Carrie Minnich, director, Nonprofit Services, DWD
When talking about risk within a nonprofit, it’s common to think of fraud risk – the areas within the organization that are susceptible to fraud occurring. Or you might think of IT risk – the risk of someone hacking into the organization’s computer system. Or even legal and compliance risk – the risk of not following applicable laws or requirements. But what about reputation risk? Given that a nonprofit’s greatest asset is its reputation, time should be granted to focus on protecting it. Reputational risk is the loss because of damages to an organization’s reputation. It includes not only what is true, but what is perceived about your organization. In addition to lost revenue, a bad reputation can lead to the following:
- Loss of volunteers, clients or program constituents
- Difficulty in hiring qualified employees and attracting board members
- Difficulty in obtaining grants and loans
- Increased scrutiny by regulators and a decrease in community support
To manage reputational risk, understand how your organization is perceived. Here are ways to monitor your reputation:
- Ask for feedback from employees, volunteers, board members, donors, clients, etc. Find out what your constituents think about your organization. Use the feedback to make changes.
- Google your organization. This is what the public sees in regards to your organization. Sign up for Google Alerts that notify you every time your organization is mentioned on the internet.
- Review your organization’s website. Is it easy to navigate? Is your current Form 990 available on your website? This may be the first impression your organization has on people.
- Monitor third party websites such as GuideStar, the National Center for Charitable Statistics and the Better Business Bureau.
- Develop a social media strategy that outlines what your organization allows to be posted and who is responsible for posting. Also include who is responsible for responding to comments. Be aware that how you respond has an impact on your reputation. Don’t wait until things go wrong.