When Risks Become Reality
Nonprofits surviving the pandemic will hopefully emerge wiser, stronger and better prepared for the next time. “It’s critical, because you have to be there for your beneficiaries when they need you,” says Steffani Lautenschlager, Chief Development Officer at City Academy, a private elementary school located in North St. Louis offering scholarship support to 100% of its students. As a 2019 YouthBridge Heritage Grant awardee, City Academy has taken part in comprehensive risk assessment and resiliency training during the second year of its three-year grant.
In the midst of COVID, City Academy began working with consultants hired by YouthBridge to evaluate and rank risks, both known and unforeseen. “Of course, the pandemic was a focus – certainly an example of an unforeseen risk – but we really did a top-to-bottom review,” she says. A customary assessment examines financial structure and revenue sources, safety and compliance, staff and volunteer training, succession planning, public relations and more. In the end, Lautenschlager says staff communication stood out as an area in need of improvement. “We’re now looking at ways to ensure our people feel ‘a part of rather than apart from’ the direction we’re moving and decisions we’re making. We also understand that risk assessment is not an event, but a process you do over and over.”
Keeping people at the center has driven some tough but necessary decisions over the past year, says Lautenschlager. Realizing the potential risk to teachers, all were allowed to teach virtually from home during the first semester of the current school year, while families had the choice to keep their child home or send them to school to be assisted by a classroom monitor. City Academy also has delayed tuition payments for some families and reduced rates for others, because “our families have been hit hard and shouldn’t have to stretch even further,” she says.