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Coronavirus Nonprofit Risk Management Resources


Last updated: 7/14/20 at 9:30 a.m. eastern time.


Even in the best of times, nonprofits face a host of risks. But COVID-19 presents special challenges. Beyond handwashing, social distancing, and other competent advice you’ve read that can help prevent the spread of illness, what steps should you take now to protect your staff and the people who depend on your services?

While this page is not a substitute for other competent resources, we hope that this page will provide additional information that may help nonprofits address particular risks involving the sector. We organize the information below according to the basic risk cycle – identify, prioritize, respond, and assess and improve.


1. Pay attention to the most authoritative guidance, so that you remain vigilant and undistracted (“Authoritative Guidance,” below).

2. Look for new information (“Newest Additions”).

3. Evaluate what you can do about potential futures (“Scenario Planning”).


4. Use a framework for prioritizing and addressing your risks (“Nonprofit Risk Management Recommendations”).


5. Protect yourself and your staff so that you remain effective for your beneficiaries (“Self Care and Staff Care”).

6. Address particularly vulnerable populations (“Dealing With Vulnerable Populations”).

7. Consider alternative working arrangements (“Alternative Ways of Working”).

8. Address financial realities (“Financial Responses”). And finally,

Assess and Improve

9. Don’t forget to record current events so that you can reflect on this event and improve your responses over time (“News Archives”).

Authoritative Guidance

Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed through 4/15/20) – This guidance would apply to the extent your state or locality has not provided emergency orders. 

Implementing Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Workers Who May Have Had Exposure to a Person with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19 (CDC 4/8/20) – If your staff includes critical infrastructure workers, this link provides guidance that can help you adhere to best practices

World Health Organization

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – how to protect yourself and what to do it you’re sick

State Health Departments (for US states and territories)

Johns Hopkins Global COVID-19 Survey (responsible and reputable cross-check on data about spread of COVID-19)

Always fact-check information online about any emerging news story. This story is no exception. While we want to provide unbiased and accurate information, this is a developing situation, and we urge you to remain aware of the need to confirm information.

How to Fact-Check Coronavirus (Mis)Information Online (Lifehacker 3/5/20)

Newest Additions

When Safety Proves Dangerous (Farnam Street 5/25/20) – Thoughtful piece on overreaction. We post this not to suggest that nonprofits should reject or downplay best practices. Instead, we provide it to note that there should be balance in how we address risks. 

Coronavirus: 10% of Charities Likely to Close by November (CharityTimes 5/22/20) – Reporting on UK charities

Nonprofit Strategy Guide for When the Economy Reopens (NonprofitPRO 5/18/20)

13 Percent of Nonprofits in a Survey Have Suspended All or Most of Their Operations (Chronicle of Philanthropy 5/19/20) – Reporting on US charities

73% of Charities Worldwide See Decline in Contributions (Chronicle of Philanthropy 5/18/20)  

How To Demonstrate Calm and Optimism in a Crisis (McKinsey April 2020) – excellent advice

One in Five Donors Has Stopped Giving, Survey Says (Chronicle of Philanthropy 5/6/20)

How to Protect the Health and Viability of Your Nonprofit (Charity Navigator 5/5/20)

Seeking a Way Out (Chronicle of Philanthropy 5/5/20) [paywall] 

What Nonprofits Need To Do To Survive (podcast) (Chronicle of Philanthropy 4/29/20) – Seachange Capital’s John MacIntosh lays out the tough but important choices facing nonprofits 

Scenario Planning and Forecasting

A New Statistic Reveals Why America’s COVID-19 Numbers Are Flat (The Atlantic 4/16/20) – Few articles are must-read in these challenging times. This is one of those must-reads.

Should Your Nonprofit Engage in Strategic Planning During Uncertain Times? No: Here’s 3 Steps to Take Instead (Risk Alternatives 4/14/20)

What Do Nonprofits Know About COVID-19 One Month In? (Risk Alternatives 4/13/20)

What Happened to Giving After Past Disasters (Chronicle of Philanthropy 3/31/20) [paywall]

Coronavirus Will Change the World Permanently. Here’s How. (Politico 3/26/20) – Important thoughts for scenario planning. The question is not whether these “experts” are right. The important thing is to think about some of these possibilities with your staff, and reflect how your nonprofit might respond now in the face of some of these potential futures.

Fauci Warns U.S. Could See More Than 100,000 Coronavirus-Related Deaths (Tampa Bay Times [AP] 3/29/20) – For purposes of scenario planning, here’s a current forecast from one of the top minds in the field.

Beyond Coronavirus: The Path to the Next Normal (McKinsey 3/24/20) – essential reading for scenario planning

Preserving Optionality: Preparing for the Unknown (Farnam Street 3/23/20) – decisionmaking in times of uncertainty


Nonprofit Risk Management Recommendations

Checklist for Community and Faith Leaders (US CDC 3/6/20)

Coronavirus Nonprofit Response Checklist (Risk Alternatives 3/24/20) – We have created a downloadable single-page checklist of practical steps nonprofits can take right now to address risks related to COVID-19. You can download the checklist here.

What Your Nonprofit Can Do Now To Reduce Risks Relating to COVID-19 (Coronavirus) (Risk Alternatives 3/7/20) – Our guidance, which we will modify as the situation develops

Business Continuity Plan Template (Risk Alternatives) – solid, short, important template for your organization to use during emergencies

Tough Times Call for Tough Action: A Decision Framework for Nonprofit Leaders & Boards (SeaChange Capital Partners 3/31/20) – A must-read piece for all nonprofits experiencing COVID-19 challenges

Voices from the Field: Tangible, Timely Tactics for Nonprofits During Crises (Nonprofit Quarterly 4/6/20)

Cybersecurity Tactics for the Coronavirus Pandemic (McKinsey 3/27/20) 

Tips for Nonprofits During the COVID-19 Pandemic (Nonprofit Law Blog 3/20/20)

It’s Different This Time: Handling Nonprofit Staff Cuts Under COVID-19 (Nonprofit Quarterly 4/1/20) – Excellent analysis of a challenging subject

Sustainability to Survivability: 5 Nonprofit Finance Must-Do’s in the Time of COVID (Nonprofit Quarterly 3/19/20)

Direct Service Volunteers Stay Home in Droves – Now What? (Nonprofit Quarterly 3/19/20)

7 steps we can take right now to slow the spread of coronavirus, according to infectious disease experts (Boston Globe 3/11/20) – Notes the need to cancel concerts, conferences, and parades

Tips for a Successful Virtual Gala Experience (sgEngage 3/14/20) – considerations for shifting events online

Coronavirus and Cancellations: What Your Organization Should Know (Stradley Ronon 3/10/20)

Nonprofit Governance: Coronavirus and COVID-19 (Nonprofit Law Blog 3/11/20)

What Are Companies’ Legal Obligations Around Coronavirus? (Harvard Business Review 3/4/20)

Responding to Coronavirus: The Minimum Viable Nerve Center (McKinsey March 2020) – this is written for a large corporate structure, but as you consider business continuity, think about your nerve center


Self-Care and Staff Care

News items that may relate to concerns voiced by staff, volunteers, and beneficiaries

Free COVID-19 Emergency Succession Plan (Clarity Transitions) – useful free download to help organizations address emergency succession planning

Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations During COVID-19 Outbreak (3/12/20) – Mental health advice relating to the pandemic from WHO

9 Tips for Nonprofits to Boost Resilience During a Pandemic (Beth’s Blog 4/1/20)

Keeping Your People Together Through the COVID-19 Crisis – Virtual Town Hall Scheduled for 3/30/20 (Nonprofit HR 3/24/20)

Emergency Paid Leave: Answers to Your Questions (Chronicle of Philanthropy 4/2/20) [paywall]

Build Your Resilience in the Face of a Crisis (Harvard Business Review 3/19/20)

How to Manage Your COVID-19 Anxiety (Futurity 3/23/20)

COVID-19: Implications for Business (McKinsey March 2020) – notes scenarios for business impact

Managing the Stress and Anxiety of Coronavirus (Harvard Business Review 3/16/20) [paywall]

A coronavirus reading guide for the perplexed, the anxious, and the obsessive (Vox.com 3/14/20)

What parents should know about Kids and COVID-19 (Futurity 3/12/20)

Is it allergies, the flu or the coronavirus? How to tell the difference (CNN 3/11/20)

Your Coronavirus FAQs, Answered (Gizmodo 3/6/20)

Does Credit Card Travel Insurance Cover Coronavirus Cancellations? (Lifehacker 3/6/20)

Should You Cancel Your Trip Because of the Coronavirus? (Lifehacker 3/5/20)

COVID-19: What You Should and Shouldn’t Do Now (Futurity 3/4/20)


Dealing With Vulnerable Populations

Why COVID-19 Sparks Fears for People with Disabilities (Futurity 4/14/20)

How to Protect People Who Are Homeless During COVID-19 (Futurity 4/10/20)

Immediate Federal Action Is Needed to Keep People Housed in the Face of the Pandemic (Urbanwire 3/19/20)

COVID-19 Will Strike Poor People More Harshly and Further Widen the Wealth Gap (Nonprofit Quarterly 3/19/20)

US prisons, jails on alert for spread of coronavirus (ABC News 3/7/20)

Homeless at ‘double risk’ of getting, spreading coronavirus (ABC News 3/7/20)

Preparing for a Pandemic: Review Business Continuity Plans Amid Coronavirus Outbreak (Risk Management Monitor 3/5/20) – not specifically directed at nonprofits, but notes practical issues relating to business continuity

Which Groups Are Most at Risk from Coronavirus? (Scientific American 3/3/20) – Notes that the elderly and those with preexisting conditions are at heightened risk

Coronavirus Update – Message to Social Impact Organizations (Nonprofit HR)

How Programs Addressing Homelessness Can Prepare for the Coronavirus (Urbanwire 3/12/20)

How to Help the Most Vulnerable Through the Pandemic (Chronicle of Philanthropy 3/12/20) [paywall]


Alternative Ways of Working

7 Things to Ease the Switch to Remote-Only Workplaces (Futurity 4/10/20)

A Blueprint for Remote Working: Lessons from China (McKinsey 3/24/20) – learning from those who have already experienced social distancing

Nonprofits: Get Paid Slack Plans for Free (Slack 3/20/20)

The Best Alternatives to Zoom for Remote Meetings (Lifehacker 3/20/20)

Work-From-Home Checklist During the Coronavirus Pandemic (Jackson Lewis 3/16/20) – legal issue spotting relating to work-from-home policies

Working from Home? 12 Guides to Help Navigate the Remote Life (Trello 3/16/20) – good advice from one of our favorite tools at Risk Alternatives

Tips for Working Remotely from People Who Do It All the Time (Vidyard 3/12/20)

Business Continuity at Slack: Keeping our customers up and running during COVID-19 (Slack 3/6/20) – Notes how Slack, a popular remote-work tool, is adapting to the COVID-19 outbreak

How to Facilitate Effective Virtual Meetings (Beth’s Blog 3/4/20)

Slack on Slack: Adapting the way we work when offices need to close (Slack 3/4/20) – Tips for remote work

Nonprofits Work to Protect Employees and Volunteers as Coronavirus Threat Grows (Chronicle of Philanthropy 3/4/20)

Technology Partners Are Offering Free Support to Nonprofits During Time of Need (NonprofitPRO 3/27/20)


Financial Responses

 Advocates Worry Nonprofits Won’t Qualify for New Lending Program (Chronicle of Philanthropy 4/16/20)

Foundations Invite Proposals for Rapid-Response Grants (Coronavirus Roundup) (Chronicle of Philanthropy 4/6/20) 

Independent Sector CEO on How the Stimulus Package Can Benefit Nonprofits (Podcast) (Chronicle of Philanthropy 4/3/20)

Loans Available for Nonprofits in the CARES Act (Public Law 116-132) (National Council of Nonprofits 3/30/20)

On Your Mark, Get Set, Loans! Nonprofits Scramble to Apply for CARES Cash (Nonprofit Quarterly 4/2/20)

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act): Summary for Nonprofits (Independent Sector 3/26/20)

Initial Analysis of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) (S. 748) (National Council of Nonprofits 3/26/20) – excellent summary of pending US federal relief legislation

How to Get a Handle on Your Finances – and Whether a Loan or Line of Credit Makes Sense (Chronicle of Philanthropy 3/30/20)

Bipartisan Bill Would Provide $60 Billion to Nonprofits (Chronicle of Philanthropy 3/30/20) – Legislation needs support from the nonprofit sector and beyond

Coronavirus: Charities at greater risk due to public sector contracts, research shows (CharityTimes 3/25/20) – notes particular vulnerability of charities that perform under government contracts that do not cover the full cost of services.

44 Percent of Nonprofits Have No Plans to Mitigate Losses from Canceled Fundraising Events (Chronicle of Philanthropy 3/23/20) [paywall]


News Archives – Items Relating to the Nonprofit Sector and COVID-19

A Year of Budget Revisions Lies Ahead for Many Nonprofits (Nonprofit Quarterly 4/24/20)

A Leader’s Guide: Communicating with Teams, Stakeholders and Communities During COVID-19 (McKinsey April 2020)

How Nonprofit Leaders Can Keep Their Organizations Afloat (Harvard Business Review 4/21/20)

Pandemic Lays Bare Inhumanity of Mass Incarceration (Nonprofit Quarterly 4/21/20)

When Americans Go Back to Work, It Won’t Be the Same (Futurity 4/20/20)

CDC Weakens Protective Guidelines as Need for Essential Workers Intensifies (Nonprofit Quarterly 4/16/20) – This sounds like the opposite of sound policy

The Government’s Small Business Loan Money Is Gone. Now What? (CNN 4/16/20)

How Board Members Can Do the Most Good in the Pandemic (Chronicle of Philanthropy 4/16/20)

COVID-19: Investing in Black Lives and Livelihoods (McKinsey April 2020)

COVID-19: Checking and Storing Information on Employee Body Temperature (Privacy Compliance & Data Security 4/12/20)

Don’t Let Uncertainty Paralyze You (Harvard Business Review 4/15/20)

Nonprofit Finances Hit on Several Fronts (Chronicle of Philanthropy 4/15/20)

In This Crisis, Philanthropy Must Tackle 3 Existential Challenges All at Once (Chronicle of Philanthropy 4/15/20)

* * * You can find additional archives here. * * * 



To read archived articles about items relating to the nonprofit sector and COVID-19, click this button.