In Alberta’s nonprofit voluntary sector, usually, our top priority is social good. We try our best to make our communities more vibrant, safe and overall better places to live for all Albertans. But, while we have good intentions, we may not always realize the unintended risk that comes with the work we do.
Risk for nonprofits can range from volunteer screening to human resources, working with disadvantaged populations to program failure, reputation management to legal liabilities and inappropriate insurance coverage, everything in between and more. But, what do we do when the unexpected happens and we don’t have the required tools, resources or plans to mitigate and overcome the risk?
The many ways ECVO educates nonprofits about risk
This is why familiarity with risk management is essential when it comes to the operation of any nonprofit or charity. And luckily, there are capacity building organizations like the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (ECVO) that provide education and guidance on not only managing risk, but also foundational knowledge for nonprofits in their community.
ECVO’s ongoing learning events include topics like bylaw refreshers, board member training, human resources training, policy-making, and more. All of which are foundational topics that nonprofits need to know and support risk management strategies.
More recently, risk was the topic at hand at Think Tank Conversations, an initiative that sees the city’s volunteer managers gather regularly to discuss their challenges and co-create solutions.
Author and entrepreneur Paul Shoemaker leading a breakout session at Fail Safe, October 2018.
Participants brainstormed processes and tools to assist them in their volunteer management work, and also completed risk assessment exercises. One key takeaway from their conversations is that risk is unavoidable and the only solution is to be prepared and to have a plan.
And part of the planning process means learning from previous failures. In 2018, ECVO held their first-ever Fail Safe Conference, a conference that creates safe and supportive spaces to discuss various aspects of failure—how it happens, how to learn from it, and how to use it to create success for your organization.
How ECVO manages risk in their programs and services
It is a fitting conference as one risk that ECVO faces most frequently is the potential failure of a program or service according to Russ Dahms, Executive Director at ECVO. “The risk relates to investing resources and not achieving an outcome, as well as possible reputation risk,” says Russ.
So how does ECVO mitigate this risk? “We consult with trusted advisors and may test proposed programs or services with representatives from the intended target market,” says Russ. This is a smart way to trial new programs before investing in a full launch.
What ECVO recommends for your risk management strategy
But programs and services are only one aspect to consider. Russ recommends that as part of your risk management strategy, nonprofits and charitable organizations should include cyber security, and to find a reputable and capable cyber security company to work with.
In addition, Russ suggests that organizations review their policies to confirm that there are sufficient guidelines to support decision making around mitigating risk. He also recommends making sure your insurance provider has a complete understanding of your organization’s activities so that the insurance policy properly covers risk.
“In addition to general comprehensive liability insurance, director and officer insurance is a must,” states Russ. “Cyber insurance is quickly becoming a standard insurance inclusion.”
ECVO intends to offer another workshop on risk management in the fall of 2019, giving nonprofits the chance to learn more about risk management strategies and to be prepared for the unexpected.
The Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (ECVO) is a member-based nonprofit organization serving the nonprofit and charitable organizations in the Metro Edmonton Region. Their vision is a strong, vibrant community strengthened by an effective voluntary sector working with government and business.
Looking for more information related to risk management and volunteer screening? Check out our Volunteer Screening Program for more information.