Some executives scoff at the idea that they, personally, should be involved in planning for crises..."I have people whose responsibility it is to do that for me," they say. I say, nonsense! If the buck stops with you, you had better understand the nature of potential crises and how your organization would respond. Maybe a member of your staff is given operational responsibility for responding, but the chief executive had better know that a plan exists, that it has been tested, and that it is logical, meaningful, and sufficient.
Crises can take literally hundreds of forms, including:
- Weather-related damage/destruction
- Theft of materials or equipment
- Sabotage of business relationships
- Unwelcome media coverage
- Loss of important membership data
- Hacking into organizational websites
- Compromise of member personal/financial data
- Allegations of sexual misconduct by Board or staff
- Embezzlement of association funds
- Death, injury, incapacitation of key volunteer or staff
- Workplace violence, either in association office or in members' environments
- Public revelations of criminal wrongdoings by volunteers or staff
- Natural disaster impacting meetings or other association operations
- Acts of terrorism
- Destruction of physical property by fire
Obviously, the list could go on for pages.
Like every other business, associations must be prepared to respond when crises occur. That is not to say that a crisis response plan must anticipate every potential crisis, but a plan should be malleable enough to provide a roadmap to association staff and volunteers when a crisis does occur.
A crisis response plan should address:
- Who should be notified
- Who will be in charge
- Alternates in the event primary contacts are inaccessible
- Ways to get in touch with all appropriate people to be notified
- How to reach the authorities and which authorities should be contacted
- How to sustain business operations, if relevant
- How to establish alternative operations centers, if appropriate
- Locations of backup data
- Alternate means of communications in the event of power or infrastructure outage
- Etc., etc., etc.
Just consider what you would do if you walked into your office on a Monday morning to discover that a fire has destroyed your office...your network server is gone, all local computers have melted, your telephone system will not work, all your paper files have burned, and to make matters worse, your pyschological counseling association client has a local meeting scheduled for noon that day. What do you do? How do you recover? What if all this happened after another catastrophe the previous Friday, when the association's chief elected volunteer leader was arrested for groping a client?
If you're an association executive who faced such a dreadfully unfortunate scenario, you would be expected to have a plan to recover quickly. Not create a place. Have a plan.
If you're an association volunteer or elected leader, it would behoove you to ask your chief paid staff executive whether such a plan exists. If not, your CEO should be directed to produce one, quickly.