Create a Workplace Violence Prevention and Response Plan

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  • Created: May 14th, 2024
  • Last Updated: May 13th, 2024

A strong workplace violence prevention plan can make employees feel safer and encourage them to report risk factors for violence. Violence prevention plans can also lead to higher morale, lower insurance costs, and a stronger organizational safety culture, according to the National Security Council.

Here’s how to start.

Consider asking for volunteers for a task force to create your plan. Seek input early on from all team members, with an emphasis on those who do your organization’s highest-risk jobs.

Evaluate your workplace for hazards. According to the National Safety Council, factors that can make it more likely that a workplace will experience violence include:


  • Lack of natural surveillance (providing client services in isolated rooms, etc.)
  • Obstructed entry or exit routes
  • Poor lighting in areas like corridors or parking lots
  • Unstable political or social environment
  • High crime rates in an area
  • Working in or near establishments that serve alcohol


  • Acceptance of workplace violence as “part of the job” and/or fear of retaliation
  • Chronic disputes between management and employees
  • Frequent grievances filed by employees; perceptions of injustice or unfairness
  • Chronic dangerous work conditions
  • Frequent injury claims, especially for psychological or occupational stress
  • Understaffing and/or excessive demand for overtime
  • Low employee engagement results, including HR grievances or high conflict


  • Prolonged or irregular shift work
  • Working alone, in isolated locations or a patient or client’s home
  • Public-facing work, especially in service professions
  • Working with people who display volatile or unstable behavior
  • Working with people with a history of violence or alcohol and substance misuse
  • Working in community-based settings like rehabilitation centers/group homes
  • Handling cash and valuables
  • Working where alcohol is served
  • Delivery of passengers, goods, or services

Assess your workplace for these risk factors and create a plan to mitigate the most significant risks you find. This could mean taking action to make the physical space at your nonprofit safer, like adding lighting, removing obstructions of sight lines, installing panic buttons, holding client meetings in areas within sight and sound of other staff, and clearly marking entrances and exits.

Get employee input on the changes you plan to make. Ask what else you could do to make employees feel safer at work. Follow up on all suggestions to let employees know what you changed, what you didn’t, and why.

Train all employees about workplace violence issues at orientation, along with annual refreshers. Training should describe the types of workplace violence, emphasize the role that all employees play in raising concerns about violence, provide information about de-escalation strategies and how to respond in an emergency, and let employees know how to report workplace violence. Managers and supervisors should receive additional training on how to recognize and respond to the potential signs of workplace violence.

If an employee faces stalking or threats from someone inside or outside the workplace, offer support. Ask the employee what kind of support they need from your team and give them as much of what they ask for as you can.

How to Respond to Workplace Violence 

If workplace violence takes place at your nonprofit, leaders should follow the organization’s emergency and evacuation plans, as well as your guidelines on when to call 911. Follow all organizational procedures on reporting and investigating the incident.

Immediately after an incident, your nonprofit should:

  • Make sure all employees and clients are safe and accounted for. 
  • Provide first aid or get medical attention for anyone who needs it. 
  • Inform employees about what happened and what actions they need to take. 
  • Immediately make counseling services available at no charge to employees for an extended period.  
  • Assess and arrange for longer-term support for individual employees as needed. This might include additional counseling, medical care, financial or legal assistance, and extra time off.
  • Communicate clear expectations to your team members. Every step you take to clearly communicate what work must get done during this time and what can wait will make people feel more comfortable.
  • Create return-to-work plans with employees who need time away from the office to recover. Stay in touch with thoughtful cards, occasional check-ins, and visits as the employee feels comfortable. You want to show care and concern, not create pressure. As the employee’s return approaches, consider any job modifications they may need to come back to work.
  • Consider whether your team needs additional support. Depending on the severity of the incident, your team may need more help to process what happened, like a conversation led by a mental health professional, or a memorial service for a co-worker who died.
  • Reach out to the family members of employees who were severely injured or killed to show your support. 
  • Follow your crisis management plan to communicate with outside parties, like the public, donors, and clients, as needed. 

How to Report on Risk to Your Board

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  • Created: September 29th, 2023
  • Last Updated: September 27th, 2023

Have you been asked by the Board to provide a risk report or briefing? It’s natural to be a little nervous about that. But an open dialogue about risk can build trust, shape strategy, and help your nonprofit better execute on its mission. Here are some steps to help you have a great discussion about risk with your board.

Know what they want to know. Before the meeting, ask the board what they most want to learn about your nonprofit’s risk management efforts. There might be a lot of variety in the answers! Tailor your presentation to focus on the major areas where the board seeks information.

Keep it high-level. Your board sets strategy for the organization, while staff handles day-to-day operations. Your presentation should highlight major risks your nonprofit faces with an overview of how you are building resilience. Don’t take up valuable presentation time with minutia and endless operational details.

Get to the good stuff first. Slot your risk discussion early in the meeting agenda when brainpower runs highest (to avoid the risk of a weary or diminishing audience).

Don’t talk at board members; talk with them. You might want to create a huge slide deck, rush through it in the hopes that your board will say, “Nothing to see here,” and move on. But dialogue helps staff and board members better understand the organization’s challenges and opportunities. Consider adding questions you want board input on to the agenda.

Get visual. Augment your presentation with graphics that illustrate key metrics. Don’t overcrowd your presentation. A visual risk dashboard should contain no more than three key pieces of information, with the most important metric or data displayed in the top left corner.

Don’t blue-sky it. Of course you want the board to think you have everything under control. But life, and nonprofit management, includes plenty of things you don’t control. Be honest about how you’ve worked to mitigate risks, about what you still don’t know, and describe how you are working to learn as much as you can.

Discuss risk appetite. Share your perspective on the costly consequences of risk aversion, and invite discussion about how and why your nonprofit should go boldly to make a difference in the lives of peoples and communities you serve. Work with the board to calibrate risk appetite—how much risk you are willing to take to achieve key objectives.   

Consider a deep dive on one risk topic per board meeting. A deep dive serves two key purposes. First, shines a light on the care and attention you are giving to a critical risk without putting too many operational details in front of the oversight team. Second, it builds confidence by satisfying the natural curiosity of the oversight team to understand the “how” behind your approach to managing critical risks.

Identify a point person. Let board members know which staff person or people are in charge of coordinating risk assessment and risk management at your nonprofit. While nonprofit CEOs have ultimate responsibility for operations, by noting which functional team members constitute the risk team you will reduce the Board’s worry that the CEO has too much on their plate.

Find out what you don’t know. Include time in board risk discussions for staff and board members to talk about the emerging risks you have just begun to explore. Ask leaders to share what they are seeing or hearing in their industries on those risk topics. 

Identify next steps. Summarize the board’s requests for additional data points or angles on risk management at your next briefing. For example: “We heard today that you’d like the risk dashboard to include 3, instead of 5 risks, and that you’d like the next deep dive to cover workplace violence prevention.”


What Kind of Risk Champion Are You?

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  • Created: September 27th, 2023
  • Last Updated: September 27th, 2023

Ever wonder what kind of risk champion you are? Take our 10-question quiz to find out! This quiz aims to help risk leaders and aspiring risk leaders understand their strengths and areas for growth (and have fun learning about them).

How to Manage Employee Turnover in Your Nonprofit

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  • Created: August 29th, 2023
  • Last Updated: July 12th, 2023

When you seek resources on how to manage employee turnover in your organization, you’re likely to find resources for how to stop turnover. That makes sense—if employees leave your nonprofit frequently after short tenures, it can be a sign that something is wrong in the organization and needs investigation. But not all turnover is bad, even when a number of people choose to move on from your organization at once. That might be the moment in your nonprofit’s life when a lot of employees’ journeys diverge from the organization’s. Still, anytime valued employees leave, it’s hard for everyone. Here are some strategies for managing through periods of high turnover at your organization.

Gather your emotions around an employee departure before you announce it. If you try to deliver an upbeat message while you’re still struggling to process the news, your body language will show your emotions, and your team will get anxious. But don’t wait more than one business day to share the news, as the employee has likely told or is telling work friends that they plan to leave.

Celebrate the people who leave. Hold a staff gathering to honor the contributions of departing employees. Talk about how they made a difference for your nonprofit. Be specific. Laugh about inside jokes. This process helps employees find closure around colleagues’ departures and conveys that it’s normal for people to move on.

Document standard procedures and top priority tasks and assignments for each position on your team and keep them in a set location. This will help employees who unexpectedly have to cover someone else’s duties for a period of time.

Be honest, without being overly gloomy OR gleeful about a staff departure. Give employees space to voice their feelings and concerns about employee departures, and don’t negate their worries and perceptions. Never gloat about the departure of a troublesome team member. Focus on the future and how you and the organization plan to move forward.

Hold regular check-ins with employees. Keep the check-ins frequent, but make sure they aren’t a heavy lift. The check-ins should center the employee. Managers should communicate priorities clearly and help employees decide what tasks can wait until later. Managers should ask a few open-ended questions:

  • What are your priorities?
  • How can I help?
  • How are you feeling?

Provide helpful resources. When people get frustrated or anxious about employee departures, they’re most likely to express those feelings to their manager. Make sure managers understand what support is available to employees for help with workload and stress—and how much leeway they have as managers to unload team responsibilities. Help managers brainstorm ways to respond to common worries that employees might express.

Be realistic about how much work you can do as a leader. You can cover some tasks or responsibilities for your team in the short term, but set limits to avoid burnout.

Seek candid feedback. Ask departing employees to take part in an exit interview. Ask a trusted team member—someone other than the employee’s direct supervisor—to conduct the exit interview before the employee’s last day. Take time to process what the employee shares about their experience. Ask your team how your organization can continue to become a better place to work. Seek ways to put suggestions into practice, and when you can’t make changes based on your team’s feedback, explain why.


How to Create a Concierge Experience for Job Applicants

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  • Created: August 22nd, 2023
  • Last Updated: July 12th, 2023

Most of us have been “ghosted” by a prospective employer—even after a promising interview. It’s not cool, and it’s totally avoidable. The time and effort your nonprofit invests to give all job candidates a great experience will produce results. Your top candidates will be more likely to want the job, and those who aren’t selected will have a good impression of your nonprofit. Here’s how to improve your job candidates’ experience.

Write concise, informative job descriptions. Don’t throw the kitchen sink in there. Require only the skills and experience truly necessary to do the job. Clearly state the job’s regular duties. Communicate essential information like salary and benefits; any schedule or travel requirements; whether the role is remote, in-person, or hybrid; and any management responsibilities.

Make applying easy. Simplify your application form—but don’t pare it down so much you have to ask for piles of additional information if candidates advance. Provide clear application instructions. And for the love of whatever you believe in, don’t make candidates fill out the same information on multiple platforms (e.g., submit a resume and also fill out all the individual resume fields on a website).

Acknowledge applications promptly. A note from a human, even a one-sentence email, is always nice—but an automated reply at least lets the applicant know their information was received.

Communicate next steps and a reasonable timeline. Yes, hiring usually takes longer than expected, but you can easily say something like: “We hope to fill the position by May. Candidates who advance will take part in two interviews and a skills test.”

Carefully evaluate whether to use algorithms in your hiring, and if you use them, disclose it. Many hiring software providers use artificial intelligence to help select candidates from applicant pools. But AI can pick up biases of the humans running the job search, or exacerbate bias by basing algorithms on past criteria. If you use AI, tell candidates so, explain why you feel the benefits outweigh the harms, and give them the chance to share thoughts or concerns.

When you decide a candidate is not a fit, let them know right away. Don’t wait until you’ve filled the position to let people who weren’t selected know they didn’t advance in the application process. 

Let candidates who advance know what to expect. Tell them who they will meet with for the interview, whether it will be virtual or in-person, and what format the interview will take. If the interview is in-person, share information about the office dress code, how to access your office building, and where candidates can park.

If you ask candidates to complete an assignment as part of the application process, make certain your request is reasonable. Candidates may already be working one or more jobs, so limit the scope of any interview projects to something candidates could complete in a few hours or less.

Thank candidates who aren’t selected for their interest and let them know how they can stay in touch. Share upcoming events or opportunities to interact further with your organization. If you’re open to hearing from them in the future, invite that and share your contact information.


How to Ensure Your Nonprofit’s Culture Lives Up to Its Promise

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  • Created: August 17th, 2023
  • Last Updated: July 12th, 2023

You probably love to talk about the strength of your organization’s culture with job candidates, donors, and your board. But do employees and clients experience your organization’s culture the way you intend them to? If not, they may question whether they want to work for or with your organization. Culture might seem like a squishy concept, but there are ways to ensure your organization lives up to its professed values more often than not.

Pretend you’re starting from scratch. How do you want things to get done in your organization? How often should you hold meetings? How do you want managers and their teams to interact? How do you want meetings and the office environment to feel—lots of rapid-fire conversation, or a quieter environment where people work more independently? How should individuals and the team respond when someone makes a mistake? Identifying your organizational goalposts will help you measure whether you’ve hit them or missed the mark.

Gauge employee engagement. Conduct an anonymous employee survey. Ask questions about how well team members believe your organization lives up to its values in different areas. Pay attention to the areas where employees express the most negative sentiments, and focus your energy on those areas.

Be honest and invite employee input. Talk about the areas where your nonprofit has challenges living up to the culture you profess. A workplace where leaders can admit things aren’t perfect will be more effective at retaining top performers than one where employees feel leaders are dishonest. Ask team members for their thoughts and opinions on how your nonprofit can live out its values. Every individual in an organization can help shape culture, and yours will evolve as your nonprofit and its team changes.

Show why your values matter. Many organizational value statements offer no clue as to how the values help their organization succeed. Spell out how your organization’s values shape how you serve the community and deal with challenges. People will be more likely to make choices that uphold organizational culture if they have a sense of why it matters.

Define the behaviors that demonstrate your values. Say one of your nonprofit’s values is integrity. Different people might interpret that in very different ways. Define how you want team members to demonstrate integrity. Should they always prioritize finding the best solution to a problem above the quickest solution? Should they always get a second opinion from a team member when an ethical dilemma arises?

Reinforce your values. Make sure to praise and reward employees when they act in accordance with your values, and share these stories with the rest of your team. And hold people accountable if they consistently don’t act in accordance with your values. Regular reinforcement of your cultural values is one of the most effective ways to make sure they’re put into practice.

Train managers. Managers set the expectations for how work gets done and set the tone for how employees interact with one another. Make sure managers have a full understanding of the organization’s culture, the behaviors that culture encourages and discourages, and how to give constructive feedback and initiate disciplinary action when needed.


I Just Got Promoted. Now What?

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  • Created: August 15th, 2023
  • Last Updated: July 12th, 2023

Many nonprofits pride themselves on promoting leaders from within their organization. If you’re reading this because you recently got promoted at your nonprofit, congratulations! Here are some tips to help you adjust to your new role.

Ask lots of questions. You might be tempted to pretend you know everything there is to know about your new role. But that will likely lead to mistakes, and it won’t help you grow your relationships with colleagues. Ask your team members what their daily workload looks like, what projects they currently juggle, and how you can best support them.

Create a transition plan. You may need to cover your old role’s duties as your nonprofit hires to fill the job or find an existing team member or multiple team members to assume your former duties. Communicate with your boss so you understand your responsibilities for handling duties during the transition to your new role. And don’t hesitate to negotiate for what you need, like a definite end date for your old responsibilities. A clear transition benefits everyone.

If you’re managing your former peers, spell out what’s changed. Explain to your team members what you expect from them and what they can expect from you. Do this as soon as possible after your promotion, so old habits don’t persist and create problems. Let your team members know you want to communicate clearly and treat them fairly. Those are two of the main things any employee seeks from their boss, no matter what your relationship with them looked like before you became their manager.

Take time to plan. Your new role may include executing task that rely on other people. Find out the specific goals your team is expected to accomplish and determine how you will measure success. Work with team members to learn their likes, dislikes, strengths, and areas for improvement. For each goal, determine how team members will contribute to it. Set deadlines and regular check-ins with team members to monitor progress, address challenges, and celebrate wins.

Your job is to get interrupted; prepare accordingly. You have tasks you must complete as a manager. But when a team member comes to you in need of assistance, you should prioritize working with that person if at all possible. Anticipate these kinds of interruptions, and include enough time in your schedule to get tasks done even with interruptions.

Show you care. Set aside time to connect personally with your team at the beginning of group meetings or one-on-one check-ins. When they share something that’s important in their lives, listen, and ask them about it later. Communicate that employees can ask for help when they need it, and model that behavior. Give them feedback to help them complete their tasks well. Don’t wait to address problems, and make sure to give lots of positive reinforcement.

Manage up. Make sure to have regular check-ins with your new boss. Ask for specifics about how the team’s work supports the nonprofit’s overall strategy and mission. Ensure you understand the team’s short-term and long-term goals. Bonus: Find out what your boss’s biggest challenges are, and consider how you could help them meet those challenges.

Understand your HR responsibilities. If you’re now managing people, you’ll need to understand expectations of supervisors. Re-read the employee handbook and make sure you understand your responsibilities for reporting issues and managing conflict, as well as who to turn to if you need help.

Connect with other leaders. Networking might feel like too big of a time commitment as you adjust to new responsibilities. But you’ll think more creatively and feel more inspired if you find peers to connect with. A fresh perspective on a challenge you’re facing can help you get unstuck. Connecting with people who are also navigating leadership issues can give you needed support and help build your confidence.


How To Offer Employee Tuition Reimbursement

  • checklist [Icon]Checklist
  • Created: August 10th, 2023
  • Last Updated: July 20th, 2023

Offering employee tuition reimbursement can demonstrate your nonprofit’s commitment to professional development and help you recruit and retain talented employees. Creating an employee tuition reimbursement program takes some work, but can pay great dividends. Here’s a four-step checklist to help your nonprofit launch a tuition reimbursement program.

Step 1: Set the financial foundation

  • Create a budget for the employee tuition program that provides a generous benefit while keeping your organization on sound financial footing.
  • Determine how much tuition reimbursement you could afford to pay if all your employees took part in the program. Not all will, but if more people than you expect decide to take advantage of the program, you’ll need to have room in the budget.

Step 2: Determine the program parameters

  • Will everyone in your nonprofit have access to this benefit, or will you make it available only to certain employees, such as those who have been with your organization a certain amount of time?
  • What types of education programs or courses will your nonprofit cover?
  • What percentage of tuition will your organization reimburse?
  • What will happen if an employee who’s taking part in a tuition reimbursement program is laid off or resigns?
  • Will you require a specific grade level in a course for reimbursement?
  • Explain these parameters in an employee meeting and add them to your personnel handbook.

Step 3: Understand the program’s tax implications

  • Decide whether you will reimburse employees more than the deductible amount.
    Employers can reimburse employees up to $5,250 annually without the employee being taxed on the amount. Your nonprofit could offer more in tuition reimbursement, but any amount above $5,250 per employee annually will be subject to taxes. Employers can also deduct up to $5,250 per employee from their taxes each year. The money must be used toward tuition, fees, and school supplies like books; otherwise, it will be subject to tax.
  • Work with your accounting and benefits providers to set up the administrative capacity to meet the program’s tax implications.

Step 4: Roll out the program and iterate

  • After a year, give your team members a short survey to gauge the effectiveness of the program and how you might make it even better. Use the feedback to continue to improve your tuition reimbursement offerings.


How to Be a Great Mentee

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  • Created: August 8th, 2023
  • Last Updated: July 12th, 2023

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably found a mentor, or are working to do so. Congratulations! Mentoring can help you grow as a professional and open new doors in your career and even your personal life. Here are some tips to make the most of your mentoring relationship and be a great mentee.

Know what you’re looking for. Give some thought to your strengths, challenges, and values. Have a few goals in mind that you’d like to achieve and would appreciate a mentor’s help with. Consider what kind of help you’d need from a mentor to get there.

Be proactive and prepared. Bring ideas for topics you’d like to talk about to your mentor meetings. If your mentor likes to receive those ideas in advance so they have time to ponder them, make sure to share your ideas well before your meeting.

Let your mentor know when they’ve helped you. If you try an idea that came out of your mentoring discussions and it goes well, tell your mentor! People can’t always tell if they’re having an impact, and your mentor will want to know if the information they are sharing with you is helpful.

Honor your commitments. If you tell your mentor you’ll do something before your next session, make sure you do so. Show up to your meetings prepared and on time, and in the rare event that you need to cancel, give your mentor as much of a heads up as possible.

Express appreciation. Thank your mentor for their time after each meeting and every time they help you with something.

Listen actively. When your mentor speaks, just listen. Don’t do anything else. Don’t rehearse how you will respond. Allow yourself to take in their feedback before you speak.

When you’re struggling, tell your mentor. Sometimes it feels intimidating to tell a mentor, with all their knowledge, that you don’t know what to do or you made a mistake. But everyone messes up or feels uncertain sometimes. That’s why we have mentors! Opening up to your mentor can help build your bond and allow them to share perspective that will help you find a path forward.

Be open to all perspectives, including constructive feedback. If your mentor says they think you handled something the wrong way, it can be hard to hear. Remind yourself that your mentor wants to help you learn and grow. Listen and thank them for the feedback.

Ask questions. If you’re struggling to understand something your mentor is telling you, don’t hesitate to ask more questions. This relationship exists to help you learn and grow, so don’t be embarrassed to share that you don’t know or don’t understand something.


How to De-Escalate Conflict

  • infographic [Icon]Infographic
  • Created: August 3rd, 2023
  • Last Updated: July 17th, 2023

Violence has increased in America, and people’s tempers may flare even in routine interactions. Here are some strategies nonprofit employees can use to assess the level of conflict in a situation, bring down the heat in difficult conversations, and respond if an action does escalate.

Assess: How Escalated Is the Conflict?

Observe the conflict from a safe distance.

Gauge the level of conflict, whether you have the emotional resources and any needed support to respond, and whether your intervention could increase the potential for harm.

If the individual’s behavior or the situation is escalating and you believe violence may occur, leave the situation, go to a safe location, and seek help.

  • Agitation, the lowest level of conflict, is indicated by signs such as aggressive body language, sighing loudly, and eye-rolling. (Note: at times, some neurodivergent individuals may display gestures such as eye-rolling without aggressive intent.)
  • Escalation, the middle level of conflict, includes signs such as pacing, finger-pointing, using an aggressive tone of voice, raising one’s voice, or arguing.
  • Peak conflict, the highest level, includes verbal abuse (like shaming, humiliating, or harassing someone); spitting or inappropriate touching or gestures; physical aggression; or the display of weapons.

Take Action to De-Escalate Conflict

Take a few deep breaths to ground yourself before you act.

Change the setting. If you can, remove people from the area. This could mean asking some of the parties in a conflict and onlookers to leave.

Respect personal space. Maintain a safe distance, and do not touch the person who is upset.

Listen. Give the person your full attention. Nod. Ask questions when you can. Do not change the subject or interrupt.

Empathize. Show genuine concern and a willingness to listen without judgment.

  • Speak calmly to show empathy.
  • Monitor your volume and do not raise your voice.
  • Speak slowly.
  • Be aware of emphasizing words or syllables, which can escalate a situation.

Language and Actions to Use and Avoid in Conflict

Avoid: “Calm down.”

Say: “I can see that you are upset.”

Avoid: “I know how you feel.”

Say: “I understand that you feel…”

Avoid: “I can’t help you.”

Say: “I want to help, what can I do?”

Avoid: “Come with me.”

Say: “May I speak with you?”

Avoid: Standing rigid directly in front of the person

Try: Keeping a relaxed, alert stance slightly to the person’s side

Avoid: Pointing your finger

Try: Keeping your hands down, open, and visible at all times

Avoid: Faking a smile

Try: Maintaining a neutral, attentive facial expression