When a disaster strikes, once your family is safe and cared for, your thoughts will quickly shift to what you and your association can do to support your members. However, a looming question for everyone that runs a business in the midst of a local or national emergency is how to maintain business continuity and minimize the risk of loss of revenue. You are able to serve your members in this time of crisis because you have a successful business model, and you want to ensure that you are around the next time your members and community are in need.
Coronavirus and COVID-19 (March 2020)
Concerns about the spread of the Coronavirus and risks associated with public gatherings will be a challenge for associations like ours whose business model is about bringing people together to share common ideas and problem-solve. As you look for guidance as an association executive, consider these resources:
The World Health Organization has released a planning guide for event organizers.
The Professional Convention Management Association has compiled resources and information for event organizers.
ASAE has a resource website with resources and FAQs targeted toward Association Professionals. This page also has a link to daily updates about the virus spread.
Associations Now article, March 4, 2020 - How to Keep Your Association Running if Coronavirus Worsens
Advance planning is key for effective disaster preparedness:
- Create a business continuity or disaster recovery plan that considers essential business functions, how much downtime these functions can bear, and put together a plan that addresses how you would provide for technological and physical space needs in the event of a disruption.
- Review your service provider contracts and look for each party's obligations in the event of cancellations due to events out of your control or force majeure.
- Consider insurance such as an event cancellation policy that may assist in recovering lost revenue in the event of a declared emergency. (Often a public declaration is necessary to ensure coverage, but you may feel the need to cancel an event before a declaration is made--be careful.) Be aware of what is excluded in these policies. Issues such as terrorism or communicable diseases likely require an additional rider on the main policy.
Once a disaster strikes:
- If you feel compelled to cancel an in-person event, explore the various options for making your event virtual by using an online conferencing platform. Consider using an online networking or social media platform to encourage attendee interaction and networking. Develop an online trade show "scavenger hunt" where your "exhibitors" can host a code on their website that attendees need to retrieve in exchange for a chance to win a prize. Overall, if you are creative and think outside the box, your members will appreciate the effort.
- When communicating to your members, consider what you would want to hear if you were in their shoes. Send messages that do not incite panic and refer only to reputable sources of information. Don't overcommit. Recognize what you have the capacity to accomplish in terms of providing service to members.
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