It happens, inevitably. A news story goes wrong, a member posts something nasty or wrong or misguided and it goes viral, or a vital member of the staff quits without notice.
Now we have an emergency on our hands, what to do?
In my experience, the automatic reflex of the leadership is to react and respond immediately. It is as if you see a burning house and need to rush in to save anyone inside.
With many emergencies, rushing in may not be the best action. Stop and think for a moment: Ask yourself, what is the house and what is the fire? Sometimes, it can be deceptive.
- Was the news story the problem, or was it the reaction of the viewers? Was there any truth to what they had to say?
- Is the problem post pure nonsense and pot-stirring, or was it the reaction to something else that caused it?
- Why did the staff member quit? Is the situation salvageable, or should it be? What else surrounded this action, and, what is the optimal response for your organization? Does this suddenly leave you a gaping hole or a huge opportunity?
Knowing what EXACTLY the emergency consists of is crucial to make the right decision and actions.
A seasoned fire fighter will tell you never to run into a burning building, you don’t know what is on the other side. Putting yourself or your organization at risk will only make a problem worse, if you react to the wrong fire, or the floor on which you thought you could stand gives way beneath you.
Yes, you must respond with alacrity, honesty and compassion. You must also respond with full knowledge of the landscape, which includes parts that may not, ( yet) be burning.
When the alarm goes off, stop, breathe, look, listen, assess. Then decide to call the fire department before you and the hose rush in.
Yes, you do need to be prepared for things to go wrong; having a clear emergency policy for those problems that inevitably occur is only prudent. But emergencies are called that for a reason, you don’t get a warning.
A little Bit of Preparation
Have an emergency kit: know your mission, your policies, your culture and communications. You may not be able to get advance notice, but with care and clarity, the optimal response will be one of thought and vision and consideration, and knowing where to point the hose.
If you’d like help setting it up, get in touch by email here or by voice on 310 828 6979.
As well as advising Executives and Boards on all aspects of nonprofit management, the firm specializes in developing fundraising solutions for all sizes of organizations. Connect with Cindy: Twitter, Linkedin, Quora