7 Tips for Managing Risk at Nonprofit Special Events

Author, Sam Brown, Vice President, Human Services, Rancho Mesa Insurance Services, Inc.

Nonprofit organizations often conduct special events throughout the year. These events can successfully increase awareness of the nonprofit’s mission, generate important unrestricted revenue, and offer all stakeholders a nice opportunity to have fun. Unfortunately, important risk management steps are often overlooked before the day of the event. Let’s look at a few that can limit exposure to risk.


1. Documenting Risk Management Activities
In addition to helping train and supervise personnel, a written plan can help to ensure important actions take place. Documenting activities also helps an organization defend its actions if an accident occurs. 

2. Safety Officer
Consider assigning risk management oversight specifically to one person. The “safety officer” should receive the proper training and resources to safeguard the event, the organization, the participants, and others.

3. Crisis Response Team
To prevent a crisis from draining valuable resources, develop a crisis response team of three to five people. This team should handle any emergency quickly and effectively while working with all stakeholders.

4. Pre-Event Inspections
This important step helps you identify and correct unsafe conditions before an event as well as identify pre-existing damage to the property. During the inspection, note any damages prior to the event and give a copy to the facility manager. It is also a good idea to inspect the premises during and after the event. 

5. Emergency Plans
A host of things can go wrong at a special event, so an organization must know how to address these when they occur. Consider the following: evacuations, medical emergencies, crowd control, and limiting alcohol consumption.

6. Volunteers
Ensuring that your “day of” volunteers are properly trained and supervised is a very important risk management challenge. Without such precautions, great harm can come to the organization. Allow time to screen and select the best candidates.

7. Food and Beverages
Will your organization provide and serve food, or, is a vendor performing these functions? You can transfer risk to vendors in most situations, but if your organization is providing food and beverage then consider the following:

  • Facilities: Is there adequate preparation, storage, and refrigeration facilities for the type of food?

  • Health Regulations: Do you need a health department permit? What other health department regulations should you consider?

  • Food Spoilage and Contamination: Do your food handlers have the proper training for handling the food being served?

These are only a few of the very important risk management practices a nonprofit organization should consider before a special event. Ignoring these exposures in the planning phase can turn a fun day into a costly event.  For a full risk assessment of your special event and other activities, please contact Rancho Mesa Insurance Services, Inc.s at (619) 937-1064.

Sources: The Nonprofit Risk Management Center’s “My Assessment“ module (www.nonprofitrisk.org).