant ( Don Tebbe is an experienced advisor to nonprofits on CEO transition and leadership succession. For over 25 years, he has specialized as an executive succession consultant, helping hundreds of nonprofit leaders plan for and manage their departures. Mr. Tebbe shared his thoughts and insights on the biggest … Continued

Safe and Supported: The Intersection of Psychological Safety and Fruitful Risk Practice

By Erin Gloeckner   “My input isn’t valued here.” “My coworkers always reject my ideas.” “I feel so stupid around my boss.” “I have to pick my battles.” “It will be safer for me if I keep my head down.” “I wanted to warn them, but I couldn’t risk being ridiculed again.” “I told them … Continued

Workplace Culture: The Foundation for Sound Risk Practice

By Whitney Thomey Workplace culture has gone viral. In less than a second, Google will return nearly 400,000,000 results on the question “What is workplace culture?” From surveys to engagements, renewed values statements to grand-scale reorganizations, nonprofit leaders are focusing on how culture is defined, infused, and perceived throughout the organization. Workplace culture is central … Continued

Examining Fiscal Risk for Mission-Minded Success

By Whitney Claire Thomey Powerful missions, community advocacy, and life-changing programs can only happen when nonprofits have sufficient financial resources and strong financial management. Sound financial decisions and financial risk management protect critical assets and make it possible for a nonprofit to deliver the services and programs that bring a charitable mission to life. However, … Continued

Heads Up: Why Fortified Fiscal Oversight is Key to Financial Well Being

By Melanie Lockwood Herman During the past 15 years, I’ve been honored to serve as a volunteer board member for several organizations. My first board role was for a community-based organization in the small village where I live. I had long admired the nonprofit’s historic preservation and conservation mission, and when the invitation to consider … Continued

The World of Nonprofit Finance Risk

by Melanie Lockwood Herman and Whitney Thomey Myriad situations make up the world of nonprofit finance risk. The image above illustrates some of the common preventable, strategic, and external sources of risky financial situations nonprofit finance leaders may encounter. We offer the following recommendations for fortifying your organization against downside effects. Uncover What are the … Continued

2021 Risk Forecast

The year 2020 was a long lesson in change and adaptation for many Americans and our institutions. Existence in the era of COVID–19 further illuminates our societal fissures and impels increased scrutiny of American values and systems—including the impact of the charitable sector and its capacity to successfully serve communities disrupted by the pandemic. All … Continued

Framework to Implement a Cybersecurity Plan

by Afua Bruce for NTEN Once organizations understand what cybersecurity is and recognize that it is a threat to their operations, the next step is to assess what cyber risks the organization has. By conducting risk assessments and implementing appropriate protections, organizations can decrease the likelihood of a cybersecurity attack. Additionally, the risk assessment process … Continued

Know Your CyberSpeak: A Cyber Risk Glossary

Navigating the world of cyber risk often feels a lot like learning a foreign language. Terms and concepts can be confusing and unfamiliar. This Cyber Risk Glossary will help nonprofit leaders as they examine cyber liability insurance policies and develop the necessary technology-related security protocols to protect their missions. Cloud – The term “Cloud” refers … Continued

What Your Board Needs to Know About Cyber Threats

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Risk is top-of-mind for many nonprofit boards these days. Board members understandably want to grasp the top risks facing an organization and have confidence that the management team is prepared to weather the downside risks it cannot avoid. And based on our work with nonprofits across a wide spectrum of missions, … Continued

Business Continuity Planning: Taking it from the Backburner to Front and Center

(download The Business Continuity Planning issue of Risk Management Essentials, here.) By Whitney Claire Thomey Certain aspects of the risk management discipline are more compelling than others. It’s easy to see how Enterprise Risk Management harnesses the power of your organization’s strategic initiatives and bolsters the opportunity for your mission to grow and succeed. Having candid … Continued

Cloud Computing – BCP Boon or Boobytrap?

(download The Business Continuity Planning issue of Risk Management Essentials, here.) By Katharine Nesslage Many nonprofits are routinely taking advantage of the “Cloud” to provide low-cost software and data solutions. Gone are the days when organizations were required to purchase and maintain expensive servers on-site to house their applications and data. The allure of being able … Continued

Three Chords & The Truth: Methods for Approaching Business Continuity Planning

(download The Business Continuity Planning issue of Risk Management Essentials, here.) By Melanie Lockwood Herman Many nonprofit leaders are seeking a clear, ‘best practice’ approach to creating a business continuity plan for their organization. Preferably a simple, straightforward approach that won’t take too much time. Or too much effort. Or rock the boat. This article offers … Continued

Contentious Conversations: Talking Politics at Work

(download The Political Risk issue of Risk Management Essentials, here.) Is civil discourse creating a toxic environment in your workplace? According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) Politics at Work Survey, deepening divisiveness across party lines is a catalyst for workplace conflict. This often results in lower productivity, employee alienation, poor morale, increased … Continued

Engage: Inspiring Voter Participation and Engagement

(download The Political Risk issue of Risk Management Essentials, here.) By Whitney Claire Thomey Elected officials have a direct influence on fundamental issues related to our quality of life. These issues encompass everything from the minimum wage to the availability of funding for community-supported programs, from investments in vital infrastructure to the staffing of public … 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

All Aboard: Embracing ERM in Your Nonprofit

By Melanie Lockwood Herman If you’ve been hearing references to Enterprise Risk Management or ERM frameworks you’re probably wondering whether this particular incarnation of risk management is relevant to your organization. You may also be wondering whether transforming a perfectly good risk management function into an ERM program is worth the time, effort, and expense. … Continued

Oh! The Places We Will Go with ERM

By Katharine Nesslage Nonprofit teams that resolve to strengthen risk capabilities by embracing Enterprise Risk Management should integrate an evaluation component from the start. Why? Early supporters of your ERM program will want to see and understand how the program is changing the organization for the better. And as a risk champion, you’ll want to … Continued

Who’s on First? Getting the Players in Place for ERM

By Christy Grano In a famous 1930s skit “Who’s on First,” comedian Lou Costello tries hopelessly to learn the names of players on a fictional baseball team as his straight man Bud Abbott explains that the basemen are named “Who,” “What,” and “I don’t know.” The two nearly come to blows in the mounting confusion … Continued

Three Risk Trends to Keep in Mind as you Enlist Volunteers

By Christy Grano In my work with nonprofit teams, I am repeatedly impressed with the array of terrific volunteer programs that support nonprofit missions; that positive impression swells when I observe smart risk management practices in volunteer recruitment and supervision. I experienced first hand the positive message that a clear, compelling volunteer training transmits to … Continued

Don’t be Dispassionate: How to Use Emotional Impulses to Make Better Decisions – Full Article

By Glenn Mott “Heuristic / you risked it.”  —Hank Lazer Recently, I had an opportunity to read a special issue of the Harvard Business Review called “The Brain Science Behind Business”—a compilation of previously published articles about neuroscience. Reading these articles got me thinking about the role of heuristics in risk management. Heuristics refers to … 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

Risking It All to Save the World: An Analysis of Risk Management Practice and Risk Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector

The risk management discipline continues to evolve and gain traction across the nonprofit sector, with organizational leaders recognizing risk management as a mechanism for loss prevention, quality improvement, informed decision-making, and mission advancement. Using results of two recent surveys conducted by the Nonprofit Risk Management Center (NRMC), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit committed to enhancing risk management … Continued

Competition: A Risk Aware Definition

By Glenn Mott To voice the word “competition” is to summon the idea of defeating or establishing superiority over others. People sometimes modify this by adding the word “healthy” to competition, as a sign of good intentions. Which only emphasizes the point. Competition, in its contemporary usage, is a word with thorns for those who … Continued

Collaboration: Building the Intentional Partnership

By Glenn Mott Motivations to collaborate run the gamut from the desire to access talent and resources to satisfying funders or other stakeholders, conserve financial resources, or bolster recognition and awareness of your cause or services. Collaborations can be a test drive for eventual mergers, but a much more common reason for partnerships is to … Continued

The Future is Now: Preparing for the Unknown Crisis

Preparing for a possible future crisis can feel overwhelming and abstract for many nonprofit leaders. With competing priorities and meeting the needs of stakeholders on a day-to-day basis, taking the time to think through how your nonprofit will respond to a currently non-existent crisis can end up taking a back seat. However, when a crisis … Continued

Right Back At It: Fostering Organizational Resilience

“The difference between a strong man and a weak one is that the former does not give up after a defeat.” – Woodrow Wilson Resilience is often defined as the ability to recover after a setback or in the face of adversity, or having the capacity to adapt to new challenges. For many nonprofits, resilience … 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

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

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

Data Privacy and Cyber Liability: What You Don’t Know Puts Your Mission at Risk

By Erin Gloeckner and Melanie Lockwood Herman If you were a long-time donor to a nonprofit, and just learned that your credit card details provided to the nonprofit to make a donation are now in the hands of a hacker, would you ever trust that organization again? In an article about nonprofits and sensitive data … Continued

Fear, Failure and What’s Next

By Melanie Lockwood Herman My colleague Diana Del Bel Belluz recently sent me the link to an episode of the CBC Radio program Tapestry, hosted by Mary Hynes. The episode, titled “To Err is Human” explores a number of subjects, including two of my favorites—failure and fear. The broadcast begins with a conversation between Hynes and Canadian … Continued

A Blueprint for Facility Risk Management

By Eric Henkel Nonprofits own and operate many different kinds of facilities. Although in other business functions, risk may be less visible or apparent, the facilities we occupy are under our feet and above our heads every day. From warehouses to recreational spaces to commercial kitchens and traditional office space, the facilities that nonprofits occupy … Continued

Safe and Secure: Supporting International Staff

By Eric Henkel The safety and well being of employees is generally a top-of-mind concern for nonprofit leaders. When an organization deploys its staff internationally, additional uncertainty enters the already complex risk landscape. Deployed staff members may work in limited resource environments or in conditions of cultural and political instability. Issues that might seem routine … 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Staff Training: Neglected Element of the Risk Management Equation

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Nonprofit leaders are quick to rank staff training as an important goal in the workplace. During discussions with funders and other external stakeholders many managers tout the commitment of their organizations to provide inservice training to paid and volunteer personnel. Yet the commitment to training may waiver when grant dollars or … 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

Dysfunctional Characters Often Sit at the Board Table

By Eileen Morgan Johnson The character types described below are from “20 Dysfunctional Board Member Character Types,” by Eileen Johnson, Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, LLP. Reprinted with permission from the author. Board Chairs Dictator — The Chair as Dictator does not believe in seeking advice or input from fellow board members, staff or consultants because … Continued

Drive Safely: Transporting Participants Without Incident

According to the National Association of Fleet Administrators, 20 percent of fleet drivers will be involved in a vehicle accident annually, at an astounding price tag of $18 billion to U.S. employers. Certain types of accidents — such as when a van flips over — seem to occur with increasing frequency. These tragedies attract the … Continued

Don’t Be Ensnared by the Risks of Fundraising

New Book Sheds Light on Fundraising and Collaboration Risks The Nonprofit Risk Management Center has published a new text on the emerging topic of fundraising risks: No Strings Attached: Untangling the Risks of Fundraising & Collaboration. An excerpt from Chapter 4: Individual Donors: Roping ‘Em In appears below. To order a copy of this new … 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

Developing Risk Management Policies for Your Volunteer Program

There is no single way or ideal approach to managing the risks that arise from volunteer service. In No Surprises: Harmonizing Risk and Reward in Volunteer Management, the Nonprofit Risk Management Center explores various facets of risk associated with volunteer programs and organizations. This popular book, now offered as a 5th edition, outlines practical ways … Continued

Partner with Care and a Prenuptial Agreement

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Throughout the year, countless brides and bridegrooms come join together, happily anticipating a lifetime of wedded bliss. Many nonprofits engage outside consultants and vendors in the hope that these “unions” will enable the nonprofit to achieve some aspect of its mission. In some cases outside help is retained to meet the … Continued

Look Before You Leap

Exercise Caution When Engaging Consultants By Barbara B. Oliver Expertise that is needed on a short-term and targeted basis or during an economic downturn or a drop in donations can spur a nonprofit to seek outside expertise. Those that hire consultants may save dollars in the long run, if they are wise employers of those … Continued

Charitable Registration: Resolve to Comply

By Don Kramer Charities soliciting charitable contributions to further their mission can be tripped up significantly if they don’t pay attention to the requirements for charitable solicitation registration. Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia require charities, unless exempt or excluded, to register before asking residents of their jurisdictions for contributions. The requirement applies not … Continued

How to Bring the Power of Intuition to the Discipline of Risk Management

By Melanie Lockwood Herman In her thought-provoking book, Artistry Unleashed, Hilary Austen lays out a framework for tapping surprise, uncertainty, ambiguity and change to improve personal performance. To a traditionalist, risk management theory and practice seem to be at war with Austen’s invitation to embrace uncertainty. The stereotypical risk manager works to eliminate or reduce … Continued

Fiscal Responsibility and Oversight: Empower Your Board to Lead

By Melanie Lockwood Herman (This article is excerpted from the book, Financial Risk Management: A Guide for Nonprofit Executives. While it is rare in a mature nonprofit for a board member to perform day-to-day bookkeeping or financial management duties (such as making journal entries or signing checks), board members exercise overall responsibility for the fiscal … Continued

Have You Renewed Your Nonprofit’s Corporate Status?

Most states require nonprofit corporations to file an annual report with the state in order to maintain the nonprofit corporation’s good standing in that state. If you fail to submit the annual report, the state is unlikely to remind you. Instead, you may discover down the road that unbeknownst to you, the corporation’s good standing … Continued

Senior Volunteers: A Priceless Resource

Note: This article is excerpted from the Nonprofit Risk Management Center’s book, No Surprises: Harmonizing Risk and Reward in Volunteer Management—5th Edition. Seniors are participating as volunteers for nonprofit organizations in record numbers. Participants include AmeriCorps—formerly Senior Corps, the federally-funded national “network of programs that tap the experience, skills, and talents of older citizens to … Continued

Key Principles in Youth Protection: Considerations and Action Steps

 NOTE: This article includes excerpts from Chapter 6 of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center’s book, EXPOSED: A Legal Field Guide for Nonprofit Executives-2nd Edition. NRMC is deeply grateful to Mark E. Chopko for his valuable contributions to this article and EXPOSED. Nonprofit leaders often seek ‘best practices or standards for excellence for which to aim … Continued

Big Bucks or Big To Do About Nothing: CEO Compensation in the Spotlight

by Melanie Lockwood Herman Published stories about salaries paid to nonprofit CEOs often include scathing comments from individuals who take offense at what they regard as too-rich pay for charity leaders. And it’s not only donors, journalists and casual onlookers who take offense to what they perceive to be exorbitant pay. Recently several state governments … 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

A Violation of Trust: Fraud Risk in Nonprofit Organizations

By Jonathan T. Marks, CPA, CFF, CITP, CFE, and Pete A. Ugo, CPA The risk of fraud is a serious concern for all types of enterprises, but fraud can be particularly damaging to a nonprofit organization, for which a damaged reputation can have devastating consequences. The Costs of Fraud in Nonprofit Organizations According to the … Continued

Avoid Transition Trauma with a CEO Succession Plan

by Melanie Lockwood Herman and Erin Gloeckner CEO succession planning can be a touchy subject. Members of a nonprofit board may fear the risk of insulting a CEO by suggesting the topic as an agenda item. Some CEOs may feel disinclined to raise the subject because it could send mixed signals about their intent to … Continued

Risk on the Road: Managing Volunteer Driver Exposures

Many nonprofits rely on volunteer drivers to help fulfill their programs and services. Whether the drivers are taking seniors to medical appointments or bringing meals or library books to those unable to leave their homes, opportunities abound for volunteers to fill a much-needed gap in transportation services in our communities. Nonprofit leaders are often concerned … Continued

Insurance Fails to Cover Drunk Driving Accident

This article first appeared in Don Kramer’s Nonprofit Issues, and is reprinted here with permission from the publisher. For more information on Nonprofit Issues, visit Veterans of Foreign Wars Post has no insurance to defend it against a suit for injuries caused by a person drinking at the Post and then causing an automobile … Continued

Coping With Crisis: Managing Employee Fear and Low Morale

In the weeks and months following a major disaster or traumatic event, employers in government entities and nonprofit organizations discover unprecedented levels of fear and concern on the part of staff. The evidence manifests itself in many ways. People with perfect attendance records call in sick at record levels, seriously impairing the organization’s ability to … Continued

Election Year Risks

Avoid these Campaign Pitfalls Most nonprofit managers are aware that a charity may not directly campaign for, or against, a candidate for public office. The penalty is severe — loss of tax-exempt status. However, there is often confusion about related activity, and whether it is improper — or permissible — under IRS regulations. For instance, … Continued

Defining Disability

Supreme Court Offers Additional Insight in Recent Cases by Barbara Raimondo, JD Three U.S. Supreme Court decisions narrow the definition of who is a qualified individual with a disability for purposes of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The rulings provide that if an individual is able to mitigate fully the effects of the disability, … Continued


Achieving Fiscal Fitness

Achieving Fiscal Fitness By John Gillespie This year could be a make–or break–year for nonprofits of all sizes. Whether this is the year your organization plans to expand or transitions from treading water to gaining strength, it is imperative to take the time to assess your internal staff and procedures as well as conduct a … Continued

Vital Partners in Youth Protection: Engaging Parents and Caregivers

By Emily Stumhofer You’ve seen it in the news or heard about it through the neighborhood gossip chain, but you hope you’ll never hear the same news again: an appalling allegation of child abuse is uncovered at a trusted nonprofit. Almost anyone would feel repulsed, devastated, or enraged at such news, but perhaps the news … Continued

Before You Hit the Road: Stepping Stones of Driver Safety

The leading cause of work-related death is motor vehicle collisions, therefore making the most dangerous part of your volunteers’ and employees’ workday the time spent on the road on behalf of your nonprofit. If your organization routinely (or even occasionally) has employees or volunteers drive any type of motorized vehicles as part of their job, … Continued

Avoid Distracted Driving: Don’t Get Teary & Put Down Siri

Whether it is sending a quick text or recalling a very emotional memory or event, distracted driving is incredibly commonplace on roads throughout the United States and abroad. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes three primary varieties of distraction: visual—taking your eyes off the road manual—taking your hands off the wheel cognitive—taking … Continued

Cyberbullying & Cyber Threats to Young People

By Lexie Williams In August of 2009, a nonprofit college preparatory day school in Los Angeles was sued for $100 million dollars by a student’s parents following a case of on-site cyberbullying. The incident occurred when nine students accessed another student’s personal website from school computers and left death threats. The lawsuit alleged negligence committed … Continued

Going Up? Elevator Talk, Risk Management and the Nonprofit Board

By Melanie Lockwood Herman The Board of Directors sits atop the organizational chart of a nonprofit organization. Board issues are either self-initiated or are “elevated” by staff for board consideration. Both approaches are inherently necessary to the board’s governance role. And while there are myriad definitions, governance is essentially the “means in which the leading … Continued

Glossary of Risk Management and Insurance Terms

This glossary was originally published in Coverage, Claims and Consequences: An Insurance Handbook for Nonprofits. Accident — Unexpected or chance event. This term is frequently defined in older commercial general liability (CGL) policies. Accident medical reimbursement insurance — Covers medical expenses for injuries arising out of accidents, regardless of liability. Traditionally also provides a schedule … Continued

Emergency Evacuation Strategies

Fires, explosions, chemical releases, violence or biological releases pose a threat to everyone in your organization’s facilities. One way to ensure the safety of all affected populations and reduce the risk to your organization is to have an evacuation plan. The beauty of this strategy is that even the smallest organization operating with meager resources … Continued

Crisis Management Essentials

Every nonprofit would be well-served to spend time planning how it will cope with a crisis. The crisis management plan for your nonprofit will detail how you will deliver your organization’s programs despite adverse conditions. The strategies should encompass events such as fires, explosions, power outages, natural disasters, theft, embezzlement or the death of the … Continued

Communicating During a Crisis

Headline news. Something you may dream of having — when it showcases your public entity, company or nonprofit organization and your products and services in a positive light. Unfortunately, the news media thrive on tragedy, drama and scandal — not the good news. Crisis in the nonprofit sector feeds the frenzy, because the organizations are … Continued

Vetting Partner Organizations & Drafting MOUs

It takes more than a handshake between friends, neighbors or colleagues to ensure that collaboration will succeed. If your want to feel as good about your partners, the results and yourself coming out as going in to a joint project, fully consider the ethical and risk management implications before entering into the agreement. If you … Continued

Bomb Threat or Threatening Call Checklist

The danger of a possible fire or bombing is too great to ignore. All phone calls threatening bombs, arson, death or bodily injury should be treated as real expressions of the caller’s intention to inflict injury or damage. In the case of a letter bomb, the U.S. Postal Service and several other sources, advise training … Continued

Crisis or Hoax? Responding to Hoaxes

One person’s practical joke may be viewed by others as lack of vision, poor judgment or malicious intent. How do your staff members know the difference? If you’re making the assumption that everyone innately knows, you may find you’re doing more than “Making an a_ _ of you and me,” as the saying goes. At … Continued

On a Smaller Scale: Adapting Crisis Management Principles for Small Nonprofits

Crisis prevention is doubly important for small public entities, companies and nonprofit organizations. Small organizations often have fewer resources to draw on when a crisis erupts, and insurance and other risk financing tools may not be an available due to the organization’s meager financial resources. But every organization, from the smallest to the largest can … Continued

Handling Suspicious Packages and Letters

Mailroom security, an area often overlooked as policies and procedures are created or updated to reduce risks and losses, has risen in importance following the biological scares in late 2001. Small government entities or nonprofit organizations are especially vulnerable because many don’t have a centralized mailroom or designate a single person to receive and distribute … 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

Youth Program Sample Code of Conduct

S A M P L E This form may be adapted to use with preteen or teenage participants in your program. You may wish to make the language less formal or the vocabulary less sophisticated, depending on the developmental stage of the young people in your programs. You might also wish to add or subtract … Continued

Unmasking the Discipline of Risk Management

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Note: This article is excerpted from the Nonprofit Risk Management Center’s book, Ready…or Not: A Risk Management Guide for Nonprofit Executives. The discipline of risk management is incorrectly masked in mystery. Leaders of nonprofit organizations may believe that formulas can be applied to discern both the likelihood of good or harm … Continued

Safety is Not a Luxury: Understanding the Risks of Passenger Vans

Large passenger vans, especially those that seat fifteen people, are a popular method of transportation for many nonprofits because they are size-efficient and cost-effective. Church groups, youth sports teams, student groups, and summer camps and other seasonal activity organizers often utilize these vans, and so do other organizations that need to move groups of clients, … 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

Accountability Measures: A Closer Look at Service Statistics

Accountability Measures A Closer Look at Service Statistics By John C. Patterson In this age of increased accountability, nonprofits are subjected to increased scrutiny in financial management, outcome measurement, and new service statistics. Service Statistics Service statistics may include an organization’s membership, numbers of clients served, and hours of service delivered. Organizations have a great … 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

Be Proactive in Times of Crisis

Be Proactive in Times of Crisis 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, President … Continued

Better Knowledge Enhances the Insurance-Purchasing Decision

Better Knowledge Enhances the Insurance-Purchasing Decision What Nonprofits Can Learn from Recent Headlines By Melanie Lockwood Herman and George L. Head, Ph.D.

Code of Conduct Sample

S A M P L E This form may be adapted to use with preteen or teenage participants in your program. You may wish to make the language less formal or the vocabulary less sophisticated, depending on the developmental stage of the young people in your programs. You might also wish to add or subtract … Continued


eNoculation Shortly after the I Love You” virus shut down computers all over the world, The Wall Street Journal published an editorial titled, “Love Bug Victims Don’t Want the Cure.” The gist of the piece was that folks actually enjoy these disruptions to the routine and that it is especially good for companies that market … Continued

“Everything’s Fine? We’ve Got Insurance!”

Everything’s Fine? We’ve Got Insurance!” By George L. Head Insurance clearly has its proper, but limited, place in risk financing, which is to pay the truly unpredictable, truly catastrophic loss for which no one can plan or take effective precautions. Relying more on retention for lesser, more predictable and preventable losses, however, leaves your nonprofit … Continued

Financial Sustainability: The New Frontier

By Melanie Herman and Jessica Say Ensuring that adequate funds are available to support the mission of a nonprofit may be the ultimate challenge facing today’s nonprofit sector leaders. The clarion call to “diversify” an agency’s funding sources is often heard, but ultimately hard to achieve. Uncertainty about the ability of a nonprofit to finance … Continued

Help Wanted! Screening Challenges for 21st Century Nonprofits

Help Wanted! Screening Challenges for 21st Century Nonprofits By Melanie Lockwood Herman and Jennifer Chandler Hauge

How to Lose Your 501(c)(3) Tax Exempt Status (Without Really Trying)

It’s easy for a nonprofit organization to maintain its tax exempt status—and can be just as easy to lose it. Each year, the IRS revokes the tax-exempt status of more than 100 501(c)(3) organizations. Organizations recognized as exempt from federal income tax under this section of the Internal Revenue Code include private foundations as well … Continued

Human Resource Risks and the Forest of Fog

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

IN is OUT, and OUT is IN Outsourcing the Finance or Accounting Function in a Nonprofit

By Alex Ricketts Fiscal Outsourcing Outsourcing financial tasks has become a popular trend in the nonprofit sector. Common reasons nonprofit leaders outsource some or all of their financial management responsibilities include: to gain access to expertise the nonprofit doesn’t require on a full-time basis, to reduce the cost of financial management activity, and to enable … Continued

Increase your Insurance Buying IQ

Increase your Insurance Buying IQ

Increasing Your Liability Protection

Increasing Your Liability Protection Excess vs. umbrella limits By George L. Head, Ph.D. Special Advisor, Nonprofit Risk Management Center

IRS Warns of Internet Scam

IRS Warns of Internet Scam

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

Knee-Jerk Risk Management?

by John C. Patterson Should FBI criminal history record checks be required of individuals who work with children? On the surface, the answer to this question would appear to be a resounding yes. Further analysis, however, reveals that a more conditional endorsement of criminal history record checks is warranted. First, we should state for the … Continued

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

Looking Back, Looking Ahead: Employment Law Changes for 2009

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

Love Those Deductibles!

Love Those Deductibles! By George L. Head, PhD, CPCU, ARM, CSP, CLU

Managing Special Event Risks

Managing Special Event Risks By Joe Risser and Melanie Lockwood Herman Note: This article is excerpted from a forthcoming publication from the Nonprofit Risk Management Center: Managing Special Event Risks: 10 Steps to Safety—2nd Edition. The book will be available for purchase in September. For more information, or to-pre-order a copy, click here. Summer is … 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

New Audit Standards May Feel Like a Foreign Landscape

Has your auditor given you a call about the new audit standards under Statement on Auditing Standards, No. 112 (“SAS 112”)? Officially known as “Communicating Internal Control Related Matters Identified in An Audit,” the new requirements will be unfamiliar to many nonprofits that receive a management letter identifying “significant deficiencies” or “material weaknesses” in internal … Continued

New Electronic Filing Requirement for Small Tax-Exempt Organizations

New Electronic Filing Requirement for Small Tax-Exempt Organizations Annual Electronic Notice — e-Postcard (Form 990-N) Striving to comply with local, state and federal laws is a first step in managing risk well. Acceptable excuses for noncompliance do not include: “I didn’t know.” The penalty for noncompliance may be financial, or in the case of a … Continued

Personal Privacy: The Latest Oxymoron on the Internet

Personal Privacy: The Latest Oxymoron on the Internet

Practice Safe Surfing and Defensive E-Mail

Practice Safe Surfing and Defensive E-Mail By Barbara B. Oliver

Private, Keep Out!

Private, Keep Out! Meeting Your Clients’ Expectations of Privacy Online by Dennis M. Kirschbaum, ARM I would not call myself a runner. Yes, I do jog for exercise a few times a week, but to me a runner is someone who competes in races, wears a number, and has the special shorts and shirts purchased … Continued

Professional Liability and Governance Exposures: A Closer Look

Professional Liability and Governance Exposures: A Closer Look By Pamela Davis Of the myriad of exposures encountered by nonprofit organizations, two are frequently unappreciated and confused: exposures resulting from the consequences of corporate governance and exposures resulting from errors and omissions associated with the delivery of professional and paraprofessional services. The coverage forms that have … Continued

Protecting Your Nonprofit and the Board

Protecting Your Nonprofit and the Board New Book on Nonprofit D&O Insurance Suggests Multi-Faceted Strategy The Nonprofit Risk Management Center offers a comprehensive text on insurance for nonprofits,

Relocating Risks: A Primer for Nonprofits on the Move

Relocating Risks: A Primer for Nonprofits on the Move By Barbara B. Oliver

Resources for Developing or Revising Conflict of Interest Policies

Resources for Developing or Revising Conflict of Interest Policies The following resources may be helpful in developing or revising a conflict of interest policy: Instructions to

Riding Out the Hard Insurance Market

Riding Out the Hard Insurance Market What Your Nonprofit Can Do to Survive and Thrive in Deteriorating Market Conditions By Melanie Lockwood Herman

Rock n Roll n Risk Management

By Melanie Lockwood Herman and Alexandra Ricketts A friend of the Center, who happens to be an accomplished sound engineer, forwarded a terrific article to us this week about how the best rock n’ roll roadies can do things many music fans might believe are impossible. Why? Well, one reason seems to be that roadies … 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

Survey Sheds Light on Screening Practices of Volunteer Organizations

Survey Sheds Light on Screening Practices of Volunteer Organizations APRIL 22, 2008 — Washington, DC — At a press conference attended by representatives of prominent youth serving organizations and the local media, the

Tame Junk E-Mail

Tame Junk E-Mail Take Me Off Your Spam List!

Teambuilding: Rx for Crisis Survival

Teambuilding: Rx for Crisis Survival New Book Offers Practical Tips for Anticipating, Preventing and Surviving a Crisis By Melanie Lockwood Herman and Barbara B. Oliver The following article is excerpted from a new book from the Nonprofit Risk Management Center, Vital Signs: Anticipating, Preventing and Surviving a Crisis in a Nonprofit. For more information, click … Continued

Technology: Boon or Bust?

Technology: Boon or Bust? By Jennifer Chandler Hauge

Ten Tips for Buying Insurance

Ten Tips for Buying Insurance Many nonprofit managers dread the insurance purchasing process. An insurer may demand a lot of information, but then decline to offer a policy. The process may seem to waste valuable time and resources.

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

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

The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right By Melanie Lockwood Herman The beginning of the school year offers a reminder to children and teens that learning isn’t always easy, that hard work generally pays off, and that rules and limits often exist to keep us safe. The same can be said about the lessons, hard work, and … Continued

Theft of Funds is Not Covered by Insurance

Theft of Funds Is Not Covered by Insurance This article first appeared in Don Kramer’s Nonprofit Issues, and is reprinted here with permission from the publisher. For more information on Nonprofit Issues, visit

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

What is “Negligent Hiring?”

What is “Negligent Hiring?”

What to Do During an Earthquake

What to Do During an Earthquake Stay as safe as possible during an earthquake. Be aware that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger earthquake might occur. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and if you are indoors, stay there until the shaking has stopped and you are … Continued

What’s a Pilot

What’s a Pilot? The term “pilot project” is often used by nonprofit leaders to describe an experiment with something new. “We’re embarking on a pilot project” may refer to an experiment with strategy, target audience to be served, or a newly formed partnership or collaboration. According to Harvard Business School Professor Amy C. Edmondson, “pilot … Continued

What’s the Board Got to Do With it?

What’s the Board Got to Do With it? The Vital Link Between Good Governance and Risk Management By Melanie Lockwood Herman During my trip to Australia this summer I was surprised and delighted to see that risk management tops the list of key agenda items for a typical nonprofit board. At a conference for board … Continued

Who’s Afraid of Claims Made?

Who’s Afraid of Claims Made?

Workplace Stress

Workplace Stress Tackling Stress Improves Morale, Productivity and Safety This article is excerpted from the Center’s brand-new, free online resource titled, Workplace Safety Is No Accident — An Employer’s Online Toolkit to Protect Employees and Volunteers. Rising workplace stress is a large albatross hanging around the necks of workers and employers. According to studies of … Continued