You Can’t Save the World but You Can Help Change ‘Anna’s’ Life

My wife has a sign on the refrigerator door that says this:

When you feel like quitting, remember why you started!

It’s an encouragement to maintain healthy eating and exercise habits.  

But it’s also a vital thought to help us stay whatever course we consider important enough to be on in the first place. 

  • It can be parenting.
  • It can be yardwork.
  • It can be mentoring.
  • It can be creating an arts program.
  • It can be starting a new nonprofit or other business.

You and I both started doing what we’re doing for a reason. And we will always have to contend with the mess that follows the exhilaration of the dreaming and visioning and starting phase. That stuff… the messy middle as Michael Hyatt puts it… can derail us if we’re not careful.

What is the ‘Stuff’ of the  messy middle?

The messy middle – that junk that makes us watch reality TV or get mad at others in our Facebook feed or check email way more than we really need to – is a strange brew of wildly varied ingredients. But they all conspire against getting the ultimate results that you’re looking for.

You didn’t start your nonprofit as a money-making venture. Unless you’re heading up a major nonprofit or up to something shady (or have a side business), you’re probably not pulling in mid to high six figures.

You got into the nonprofit sector to see change happen for a particular group of people or a particular cause.

Yet now you’re in it, and you’re not seeing the change happen as quickly as you wanted (or at all). Or you are overwhelmed by the vastness of the need. The results you were hoping for seem like a ridiculous pipe dream.

You’re frustrated with your current work and the politics of your organization, and  you can’t see how  your daily activities are connected to the ultimate reasons why you got into this business of social change in the first place.  

Your work feels like factory work (no offense to factory work). You punch your clock at 8am and slog through until you punch it again at 5pm.  

Your connection to the vision and mission is gone, or hanging by a thread. 

The whole world and beyond seem to be conspiring against you.

When you feel like quitting…. remember why you started.

Let me make a small suggestion. Call it a personal fake-out if you need to, but if you’ve never tried the exercise I’m about to suggest, please give it a shot.

Think about one person. One child. One lonely elderly man. One dog or cat. One frightened or scared new mother.

Reach your demographic by reaching one at a time

Photo Credit: Xlavius via Compfight cc

Forget the demographic your organization is supposed to be helping and boil it all down to one singular face.

And ask this:

What are the results that I hope to bring for that one individual?

Give that person a name. Give her hopes and dreams. Give him a future.  An ideal future. 

Focus on the nitty-gritty results that you know you can bring to the table to help make that future happen. How is what you are doing right now or today tied to making those results happen?

Write it down. Make post-its. Make it a screensaver of wallpaper on  your phone or computer.

Make sure to include the name you give that individual in all of your reminders

Fall in love with that person like a mom or dad falls in love with a child or like a child falls in love with a parent. Or if you’re an animal rescue outfit, fall in love with that individual animal like a 6 year old falls in love with her first puppy. 

Now today… try hard to remember to do for that one individual in some small way, what you wish you could do for everybody and over time, you’ll be amazed at what happens.

You’re no longer working for all the foster kids in St. Louis or Atlanta or Phoenix. You’re working for Anna. She’s 5. She’s scared. She’s lonely, but she’s hopeful. 

What can you do today for Anna? 

Nonprofit Insurance Checklist: General Liability

This is the first installment of an occasional series based off of our nonprofit insurance team’s coverage checklist. The coverages are not necessarily in order of importance or likelihood of claim. Please consult your insurance professional (or reach out to me) to discuss your particular situation.

General liability (GL) is a basic business insurance coverage. Since a 501c3 (or 4 or 6) is a form of business, general liability insurance must be a consideration, perhaps even a necessity.

Nonprofit Checklist - General Liability

Nonprofit Checklist – General Liability

Why is General Liability Important?

A Planned Expense for Unplanned Claims

General liability is important because it defends the organization, board, employees, and volunteers when there is a claim or lawsuit or accusation of negligence. It also will pay the plaintiff if the claim is covered and the court or other body deems the claim is warranted.

Claims Can Be Very, Very Big

You’ve seen huge liability claims – those claims that reach into the high six figures or even the low 7 figures (and beyond). General liability is one of the key coverages that help provides funds for you when your organization is either negligent or accused of negligence.  Without the coverage, you run the risk of major financial damage to your nonprofit.

The Odds of a Claim or the Consequences?

It’s not about the likelihood of a claim. It’s about the mess if and when a claim hits. Clients often focus on the odds vs. the consequences. Nobody can predict if something will happen. We can gauge our ability to pay for defense or damages should a claim happen.  Could you or would you want to shell out $100,000 in defense and damages? $1,000,000?

Let’s look at the general categories of coverage under your Commercial General Liability policy.

Coverage A: Bodily Injury & Property Damage

The two most often referenced types of claims for general liability are these:

  1. Bodily Injury
  2. Property Damage

Bodily Injury

If your organization causes bodily injury to someone (who is not an employee), then general liability is often the policy that will come to your aid.

Property Damage

If your organization causes damage to someone’s personal property, then general liability is the most likely coverage to defend you or pay a claim. Please note, this is not damage to your property, but to a third party’s property.

An Example of Bodily Injury and Property Damage

Assuming your policy has no restrictions on it, consider this scenario:

Your nonprofit rents a room at a local library for a six-week high school group mentoring class. On one occasion, a couple of the students in your mentoring group are way too hopped up on Mountain Dew and decide to throw a football around in the main library area.

One of the students decides he must score a touchdown and starts weaving in and out of the stacks until he turns a corner, runs into a sweet elderly lady, knocking her down and breaking her hip. At the same time, your student loses his footing and crashes into a bank of computers, knocking them all down and effectively destroying them.

The injury to the sweet elderly lady? Bodily injury claim under your general liability policy. You were negligent in your supervision and as a result, your organization was the cause of her injury.

The damage to the computers? Property damage claim against your organization. Again, your GL policy should defend you and pay the claim.

Coverage B: Personal & Advertising Injury Coverage

This coverage addresses less ‘physical’ types of damages. Here is summarized list of what Personal & Advertising Injury includes:

  1. False arrest, detention or imprisonment
  2. Malicious prosecution
  3. Wrongful eviction, entry, or invasion of right of private occupancy
  4. Libel and slander
  5. Invasion of privacy
  6. The use of another’s advertising idea in your advertisement
  7. Infringement of copyright, title, or slogan in your advertisement

These types of claims might seem unlikely, but consider something like invasion of privacy by oral or written publication. Those event pictures you post on your website or that picture of one of your mentoring groups… did you get permission from those faces in those pictures? Likely claim? Probably not. Possible? Of course.

Coverage C: Medical Payments

Medical payments is a ‘no fault’ bodily injury coverage that makes a few thousand dollars available to a claimant who is accidentally injured on your premises or during your operations. You weren’t at fault. They aren’t suing you, but you, in good faith, make first aid, ambulance, diagnostic, or other medical services available. This coverage can sometimes help steer claimant away from levying a general liability claim for bodily injury.

Final Thoughts: General Liability for Nonprofits

It’s nearly impossible to sum up a general liability policy in a short blog post, but the three coverages listed above offer a picture of the intentions of the GL policy.

Your nonprofit really should consider this one of the pillars of its insurance program. Like with your personal auto or home insurance, you hope you never have to use it, and there’s a good chance you will never have to, but you’re sure glad you have them when something does happen.

If you can plan for the expense of the liability coverage, you can have some peace of mind when an unplanned for claim falls onto your desk.

Action Items:

  • If you are an existing, established nonprofit, review your policy’s endorsements and policy language. See if there’s an exclusion or a provision that causes you some concern or, conversely, offers a coverage you didn’t realize you had.
  • If you’re a new, startup nonprofit, do not bypass general liability because you’ve heard that directors and officers liability is most important. Consider both coverages carefully.
Always note…

Scenarios vary wildly and policies will always have various expanding or restricting endorsements attached (another topic for another day), so as much as you can stomach it, read your policy. At the very least, I suggest reading the exclusion sections. If anything makes you nervous, ask your insurance professional about it. Remember that insurance policies aren’t created to cover everything, so make sure to walk through a process that will help you  uncover your risk exposures so you can address each one as appropriately as possible. 


If you have a question about general liability insurance, please leave it below or reach out through our contact form.


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