CalNonprofits Insurance Services

How to Reflect After a Crisis

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Natural Disasters and Crises are unavoidable events that, in some cases such as the COVID-19 pandemic, cause profound organizational change for nonprofits. Even if you have the best business continuity plan on the planet already in place, crises throw unexpected curve balls at you. In this article, we show you how to reflect after a crisis so you can build resilience in your nonprofit organization. Reflection helps you find the lessons to be learned from the crisis and is a key step in business continuity planning, which builds resilience.  

What is Business Continuity Planning and Why Does it Matter? 

A Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is the documented risk management plan for ensuring the continuance of operations in the event of a disaster, and Business Continuity Planning is that  process by which your organization creates its plan (see also Become a Risk Management Superhero). Undergoing this process and documenting your BCP helps your nonprofit to be better prepared when a natural disaster or crisis hits. 

Once the crisis has passed, you will inevitably have discovered parts of your plan that did not work or need improvement. This is the perfect opportunity to test and review your BCP, which is the final step in the Business Continuity Planning process. By reflecting on what parts of your plan worked and what did not work, you can find opportunities for learning. These opportunities for learning help the organization discover the lessons and takeaways. These can be applied to improve your Business Continuity Plan. 

How to Reflect After a Crisis 

A crisis can sometimes be the catalyst for a nonprofit to evolve and better meet the needs of its stakeholders. However, this opportunity could be missed if your team fails to honestly reflect. It is therefore important to make a concerted effort to identify the successes, failures, and mistakes that occurred. Identifying these should be part of the testing and reviewing process of Business Continuity Planning. 

Question mark in white chalk on black chalkboard
Asking “What” and “Why” questions can dig down to the root cause of the problem.

Reflect by Asking Questions 

It’s important to ask questions as part of your strategiy for reflecting after a crisis. Asking the questions of “What” and “Why” can dig down to the root cause of the problem for accurate identification. Some suggested questions are: 

  • What happened and why?  
  • What were we prepared for and why? 
  • What were we not prepared for and why? 
  • Did parts of our response go well and why? 
  • What were the surprises and why were they surprises? Could they have been avoided? 
  • What were the challenges and why? What could have been done to alleviate these challenges? 

Reflect by Identifying Successes, Failures, and Mistakes 

You can create opportunity from a crisis by identifying the successes, failures and mistakes that occurred. Once these are identified, your organization can find solutions to those areas needing improvement. It is important when going this process that all staff and leadership participate. Organizational-wide participation will uncover as much as possible from a variety of viewpoints. Honest reflection on crisis events requires open, candid communication and reframing failures and mistakes as learning opportunities.  

  • Ask your staff to each go through the process of identifying their personal success, failures, and mistakes during the crisis.  
  • For each outcome list what was the intended objective, what was the possible cause, and what can be learned.  
  • Be sure you foster an environment of non-blaming when reviewing failures and mistakes. Allow for experiential learning to occur. 
  • Take into account your employees’ emotional well-being during this process. Be sensitive and kind in your communications. Take into consideration any trauma or grief staff members may still be going through.  
  • Celebrate successes! Acknowledge the staff members who played a role in what went well. 

Once this has been completed, your organization will be well-positioned to identify the lessons and take-aways from the crisis and how you can apply them to improve your business continuity plan. The BCP should be a living document that changes and grows with your organization.  


Reflecting Uncovers Rich Opportunities for Learning

The process of reflection is the final step in business continuity planning. It is crucial for meeting the challenges of future crises. Asking questions, identifying successes and failures, and applying lessons learned opens the pathways for communication and problem solving amongst staff. This process helps protect your nonprofit mission by building resilience in the organization. During the process of reflection you may uncover rich opportunities for learning. These learning opportunities may be the catalysts for true organizational change that better supports your nonprofit mission 

Risk Management Resources

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Lockwood Herman, M., Presentation: BCP Lessons & Insights from COVID-19, Nonprofit Risk Management Center 2020 Risk Summit, October 19 & 20, 2020.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Photo by Pixaby on Pexels (356079 scaled).

Photo by Pixaby on Pexels (355952).

About the Author

  • Founded in 1984 as a subsidiary of the California Association of Nonprofits (CalNonprofits), CalNonprofits Insurance Services was established during a time of diminishing insurance options for nonprofits. One of the driving reasons for establishing the association was to use the collective influence of the sector to secure more stable and quality insurance. We have developed, and are known for, our wide spectrum of services reflecting expertise in both the insurance and nonprofit sectors, our superior customer service, and our development of exclusive insurance products, including a highly successful dental and vision trust. We insure more than 1,200 nonprofit organizations throughout California and we are the only California brokerage specializing in insurance for nonprofits. Our clients range from newly established nonprofits all the way to venerable organizations with multiple locations statewide.

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