Be prepared for a crisis

A crisis at your nonprofit is not the time to improvise what you say to the news media or anyone else.

So create a crisis communications plan to guide you through difficult times.

First, decide who will field questions from the media, and make sure everyone on your staff and board refer all questions to that person.

Then, assign someone to assess the problem and find out how it happened, who it affects, what its impact will be, and what is being done to correct it and ensure it will not happen again.

Based on that assessment, create a statement you can use if you decide to take the initiative and pro-actively inform your board, staff, constituents, donors, partners or the news media about the problem.

The statement should be candid, clear, and as detailed as you can be about what happened and what you are doing about it without violating anyone’s privacy or putting your organization or any individual at legal risk.

When in doubt, run the statement by your lawyer.

You also should use your statement to create talking points you can use to respond to questions from your people inside and outside your organization.

Sticking your head in the sand and pretending no one will notice your crisis and it will go away is a big mistake. Be prepared.

Want professional help?

Philanthropy North Carolina is a consulting practice that provides writing and strategic communications support for nonprofits, foundations, colleges and universities, and others working for social good.

To find out more about hiring Philanthropy North Carolina to work with your organization to improve your communications, contact Todd Cohen at 919.272.2051 or

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