It seems the world is an angrier place these days — from violent weather to violent people. Whether the havoc comes compliments of Mother Nature or a band of marauding hackers, it’s critical for nonprofits to have a disaster recovery plan in place.
Following are some common questions nonprofits have about creating a strategy for getting up and running in the wake of a disaster.
“Where Do We Start?”
The first step in creating a disaster recovery plan is to identify risks and their potential impact on your nonprofit’s operations. If a major power outage struck your area, for example, would you be able to perform some functions manually for a limited time — or would loss of power bring things to a grinding halt?
By quantifying risks and their impact, you can determine which areas should receive the bulk of recovery resources and how quickly recovery needs to happen.
“Who’s In Charge?”
In the confusion of a crisis, nonprofit leadership can become paralyzed. As part of your planning, make sure that chains of command are established and key leaders are clearly identified. For example, identify who will notify employees and volunteers not to report for work, or to report to another location. Designate someone to manage the retrieval of critical data from off-site storage locations. And assign a spokesperson to communicate with government officials and the media.
Ensure that an up-to-date call list is readily accessible and contains contact information for all staff, volunteers and key vendors. Add some redundancy by making the list accessible through multiple channels — a hard copy as well as a copy on your smartphone, website or other media.
“Where’s the Data?”
Obviously, you’ll want to make sure you have your data backed up somewhere offsite. These days, that typically means some form of cloud storage. It could also be data stored on portable hard drives or flash media and then transported to a secure location, such as a safe deposit box. Or, it might be something as simple as backing up data on a second PC that is stored at an off-site location.
Depending on how urgent the data is, it may make sense to contract with firms that specialize in providing disaster recovery services. These services include disaster recovery hot sites (physical locations where employees can come to work), redundant data storage, and secure hosting services for both web- and non-web-based applications.
“Will We Have Enough Money?”
If ATMs and bricks-and-mortar bank locations are impacted, your organization may need to fend for itself financially. With this in mind, carefully consider your organization’s liquidity.
Having access to a line of credit can help bridge the gap until everything is up and running again. As part of your planning, be sure to consult with an insurance professional to determine if your insurance coverage is adequate to help you get back in business following a disaster.
“How Do We Get the Word Out?”
Demands for information about your recovery will probably persist for some time. Here, the goal is to get the word out that you are still in business and functioning. Set up a special post-disaster section on your website detailing your disaster recovery challenges and progress. This might also be a good time for emergency appeals via text, social and email — both for your nonprofit itself and the constituencies you serve.
After the Storm
When disaster strikes, nonprofits that are able to reopen sooner help their communities recover more quickly. The good news is that creating a disaster recovery plan doesn’t have to be an expensive or time-consuming process.
Many of the steps in your plan will involve simple, commonsense things that you and your employees should do, like making sure supervisors have current home phone numbers for all their reports.
Ultimately, disaster recovery planning is not a specific project with a beginning and an end. Nonprofits that regularly review their plan and “run the drill” are the ones best prepared to weather the storm.