Business continuity planning tips for nonprofits

Business continuity planning tips for nonprofits

A business continuity plan (BCP) is a document that contains guidelines on how business operations can continue during unexpected disruptions. Its purpose is to ensure that critical functions can be restored quickly in case of unplanned events or emergencies, such as fires, floods, terrorist attacks, power outages, or data breaches. A BCP should provide clear guidance on how day-to-day operations will continue to prepare your employees, business partners, and/or consultants for any unforeseen eventuality.

Related article: How to update your disaster recovery plan

Nonprofits, in particular, are as vulnerable to operational disruptions as for-profit businesses. Nonprofit organizations should be aware of these business continuity planning tips so they can remain operational not only during normal circumstances but also during emergencies or disasters.
Understand why your nonprofit should continue to exist and how you can ensure it does
Here are a few things you should identify:

  • The impact on the communities you serve if your organization ceases operations
  • The work that will be undone if your nonprofit fails to continue pushing forward
  • Resource threshold minimums that will still allow you to operate effectively
  • Potential costs of restarting operations from full shutdown both in terms of time and money

Every nonprofit organization has a reason for existence. Staying true to the values and purposes of your nonprofit can help you determine the most important parts of your organization. When you have a good picture of the most critical aspects of your organization, you can take the right steps to ensure they continue to serve their respective purposes.

Know your people, roles, and responsibilities

Business continuity planning is usually founded upon the organization's understanding of how people, roles, and responsibilities support processes. This is why it's important to gain a clear understanding of these variables from the top to the bottom of your organization, leaving no one out.

Knowing every person and their roles and responsibilities will help you identify the right approach to your continuity planning. Furthermore, this information is a good basis for determining which people can be assigned certain roles in the recovery and continuity process.

Learn the risks and threats your organization faces

Your nonprofit will face both internal risk and external threats, either of which can derail your plans and your missions. Internal risks unique to certain nonprofits include severe liquidity issues and shifting political sentiments, which can quickly and significantly affect your funding and mission deployment. Internal risks are within your control, and managing them requires deploying preemptive measures before they arise.

On the other hand, your nonprofit may also experience external threats, such as disasters, calamities, and other events out of your control that can pose threats to people's safety. These events tend to threaten a wider scope of people and organizations, and may put many businesses out of commission for long periods of time.

A good BCP should detail ways to minimize the effects of risks and threats so that your organization isn’t too heavily burdened come recovery time. In other words, mitigation is an important strategy when developing a BCP. Your continuity plan should also outline ways you can soften the blow of disasters and the like. For instance, your BCP can include hybridizing your data storage and management systems, which can ensure your data remains safe, up to date, and easily accessible even if a calamity destroys your server.

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Identify your processes

Different nonprofits have different productivity flows, so make sure to assess your processes to see which ones have the most potential for exploitation or disruption. For instance, if your nonprofit’s communication channels are limited or uncategorized, you may experience communication bottlenecks that may make recovery difficult when disaster strikes.

An example of this is when an organization publishes and disseminates one be-all mobile number for all types of communications. This will almost assuredly lead to perpetually clogged lines, missed text messages, and communication failure that will severely hurt your nonprofit’s ability to survive.

Identifying key functions and activities should be followed by an assessment of the impact on your nonprofit if those functions and activities were disrupted. Once you understand what is absolutely essential to your organization, it is much easier to identify strategies that would permit recovery despite a significant event.

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