Coronavirus Nonprofit Risk Management Resources


Last updated: 4/3/20 at 3:01 p.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 Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 3/15/20) – CDC now advises now recommends canceling or postponing all events of 50 people or more from March 15 through May 10, 2020

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

Nonprofits Facing Layoffs, Funding Shortfalls as They Try to Keep Serving Needy During a Pandemic (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4/5/20) – This article could be written about any community in which COVID-19 has spread, but it focuses on Pittsburgh and exemplifies the issues facing nonprofits and nonprofit funders responding to the crisis

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

This Is Not a Test: Philanthropy and Nonprofits in the 2020 Economic Shutdown (Nonprofit Quarterly 4/3/20) 

3 Nonprofit Types Under COVID-19 – and What They Must Come to Terms With (Nonprofit Quarterly 4/3/20) 

Tough Times Call for Tough Action: A Decision Framework for Nonprofit Leaders & Boards (SeaChange Capital Partners 3/31/20) – This is the report described in the preceding article. It is a must-read piece for all nonprofits experiencing COVID-19 challenges

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


Scenario Planning and Forecasting

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leaders Argue That Nonprofits Need Government Aid (Chronicle of Philanthropy 3/31/20) – In a word, yes.

Big Changes for Nonprofits That Rely on Volunteers (Chronicle of Philanthropy 3/31/20) [paywall]

Leading Through the Duration of the COVID-19 Emergency (Strategy+Business 3/31/20)

Global Philanthropic Response to COVID-19 Approaches $3 Billion (PNDblog 3/31/20) – On one hand, this is great. On the other hand, it’s a drop in the bucket.

Unprecedented Layoffs Among Nonprofits Threaten Deep Community Damage (Nonprofit Quarterly 3/30/20)

BoardSource Facebook Live: Responding to COVID-19 Legal Issues 4/1/20 at 12:00 eastern (Nonprofit Law Blog 3/28/20) – Gene Takagi and Anne Wallestad will be live to talk about legal issues surrounding COVID-19 

Policy for the COVID-19 Crisis: A New Survey of Top US Economists (University of Chicago IGM Forum 3/28/19) – Remarkable unanimity among more than 40 top US economists about the need for continued social distancing, even if the economy suffers as a result in the near term

In Volunteerism Amid Pandemic, Necessity Mothers Invention (Nonprofit Quarterly 3/27/20)

You’re Not Powerless in the Face of Uncertainty (Harvard Business Review 3/27/20) – The obstacle really is the way

A New Mission for Nonprofits During the Outbreak: Survival (New York Times 3/27/20)

Requests at Food Pantries Skyrocket in U.S. (Futurity 3/27/20)

Coronavirus: Oxfam to Furlough Two-thirds of Staff (Charity Times 3/26/20)

Revenue Cuts Will Hurt Some Nonprofits More Than Others (Chronicle of Philanthropy 3/26/20)

Three Ways We Can (and Must) Help Small Nonprofits Now (Chronicle of Philanthropy 3/26/20)

Applying Past Leadership Lessons to the Coronavirus Pandemic (KcKinsey 3/26/20) – seasoned leaders talk about managing through past crises

Saying “No” to Social Distance: Calling Civil Society to Center Stage (3/25/20) – This is NOT an article suggesting that people should stop social distancing. 

During Pandemic, Young Adults Trust Nonprofits More Than Government or Corporations (Chronicle of Philanthropy 3/25/20) [paywall] – Nonprofits are trusted more than other institutions in this crisis. (Note: Given the misinformation and disinformation that has been floating around at the federal level about COVID-19, nonprofits have a special obligation to get their facts right and enforce norms like social distancing and care for those in need.)

“Office Hours” Webinar Wednesday 3/25/20 at 2 p.m. eastern time (Risk Alternatives 3/24/20) – As announced on the webinar hosted by Nonprofit Quarterly today, Risk Alternatives will host a free webinar on Wednesday to answer practical risk management questions facing nonprofits right now. You can register here (attendance is capped at 100 people).

What Nonprofits Need and How Foundations Should Respond (Chronicle of Philanthropy 3/24/20) [paywall]

Things are not normal. It’s OK to not be OK (NonprofitAF 3/23/20)

Keeping Critical Nonprofits Alive: Child Care & Community-Based Infrastructure (Nonprofit Quarterly 3/23/20)

20 Articles to Help Leaders Navigate the COVID 19 Crisis (greatleadershipbydan.com 3/23/20) – solid reflections for you and your team

Chicago Doctor’s Blunt Speech About COVID-19 Hit Home Across the Country; Read Her Full Speech (MSN 3/23/20) – powerful words about our current times

Legal Publishers Roll Out COVID-19 Resources, Toolkits, Alerts, Advice (Some Even Free) (Abovethelaw 3/20/20)

What the World’s Happiest Country Can Teach Us About Surviving the Coronavirus Crisis (Huffpost 3/20/20)

COVID-19: Using a Racial Justice Lens Now to Transform Our Future (Nonprofit Quarterly 3/20/20) 

Leadership in a Crisis: Responding to the Coronavirus Outbreak and Future Challenges (McKinsey March 2020)

Coronavirus: Charities Could Miss Out on 4.3 Billion Pounds of Income Over the Next 12 Weeks (Charity Times 3/20/20)

How Should Prisons and Jails Prepare for COVID-19? (Urban Wire 3/20/20)

A Growing Group of Foundations Pledge No “Business as Usual” with COVID-19 (Nonprofit Quarterly 3/20/20)

If You Need Coronavirus Supplies, Try Using NowInStock (Lifehacker 3/20/20)

How Social Good Organizations Can Build Commununity at a Social Distance (sgEngage 3/20/20)

Senate Bill Would Create “Universal Deduction” and Expand in Loans for Nonprofits (Chronicle of Philanthropy 3/20/20)

The Certainty of Immediate Harm: Museums in COVID-19 (Nonprofit Quarterly 3/20/20)

A “New New Normal” for Foundation Giving: 3 Acts That Will Make a Difference (Chronicle of Philanthropy 3/20/20)

Survival of Arts Groups Threatened by the Impact of Coronavirus (Chronicle of Philanthropy 3/19/20)

Time for Philanthropy to Double Down in Response to COVID-19 (Nonprofit Quarterly 3/18/20)

Arts Nonprofits and Artists Brace for a Rough Ride through COVID-19 (Nonprofit Quarterly 3/17/20)

Feeding the Country During a Pandemic: Seven Ways Forward (UrbanWire 3/16/20)

COVID-19 Reminds Us That No Nonprofit Is an Island (Nonprofit Quarterly 3/16/20)

COVID-19 Resources and Updates (Forefront 3/16/20) – resources from Forefront, one of the leading nonprofit support organizations in the US

Nonprofits Prepare for Worst With Wealthy Losing Billions (Bloomberg 3/13/20)

Nonprofits Prepare for Worst With Wealthy Losing Billions (Bloomberg 3/13/20)

Nonprofit HR and Independent Sector Virtual Town Hall on Coronavirus Scheduled for 3/16/20 (Nonprofit HR 3/12/20)

Coronavirus: Sector leaders urge govt to provide emergency measures to support charities (CharityTimes 3/11/20) – UK charities are facing financial impacts

Nonprofits Who Can’t Cancel: The Ones that Serve Those at Greatest Risk of COVID-19 (Nonprofit Quarterly 3/11/20)

Take this seriously. Coronavirus is about to change your life for a while (CNN 3/11/20)

How to Avoid Coronavirus Scams (Lifehacker 3/11/20)

How Do We Adapt if COVID Moves Teaching Online? (Futurity 3/10/20)

COVID-19 Symptoms Pop Up 5 Days After Exposure (Futurity 3/10/20)

Community Healthcare Centers Funding at Risk at Time of Health Peril (Nonprofit Quarterly 3/8/20)

COVID-19 Brings Nonprofits High Unexpected Costs (Nonprofit Quarterly 3/6/20) – Notes particular issues relating to nonprofit fundraising events and meetings

Nonprofit HR Coronavirus Digital Information Portal (Nonprofit HR) – HR advice for dealing with coronavirus

COVID-19: What Nonprofits Need to Know About Coronavirus (Maryland Nonprofits 2/27/20)

Time to Update Your Crisis-Management Plan? (Nonprofit HR)

A Huge Mistake Nonprofits Make in Preparing for COVID-19 (Nonprofit PRO 3/10/20)

As Coronavirus Threat Continues, Experts Tell Nonprofits to Shore Up Reserves (Chronicle of Philanthropy 3/10/20) [behind paywall]

Lessening the Risk of Coronavirus at Nonprofits (The Nonprofit Times 3/9/20)

A few things for nonprofits and foundations to consider in light of the Coronavirus (Nonprofit AF 3/8/20)

Action Alert: How Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) May Impact Nonprofits (Washington Nonprofits 3/4/20)

Coronavirus guidance published for charities (CharityTimes 3/4/20) – Guidance from British National Council for Voluntary Organizations