Are you prepared for a disaster?
Many organizations, such as the American Red Cross and CARE, provide relief services to communities in severe situations. But when it comes time to address the possibility of being victims themselves, many nonprofits become proverbial ostriches with their heads in the sand, writes Michael K. Robinson, IT director at full-service fundraising firm Creative Direct Response, in his new book, “Disaster Recovery Planning for Nonprofits.”
The book offers advice to help charities plan for natural disasters, equipment failures, terrorist attacks, theft, scandals and other emergencies.
According to a study conducted by Robinson in spring 2003, only 48 percent of nonprofit respondents have a disaster-recovery plan in place. Sixty-nine percent made an effort to back up essential legal documents, such as tax-exempt applications, 990s, audits and insurance policies, but only 55 percent of those organizations backed up all of the necessary documents.
“Nonprofits are in a sticky situation,” Robinson affirms. “They don’t necessarily have a lot of revenue to devote to this, and if they completely get blindsided, they’re sunk.”
In his book, Robinson cites the horrific case study of Helen Keller International, which was destroyed by debris from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. The cost to rebuild was in excess of $4 million, and all records, databases and archives were lost. According to Alec Rowe, a spokesman for Helen Keller International, everyone in the building escaped safely that day.
“There had to be a lot of [data] retrieved from our field offices,” Rowe says. “Helen Keller [International] reached out to board members to help retrieve backups of important documents and annual reports, and hired a historian to interview past staff members and others to recover stories about Helen Keller and the organization.”