I’m hanging out at the Volunteer BC conference yesterday and today and attending some great sessions all about non-profit and volunteer management. I’ll write a few blog posts on the conference, and I thought I’d start with a recap of a session that John Kay from Realize Co-op put on about Risk Management and Insurance for Non-Profits.

Now on first glance this topic might seem boring to most people but I find that whenever anyone talks about this stuff in the non-profit sector in a workshop setting people really sit up and listen and ask good questions. I think it’s because most of us don’t come from any sort of risk management-related background and we really need the help! We don’t know as much as we should. The same thing happened a couple of weeks ago in my event management class that I’m teaching when we had an insurance person come in to talk about insurance for events and event planners – participants peppered the presenter with questions! Insurance and risk management session are anything but boring. They’re a necessity!

John told us in yesterday’s session that risk is everywhere, and that there are many dimensions to risk. But he said the big question is, is the risk manageable? He encouraged us to not fall into the trap of not taking risks, because that also could mean that we never innovate. He said “risk management and change management are inextricably linked.”

One of the big reminders that I took away from John’s talk was that although an organization’s board of directors has a large responsibility in risk management – in “safeguarding the organization from harm” – risk management is not simply just a board responsibility. Staff and volunteers also have a role to play in risk management. John talked about even incorporating risk management awareness and activities into a staff member’s professional development plan and evaluation to really put an emphasis on staff’s necessary and active participation in risk management in an organization. Staff should not just be passive recipients of a risk management process imposed on them by either the Executive Director or the Board.

Although we didn’t have as much time in the session to discuss the insurance piece, we were reminded of the three types of insurance that organizations should all carry: Director’s and Officer’s Liability insurance, Commercial General Liability insurance, and Errors and Omissions insurance. John deferred to someone in the room from the Cooperators (one of the conference’s sponsors) who indicated to us that organizations should strive to have all their insurance for their organization with the same insurance company, not just the same broker. (In essence, there are many many insurance brokers in BC, but not that many insurance companies which actually underwrite the insurance.) This was an interesting piece of information that not many of us in the room appeared to have heard before. They stressed that when shopping around for insurance non-profit organizations should really ask a lot of questions of brokers to gauge each company’s level of understanding of the non-profit sector – in trying to figure out who best it is to work with.

All in all it was a good session about a very important topic that, in particular, a lot of smaller non-profits don’t tend to pay enough attention to.

I’ll be posting more news from the conference front soon! Lots of ideas are flowing here in Richmond this week…