What if the worst happens over the summer?

publication date: Jul 8, 2018
author/source: Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE

It's summertime and many of us are taking a well-deserved summer break. Unfortunately, bad news doesn't always take a holiday. So here are some ways to get prepared should this summer go from terrific to terrible.

Who's in charge?

A few years ago, I was Board Secretary when our Executive Director gave his six weeks notice in July. Our Board Chair was on a one month vacation in Italy.

Fortunately, we had a clear email from the Board chair outlining who was in charge of what in his absence. Before your ED or Board Chair goes on vacation, be sure they leave a short email identifying and delegating authority in their absence.

Who's next?

Not every ED departure is planned. I once had a boss who became terminally ill very suddenly. There was no succession plan and the charity had to scramble.

In addition to a delegation plan, ask your key staff to leave a quick succession plan should something really bad happen. Honestly, it can just be an email with a couple of names of possible interim people or the name of a couple of search firms who specialize in interim placement in that person's area of speciality. You don't want to be grieving your colleague and also trying to figure out who is qualified to replace them on a temporary basis to keep the charity going.

What's Plan B?

What would happen if your office location was unavailable? Could you get back to work quickly?

Several years ago, I worked for a charity whose offices burned down. [I know, boss died, offices burned down, you are wondering why anyone would ever work with me]. We had to quickly find a new location. Fortunately we were really good about back-ups and also had an off-site safe deposit box with a list of all the key contacts (insurance, banking, funders, etc) that we needed.

Always prepared?

Not all surprises are bad. I once had my largest funder stop by to say "hello" at 3 pm on the Friday before a long weekend.

When reception called me, I was in shorts and a t-shirt cleaning my office of the mountains of accumulated stuff. Fortunately, I always keep a blazer, skirt and a pair of dress shoes. I quickly threw on my proper clothes and went to greet her.

Summertime is a slow time so it is the perfect time to make sure you have some simple safeguards in place. Be sure to take your vacation and before you go be sure that you leave your organization well prepared. You and your charity will enjoy greater peace of mind.

Ann Rosenfield is the Editor of Hilborn Charity eNews and an award-winning fundraiser. She promises that working with her is not bad luck.

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