The Season of Hope: A Risk Management Guide for Youth-Serving Nonprofits

Parenting is about ensuring the safe passage of our children into adulthood. Similarly, nonprofit organizations that serve youth should also concern themselves with the safe passage of youth through their programs and become cognizant of some basic ways to minimize organizational risk during the process.

Interestingly, the numbers of grants to organizations providing programs for youth is growing. According to the Foundation Center's report Foundation Giving Trends: An Update on Funding Priorities, 2002 edition, the children and youth category is "the most broadly supported by the nation's funders." Additionally, the report finds, in 2000 the share of allocations to children and youth programs increased to a record high of 16.6 percent of grant dollars and 21.0 percent of grants. Could this be an indication that children entering into an increasingly insecure world are more than ever in need of community services? As greater need spawns new organizations and programs, the risk for the very organizations that sustain these programs increases.

Enter into the arena an excellent new book, The Season of Hope: A Risk Management Guide for Youth-Serving Nonprofits, which attempts to cover the basics of risk management. The book is authored by John C. Patterson and Barbara B. Oliver and is published by the Nonprofit Risk Management Center. This new title expands on their earlier work, Child Abuse Prevention Primer, but covers a broader and more comprehensive array of topics around risk management for youth programs. It includes information about parental roles and effects of changes in family demographics; identifying child maltreatment procedures; dealing with youth violence and associated risks; workplace injuries; developing Internet policies; and physical and mental health problems of youth engaged in these organizations. It also includes information about creating policies to guide an organization in making necessary choices, understanding potential liability, and developing strategic approaches for responding to unexpected events. The Nonprofit Risk Management Center provides technical assistance to nonprofits on liability, insurance, and other matters.

The Season of Hope provides a comprehensive, sound beginning for staff or volunteers of youth programs. It was interesting and useful to read such cautionary advice as maintaining the kid's section of a Web site in light of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 that established rules for collecting information from youngsters.

In their attempt to help youth-serving nonprofits become more knowledgeable about risk management, Patterson and Oliver do not intend to discourage the creation of responsive programs, but to help organizations put policies and processes into place that minimize the inherent risks associated with serving young people, freeing them up to mindfully pursue their missions.

For additional citations on this topic, refer to the Literature of the Nonprofit Sector Online, using the subject headings "Risk management" or "Youth."

Achala Wali
Training Coordinator
Foundation Center
Cleveland, Ohio