Times of transition bring unique risks
Be prepared for unexpected changes in leadership
A not-for-profit’s leadership may undergo sudden change for many reasons: illness or death, family issues, the discovery of malfeasance that requires an immediate dismissal, or the opportunity for a dream job that your CEO cannot turn down. When change occurs abruptly, people get nervous; uncertainty, confusion and rumors often result. That can be a problem for organizations that depend upon community support. Board members need to quickly and clearly assure stakeholders – staff, clients, volunteers, and donors – that they have things under control, or risk doing damage to the organization’s reputation and undermining community trust.
Two common mistakes
Resilience Communications sees two mistakes organizations often make when changes happen unexpectedly. First, they are caught without a basic blueprint for who does what when unexpected challenges arise: a that maps out who will do what when unexpected events occur: a crisis communications plan. Second, many organizations lack sound guidelines and/or governance by-laws that maintain transparency and trust during leadership transitions. In times of transition, restoring community trust is key.
Clear communication plans and policies can make all the difference
Problems like this can be minimized or avoided with forethought and preparation. No matter how smoothly things are going in an organization, challenges arise. We recommend that our clients always have two fundamental tools in place:
- A communications plan – A good plan anticipates all sorts of scenarios, outlines internal and external communications strategy and spokespeople and includes draft statements that contain some essential elements: an explanation of what is happening, reassurance that things are under control, a sense of next steps, and a contact person to discuss questions and concerns.
- A governance policy – Think of this as the not-for-profit’s constitution. It sets down the policies and procedures the board of directors must follow, including conflict of interest and confidentiality rules, hiring protocols, and precise explanations of what is expected of every board member and officer. These policies give people road maps to follow when problems arise. They are often requested by sophisticated donors before they make gifts.
Resilience Communications has helped many organizations create communications plans, and assisted them before, during and after reputation-related challenges. Contact us for more information.