The Nonprofit Leader Emergency Survival Kit


This past week California (where Aplos is located) received a large amount of much-needed rain and snow. Unless you have been living on another planet or do not read the news, most people know that California has been in severe drought-like conditions for the past several years and rainfall has been scarce. So, while we welcomed the winter weather, certain parts of the State received large amounts of “the wet stuff” in a short amount of time. This, in turn, created flooding, mudslides, flash flood warnings, and power outages throughout California. Amidst all the news coverage of the storm conditions and weather tracking, there were a series of reports and warnings about having an “emergency preparedness kit” or “home survival kit” ready at all times in your home and vehicles.

These kinds of kits are typically filled with items such as a flashlight, batteries, bottled water, easy access food/snacks, transistor radios (sorry google home), toiletry items, and of course for some reason I still don’t know why every kit needs duct tape. Now I need to confess that I personally do not have a survival kit of my own at home, other than a flashlight which I am not 100% sure where it is located. But, I do admit they are a great idea and I am planning on putting one together (at least with the snacks) very soon.

In the meantime, the whole idea of a survival kit got me thinking about nonprofit and church leaders and what their emergency preparedness kit might look like. Anyone who has been in leadership at a nonprofit or church knows that there are going to be times when things just do not go as planned. Everything from unplanned building expenses, a shortfall in donations, or a rained out special event can quickly throw a wrench in your fundraising plan and create a flash flood-like atmosphere among the leaders, staff, volunteers, and board members.

All this to say, I would like to provide you with some low cost, easy accessible items that I think every nonprofit leader should have ready to go in their own personal emergency preparedness kit…

  • Loaded gift card to your favorite coffee establishment — Keep on hand for all those hours of upcoming meetings you are going to have with donors, volunteers, and board members.
  • Fully charged portable phone adapter — For all those times you are stuck waiting in the coffee shops for your donors, volunteers, and board members, you’ll have to kill time by checking Facebook, updating Instagram, and playing another round of 1010.
  • A rubber band — A reminder that you have to remain flexible and need to stretch yourself in all aspects of your job.
  • A supply of your favorite candy bars — Because as much as you want to have a glass of wine after that morning executive board meeting, you just can’t. But, there’s nothing wrong having a snickers or two before lunch.
  • Stress ball — Squeeze this instead of grinding your teeth while talking on the phone with a frustrated client or board member.
  • Post-it notes — Because the best ideas and reminders are written and stuck all over your desk and your staff will think you are filled with ideas, even if it is just a reminder to bring home some milk.
  • Bottle of Aspirin or Aleve — When your emcee for the upcoming gala cancels and your development officer gives their monthly donation report.
  • Magic Wand — Preferably an Illumination Wand like Harry Potter used as the magician people think you should be, or when you have to perform a quick miracle for your organization.
  • Lemon Drop — (the candy not the drink) to remind you “when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.”
  • Chewbacca Electronic Mask — Yes just like the one from this viral video. Don’t forget the importance of having fun and laughing together as a staff. At Aplos we value the importance of having fun together and our leaders are often the ones who drive that.
  • Energy Bar — For the late night editing session of grant proposals due in the next 48 hours.
  • Duct Tape — Because it just seems like you should always have some around and nonprofit leaders are expected to fix things quick.

Being a nonprofit leader and/or fundraiser can be challenging, rewarding, stressful, messy, and glorious all at once. Hopefully you will take a few minutes to reflect on what is in your survival kit so that you can be prepared for the many challenges and opportunities that come your way while representing your amazing cause.

Best of luck!

Dan Kimball is a seasoned fundraiser with twenty years of experience in strategic fund development and nonprofit management. He’s currently developing Aplos’ Donor Management Platform to help nonprofits connect with (and cultivate!) their donor base.

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