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Ways to avoid burnout

I’ll just say it up front. You will get distracted. Your efforts will ebb and flow. You will not have a linear or exponential journey along your Lean Risk Management Success Path.

Like anything else worth doing, nonprofit risk management takes time and effort. For every three successes, you will have a setback or two.

So how do you maintain momentum and avoid nonprofit risk management burnout? Here are three suggestions:

  1. Name, claim, record, and celebrate value. We call this “NCRC.” It’s incredibly important in building and maintaining momentum with your risk work. Be on the alert for ways in which your risk inventory, risk register, and risk cycle have helped you gain clarity, peace of mind, and value. Keep a running list of your successes. For example:
  • Did your risk inventory foster discussions about important threats and opportunities? Name, claim, record, and celebrate it. Be specific about what issues you were able to discuss that the team had not discussed recently.
  • Were you able to clarify any potential risks that different people defined in different ways? NCRC.
  • Were you able to determine that any identified risks were, upon reflection, not that worrisome? NCRC.
  • Did your risk prioritization that created your risk register allow you to have any fruitful discussions about your nonprofit’s most important issues? NCRC.
  • Were you able to research or redefine any risks? NCRC.
  • Were you able to avoid any risks? NCRC.
  • Were you able to reduce (mitigate) any threats or develop (exploit) any opportunities? NCRC.
  • Did you meet to talk about risks at all since the last time you reflected on your process? NCRC.
  • As a result of beginning to speak more regularly about risks, have you observed any positive changes in team culture? NCRC.

When we deliver initial risk registers to the nonprofits we work with, we add a tab on the worksheet to capture big and little wins. As you develop this ongoing list, periodically report to your board members on your progress. By naming, claiming, recording, and celebrating value, you create virtuous cycles of routine within your organization. You lay down the tracks for sustained progress.

Another way to NCRC is to archive a copy of your register periodically — at the end of every month, every quarter, or every time you make any “significant” change to it. Over time, you will record progress and increase your organization’s accountability for risk management performance. At least twice a year, look through the archived copies and make a bullet point list of how risks and risk treatments have changed.

  1. Emphasize WIIFT. I’m sure your team members are magnanimous and unselfish. Still, don’t ignore human nature. Always emphasize What’s In It For Them (WIIFT).

Here are some benefits from nonprofit risk management you might highlight in staff discussions:

  • Team members get increased opportunities to fix policies, procedures, programs, and physical dangers that threaten or annoy them.
  • Team members get to participate in improving their own safety and health.
  • Team members get increased awareness of important issues within the organization that are outside of their traditional swim lanes.
  • Team members have more opportunities to identify better ways to serve the nonprofit’s clientele.
  • Team members get greater chances to work on mission-critical threats and opportunities in order to increase personal and professional development and shine.
  • Team members get increased input into how resources are allocated.
  • By increasing organizational resilience and sustainability, team members increase their own job protection.
  1. Develop support networks. Finally, don’t try to do it all on your own.

Internally, have at least two people working on any given risk. That way, team members are in dialogue, rather than feeling overwhelmed. Throughout the organization, institutionalize periodic meetings to reinforce the common cause and share best practices.

The support network, however, should not end at the boundaries of your nonprofit organization. Look outside, too. This is why we like to train in groups and why we sponsor BeST. It helps to have accountability partners and fellow travelers along the same Lean Risk Management Success Path.

Furthermore, it helps to have external support experts (like Risk Alternatives and the experts we bring in for periodic briefings) who have seen the nonprofits challenges they can face as they implement a risk process.