In a world where uncertainty is a constant, savvy nonprofits should be prepared for all types of disasters. Having a robust disaster recovery plan in place before such a crisis is necessary to maintain operations and ensure continuity of services – no matter what comes your way. At Cross the Divide (CTD), we are dedicated to providing nonprofits with comprehensive IT solutions to develop and maintain effective disaster recovery plans. Although we design plans specifically for the needs of each nonprofit we serve, there are several key components of a successful disaster recovery plan and best practices for sustaining it that are nearly universal. We’ll look at some of them enriched with insights from our decades of combined experience working with nonprofits just like yours.

Understanding Disaster Recovery Planning

Disaster recovery planning involves creating strategies to restore critical functions after a disaster, ensuring that an organization can continue its operations. For nonprofits, this means safeguarding the continuity of services, communications, and financial operations. Disasters can range from natural events such as hurricanes and earthquakes to cyber-attacks and technical failures. A comprehensive plan should address these various scenarios, mitigating their impact and facilitating a quick recovery.

Key Components of a Disaster Recovery Plan

  1. Risk Assessment and Business Impact Analysis
    • Risk Assessment: Identify potential risks, including natural disasters, cyber threats, power outages, and human errors.
    • Business Impact Analysis: Assess the impact of these risks on your organization, focusing on how different scenarios could disrupt service delivery, communications, and financial stability.
  2. Recovery Strategies
    • Data Backup: Regularly back up critical data at intervals that make sense for your operations, storing it in multiple locations, including off-site or cloud storage, to ensure quick restoration if your primary data sites go down.
    • Alternate Facilities: Identify alternate physical locations for continuing operations if your primary site is unavailable, such as temporary office spaces or remote work arrangements.
    • Communication Plan: Develop a robust communication plan to keep staff, volunteers, clients, and stakeholders informed during a disaster, including backup communication methods in case email and normal communication apps are not accessible.
  3. Plan Development
    • Establish Priorities: Identify and prioritize your most critical functions and services. Focus on those first.
    • Create Detailed Procedures: Outline step-by-step procedures for responding to various disasters, covering data recovery, relocation, and communication.
    • Assign Roles and Responsibilities: Designate specific roles to staff members for each aspect of the disaster recovery process, ensuring everyone understands their responsibilities and has the necessary training to execute them effectively.
  4. Testing and Training
    • Regular Testing: Conduct drills and simulations regularly to test your disaster recovery plan, identifying weaknesses and making necessary adjustments.
    • Training Programs: Provide ongoing training for staff and key volunteers to familiarize them with your disaster recovery plan and enhance their response capabilities.
  5. Review and Update
    • Continuous Improvement: Regularly review and update the disaster recovery plan to account for new risks, changes in operations, and feedback from tests and real incidents.
    • Stay Informed: Assign someone on your IT and/or executive team to keep abreast of the latest disaster recovery best practices and incorporate them into your plan. Engage in relevant training and networking opportunities to stay informed about emerging threats and solutions.

Best Practices for Maintaining Your Disaster Recovery Plan

Even the best disaster recovery plan is useless if it sits in a binder on a shelf and stagnates.  We encourage clients to revisit and maintain their plans regularly with actions like these:

  1. Involve Key Stakeholders
    • Engage board members, staff, key volunteers, and beneficiaries in the planning process to ensure both buy-in and comprehensive and practical solutions that actually work for everyone involved.
  2. Leverage Technology
    • Continuously utilize technology solutions such as cloud-based services, data encryption, and cybersecurity measures to protect data and ensure quick recovery.
  3. Collaborate with Partners
    • Partner with other organizations to share resources and expertise, strengthening your disaster recovery capabilities.
  4. Document and Communicate
    • Keep detailed documentation of the disaster recovery plan accessible to all relevant parties and communicate updates regularly to ensure preparedness.
  5. Insurance and Financial Preparedness
    • Maintain adequate insurance coverage against potential losses and develop a financial plan for disaster recovery costs, including emergency funds and budget allocations. Get Board buy-in on this step at the beginning of your disaster-planning process to ensure that these needs are fully funded in what can be tight budgeting seasons.

Find a Supportive Partner

Cross the Divide was founded by a team that understands the unique challenges nonprofits face. No matter who you choose to assist in your disaster recovery planning, make certain that they offer these types of comprehensive solutions:

  1. Consultation Services
    • IT experts should be providing personalized consultation to help you assess your organization’s unique risks, develop mitigation strategies, and create tailored disaster recovery plans.
  2. Technology Solutions
    • MSPs should offer practical technology solutions, including cloud storage, data backup, and cybersecurity services, to protect your data and ensure swift recovery in the event of a disaster.
  3. Training and Support
    • Ongoing training and support are essential to prepare your team for effective disaster response, including simulation exercises and 24/7 technical support in the eventually of a real crisis.
  4. Collaboration and Networking
    • Your IT team should be facilitating collaboration and networking with other nonprofits and industry experts to share knowledge and resources on current threats and evolving best practices.
  5. Continuous Improvement
    • Your IT experts should stay updated on disaster recovery best practices and emerging technologies, providing you with the latest insights and innovations.

Nonprofits must implement effective disaster recovery planning to ensure continuity in their vital work in the event of an emergency. By following the steps we outline above and leveraging CTD’s expertise and resources to create a plan customized to your needs, your organization can be resilient at a time when clients are likely to need you more than ever. Together, we can ensure that your nonprofit remains steadfast in its mission to serve your community, even in the face of adversity. For more information on how we can help your nonprofit with disaster recovery planning, reach out to us.