Managing organisations in crisis

Sometimes change needs to be made quickly if the organisation is to survive. This section sets out a checklist of things to consider if your organisation is facing crisis… Don’t assume crisis Think you might be facing a crisis? First of all, check your assumptions. If you are asking your beneficiaries, staff, funders and trustees to pull together in the face of unexpected adversity you are making a withdrawal from a limited bank of trust and goodwill. Claiming a crisis to motivate staff to do things when none exists breeds cynicism. Over time  people become  burnt-out, distrustful and slow to react when there are real problems.  So, once you have checked and double checked your facts and are convinced that a sharp change of direction is the only solution, here is some guidance on what to consider: Keep your beneficiaries safe during crisis Ensure that your beneficiaries are safe. If you have any doubts about your ability to provide a safe service because of the crisis, talk to partner agencies or to the commissioning authority to make alternative arrangements. Take care of your staff and volunteers during crisis As with your beneficiaries you have a duty of care to staff and volunteers. Ensure that they are not at risk. Whilst you may not be able to involve people in making the decisions as you might perhaps like, be sure to keep very good communication channels operating. An information vacuum will be quickly filled by hearsay and gossip – which is rarely positive and helpful! Check and double check your facts and make sure you only communicate what you know to be true. See communication and involvement. Stress management during crisis With beneficiaries, staff and volunteers, a sudden change can be extremely stressful. Minimise this stress by maintaining good communication and as far as possible, allowing people to maintain some aspect of familiarity – the same working environment, the same team, the same routine, the same duties. Changing all these aspects at once will very disturbing, especially to vulnerable clients. Maintaining some familiarity will act as an anchor and help manage stress through the change. Manage your finances during crisis Ensure there is good financial control, that you or someone you trust has an excellent understanding of the cashflow and that you know what monies are being spent on what. Check your reserves policy and work with trustees to see if this or other assets can be released. Seek support from trustees during crisis Getting through a crisis will require support from your trustees and the chair. Be clear what it is that has happened, outline the implications and what you need them to do to help. Useful links The Charity Commission has all sorts of useful guidance if you think you might be getting into difficultyACEVO has set up a recession support website for charitiesThe Charities Finance Directors’ Group have also set up a Recession Watch website with useful signposting and advice.

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