COVID-19: Crisis Response and Communication Planning for Nonprofits

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many nonprofits may be unsure as to how they should respond in a pandemic situation. Having a specific response and communication plan is a proactive strategy that can help the organization navigate challenges during this critical time and better prepare for a future crisis event.

Considerations when developing a plan should include: 

  • How a pandemic situation could negatively impact the organization
  • How to best prevent a worst-case scenario
  • Identifying the organization’s greatest vulnerabilities

Response planning

It’s impossible to predict just how long the current pandemic may last, which is why it’s critical for organizations to create a response plan that can be used throughout the duration of the crisis.

A proactive crisis response plan might include:  

  • Essential policy statements of the organization
  • Contact information for donors, members, government, media, policymakers, partnering organizations, etc.
  • A media strategy that includes a press kit with facts about the organization
  • Logistics for assembling emergency and ongoing board meetings (e.g., social distancing may require that boards meet virtually). This should include how the board will vote and record any decisions it makes in the event that traditional meeting practices are altered.

Communications planning

An organization needs to consider what and how it will communicate with staff, leaders and the communities it serves. A first step in crisis communication planning is having a discussion between the board and CEO that centers on key issues, such as:

  • Creating a crisis taskforce
  • Deciding in advance what information should and shouldn’t be shared with the public / media
  • Establishing a main point of communication and making an organizational communications tree
  • Identifying who is in charge of managing the crisis and creating a list of that person’s specific duties

Lastly, it’s important to note that an organization’s website and social media presence play a big part in keeping the public and supporters informed about the organization during a crisis. This can include specific safety measures the organization is taking, event updates, new hours of operation and how the organization is reaching out to the community.   

A crisis situation like the COVID-19 pandemic puts to the test an organization’s board and leadership’s ability to keep the staff and the communities the organization serves informed and updated. Once both a response and communication plan are established, it’s important to continually monitor the situation as it changes and to update the plan accordingly.

At Charity First, we have a long-standing commitment to be the go-to source for nonprofit organizations, providing our retail partners across the country with best-in-class underwriting, consistent and responsive service, and risk management services. To learn more about our products and services, please contact us at 800-352-2761 or