01 Jan 2024 Does Your Association Have a Continuity Plan? Tips for Operating After an Emergency
Most large companies have continuity plans to help in case of an emergency. But many associations and nonprofits forget this vital contingency strategy or mistakenly think they don’t need it. Here’s what you need to know about continuity plans for associations and why it’s essential to create one for your organization.
What Is a Business Continuity Plan?
A continuity plan is a predetermined protocol to help any business deal with an emergency that could interrupt operations. It’s designed to help keep communication open and allow you to run on a skeleton basis at minimum if the worst happens.
A solid continuity plan should let many business functions continue — whether remotely or onsite — and keep revenue flowing to avoid significant income loss.
When it comes to associations, your continuity plan should ensure membership doesn’t dip after a disaster, and it should take their needs into account as well as those of the organization.
What Kinds of Emergencies Should You Plan For?
The type of disaster your association might face depends on multiple factors. Most businesses first consider common emergencies related to geography, such as:
- Hurricanes and tropical storms
- Blizzards and northeasters
- Earthquakes and landslides
- Extreme temperatures
- Power grid and infrastructure failures
Scientists and government authorities agree that these incidents are on the rise. What used to be thought of as “once-a-century” events are now happening with alarming frequency.
It’s not just natural disasters that associations should be worried about. Depending on your industry, mission, and structure, you could be vulnerable to other scenarios that affect your ability to operate normally, including:
- Data breaches or ID theft
- Hacking or ransomware
- Accidents on the premises or at events
- Liability lawsuits
How Should You Set Up a Continuity Plan for an Association or Nonprofit?
The first step in developing a continuity plan is to determine which emergencies are most likely to happen. If you’re on the West Coast, for example, thinking about earthquakes and wildfires is wise; people in the Southeast should be planning for hurricanes and flooding.
Then go beyond natural disasters and imagine some worst-case situations based on your unique operation. What if someone got hurt in an outdoor team building exercise at a conference? Could a board member say something that results in an allegation of discrimination? Remember, even if another party files an unsuccessful claim or lawsuit against your association, the disruption to business could be huge in the interim.
How would your association handle the emergencies you envision in your tabletop planning sessions? Many organizations find they’re missing key elements that would let them continue operating during a crisis.
One top protection is having adequate liability insurance. General liability policies cover you for things like slip-and-fall accidents at your office or damage to a rented space. But there are other types of liability protection you should consider:
- Cyber insurance in case of data theft or an accidental leak, as well as data recovery after a natural disaster
- Directors and officers insurance, in the event something leadership says or does results in harm
- Errors and omissions insurance if you’re offering technical advice or certification where a mistake could result in damages
- Employment practices insurance for cases of employee harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination, etc.
- Workers compensation insurance for staff who get hurt on the job
- Umbrella insurance to increase the total cap on your liability protection
- Event-specific insurance for meetings or conferences
More comprehensive liability coverage can protect your association in a wide variety of scenarios and cover things like legal fees, crisis management consultants, and other necessities to safeguard your savings and reputation.
Another area where many associations are at risk is data and technology. Ask these questions to see if you have some common pain points covered:
- Do you use cloud storage or still rely on local drives?
- Does your organization store vital data in multiple locations as a fail-safe?
- How often do you back up data?
- Are your servers in a safe location, preferably off-site?
- Do you have a data recovery plan for damage to essential files or information?
- What is your plan if your internet and/or phones are out of service? How will staff and members reach you or receive messages?
A phone tree for essential workers is a smart idea, assuming cell towers aren’t down completely. Likewise, using a phone answering service as an information clearinghouse will get notifications to people in need.
Jaffe Management is available to help you with your continuity plan and remote services, both in times of emergency and during regular operations. Reach out at 212-496-3155 or get in touch online to let us know how we can assist your association.