But running a nonprofit organization is not always smooth sailing, because, as with any other type of organization that exists, problems are always bound to happen. They can sometimes range from something as simple as communication problems, scheduling problems, or personnel problems, or to something as bad as a full-blown crisis. In the case of the latter, how should a nonprofit organization deal with it? Luckily, with something as simple as a crisis communication plan, they have the opportunity to handle it properly and get the organization back on track as soon as possible. But what is this type of document?

What Is a Nonprofit Crisis Communication Plan?

Before we define the crisis communication plan, what is a nonprofit organization? Defined, it is a legal body that is created and operated for the benefit of the general public. They can take many forms, including informal neighborhood groups, food banks, and traditional charities, as well as labor groups, hospitals, and major colleges. Throughout its operational existence, they are obligated to make operational and financial information available to the public so that contributors may learn how and how well their donations have been used. To be officially recognized, the group must specifically indicate in its organizational documents that its operations will not be utilized for personal advantage or benefit for its members.

A nonprofit crisis communication plan is a business document that contains a set of measures that a nonprofit organization can take in the event of an emergency or other unforeseeable incident. It specifies the messaging that the organization will use, how they will communicate with and respond to the community, and, when relevant, the activities that they will take to guarantee the crisis doesn’t happen again. This sort of document can be utilized when a nonprofit organization is dealing with an internal difficulty (such as member conflicts) or an outside challenge (such as external malicious attacks or natural calamities).

What’s Inside a Crisis Communications Plan?

When a crisis strikes inside a workplace or within an organization, this type of document is needed so that the people within know how to deal with it and how to recover from it. This document must be easily understandable and must also contain certain elements for it to be effective. With that being said, here are the elements that make up a crisis communications plan:

Communications Team. This is the first important element of the crisis communications plan. It should identify the individuals within your business who will be in charge of gathering information and arranging internal and external communications when things begin to go wrong. Your senior management team, as well as any social media or site managers who can observe external dialogues to better assess the sentiment among consumers and other stakeholders, should be part of the crisis communications team. The more correctly you can organize your replies, the more you will grasp how people are responding to the situation in real-time. Everyone’s function inside the team should be clearly stated while building a crisis communications team.Communication Procedures. This is the next important component of this document. Apart from identifying who will be part of the crisis communications team of the organization or the company, this document should also include information on how communications will be distributed. To do so, you’ll need to establish some internal communications processes that allow your crisis management team to keep in touch while also facilitating the distribution of updates and alerts to the rest of the workers or members of the company. Furthermore, the strategy should include the routes you’ll utilize to alert external stakeholders and the general public of any crisis developments. This might be accomplished by regular social media activity or a press release.Crisis Anticipation and Strategy. After determining the communication procedures that should be followed during times of crisis, the next component to include in this document would be ways of anticipating crisis. While it can’t be known what disaster may strike the company or organization and when it will strike, it is always a good idea to explore prospective crises with the crisis communications team. This enables them to construct possible solutions, assess what is effective and ineffective in those responses, and predict what questions they may be asked. Every prospective disaster that can be envisaged should be planned out, along with a basic strategy for dealing with each potential crisis. Additionally, the team may also test out various crisis situations so that they remember what to do when a crisis occurs.The Audience of the Plan. Many businesses and organizations feel that while dealing with a crisis, they simply need to be focused on the broader public. They overlook the fact that workers are also an audience to the crisis plan, in which they are an internal audience. They are as vital as the broader public. When speaking about the situation, never neglect them. Furthermore, if the firm in question is owned by the public, stockholders must be designated as plan audiences and addressed in the same manner as workers. Stockholders, like workers, should be briefed on a regular basis throughout the duration of the crisis.Messages for Audiences. After identifying who will the audience of the crisis communications plan be, it is also crucial to determine what messages will be sent to them. In the case of an incident, a crisis communication strategy should give direction on how to deliver critical messages to various audiences. In general, your communications should offer an explanation of events, a rough timeline for the next actions, and an apology and/or statement of sympathy to any victims. Customers will require information regarding the status of their purchases, if they will receive a reimbursement if the order is canceled, and so on whenever they realize anything is wrong. When messaging the employee type of audience, it is vital to promptly transmit vital messages in order to avoid confusion, fear, and rumors. The communications should seek to alleviate their anxieties and doubts while staying truthful and straightforward.Contact List. This is another important part of the crisis communications plan. A current and easily available directory of all the contact information of the company’s stakeholders should be included in the crisis communication plan. The more details that can be obtained for each contact, the better and more ideal the contact list will be. In addition to gathering contact information for the company’s workers, customers, and suppliers, the list must contain information for health agencies, emergency rescue agencies, and any other agencies that may need to be reached based on the nature of the situation. The most essential thing to remember here is that all contact lists must be securely saved in order to preserve sensitive information.Designated Spokespeople. Another important part of the crisis communication plan is determining who will speak to the audience when a crisis actually happens. The communications plan’s chosen spokespeople will be the only ones permitted to make remarks regarding the ongoing issue to internal or external audiences. All other members of the organization or firm should refer any inquiries to these formal representatives. This will keep disinformation and contradicting stories to a minimum. It is also critical that the chosen spokespeople are well-prepared to cope with the challenges of their various tasks.Post-Crisis Strategy. This serves as one of the final parts that should be included in the crisis communications plan. More often than not, when a crisis has passed, brands and enterprises lack a plan for moving ahead. Examining the harm done and how the organization moves ahead should be part of this post-crisis plan. Furthermore, the post-crisis strategy should include lessons gained from the crisis as well as how the crisis has improved your goods, services, and the manner the organization runs.

Steps in Creating a Nonprofit Crisis Communication Plan

Here are the important steps to be followed when creating a nonprofit crisis communications plan; It is much better to have a plan prepared in advance so that in the event that a crisis actually arrives, the nonprofit organization will then know what to do during the crisis and once the crisis subsides.

1. Identify Key Personnel and Their Roles

This is the first step in creating the nonprofit crisis communication plan. In this step, determine the key personnel of your nonprofit organization and their respective roles should a crisis arise. Depending on the size of the nonprofit organization, this team may include solely the executive director, board members, and the head of marketing, but it may also include the HR staff, other members of the marketing team, or members of the team affected by the present problem. A primary spokesperson should be designated, and certain employees may be tasked to answer queries posted on the company’s social media profile. Additionally, ensure that a strategy to reach important team members after hours is present so that the appropriate message may be selected as quickly as feasible.

2. Perform an Assessment

The next thing to do after identifying key personnel and their respective roles is to perform an assessment of a potential crisis that can happen to your nonprofit organization. This step is essential because no matter how well-prepared your business is, there will always be components of the crisis communications plan that must be tailored to the specific scenario. In this step, consider whether anyone would be in imminent danger during the crisis, whether the staff will be properly informed about what is going on, whether who are the appropriate audiences that should be made aware of the situation in the organization, the actions available to minimize the effects of the crisis, and so on.

3. Identify the Communication Channels to be Used

After performing an assessment of the possible scenarios that can happen to your organization, this step will follow. In this step, decide on which communications channels are necessary for the crisis that may unfold and affect your nonprofit organization. Various levels of reactions will be required depending on the scenario. The crisis communications plan should include who is in charge of managing each situation and ways of determining the messaging channel as soon as possible, especially considering how rapidly news circulates on social media these days. Social media, email, and the organization’s website are all examples of communication channels. You’ll also need to establish how frequently you communicate on each channel. It can be done every hour, every few days, or once a week.

4. Monitor What’s Happening and What Can Happen

After identifying the communication channels that the organization can use with respect to the crisis scenario that can unfold, this step will then follow. In this step, keep in mind when making the crisis communication plan that certain issues may take more time to handle than others. It is important that a team member must be appointed in order to monitor the issue on social media as well as other outlets, if appropriate until everything is resolved. This way, access to real-time updates is possible concerning how the community and local government are responding and determine whether disclose of more information is required or taking further action is needed.

5. Stay in Touch With the Team

After monitoring the possible scenarios that can happen and that are currently happening, this step will then follow, which will also serve as the last. It is also critical to have mechanisms in place to allow for regular check-ins among the team in charge of resolving the crisis. That way, there is always an opportunity to improve the approach taken and guarantee it is as effective as possible for future situations. Once it has been determined that the crisis is finally finished, a more formal retrospective to determine what went wrong, what went correctly, and what your plan is lacking in order to manage it better the next time should be performed.


How important is media training during times of crisis?

During a crisis, excellent communication skills are essential, and they can be obtained through proper media training. Media training is vital because it teaches representatives how to communicate with the media and the general public in difficult situations. Identify and give continuous training to those persons within your organization who may be able to effectively communicate with the media in the case of a crisis to increase the likelihood of communicating effectively during a crisis. Training is essential for employees who are responsible for speaking to the media because it teaches them the best techniques to communicate effectively with members of the media.

Should you be proactive about a crisis?

Yes, the organization should be proactive about a potential crisis and it is much better to be proactive about a potential crisis. Because prevention is better than cure, it’s a good idea for your organization to create a habit of discovering and fixing little issues before they escalate into something much more difficult to handle. Proactively seeking feedback from customers and monitoring what others are saying about your organization on social media and review platforms are two ways to be proactive. You’ll have an easier job keeping a favorable public impression if you take reasonable comments seriously and enhance your client experience accordingly.

Being in a crisis can be daunting. How do you remember what you are supposed to do in terms of communication?

When you are a part of a communications team handling a crisis in your organization, one thing that can aid you in remembering what you are supposed to do is a document called a media strategy checklist. This type of document can be important since it helps the team focus on the things that need to be covered while the crisis is going on around the organization. This can also be adaptable to the type of crisis that is currently unfolding, or a generic checklist may be used by the team.

A nonprofit crisis communication plan can prove to be essential to nonprofit organizations since it aids them to have a quick response and it also enables them to think clearly even during the most heated point of the crisis that can happen within the organization. The creation process of this may be intimidating to some nonprofit organizations. To aid in the writing process, sample templates are available in this article for download and viewing so that you can have a reference when writing one, making your writing process somewhat easier.