How to Buy Insurance for Your Nonprofit – Step 3: Identify Your ‘Things’

In Step 1, we talked about defining the activities and programs common to your nonprofit. We then, in Step 2, discussed identifying the people important to your organization.

Step 3 represents the final list you’ll make around who and what is vital to the ongoing operation of your nonprofit.  In this step, you’ll take a walk (mentally or physically) through your offices – whether a home office or many different owned buildings – and identify the things that you use to do your work.

Buying Process Step 3 - Identify 'Things'

Buying Process Step 3 – Identify ‘Things’

Remember back in grade school or high school (for some of us) when you had to define ‘noun’? The definition is ‘person, place, thing, or idea.’  We’ve covered ‘person’. Now we want to address, ‘places, things, and ideas.’


Identify the important structures you own or lease and make a list. This could include a rented office facility or an owned hospital. It could be a leased warehouse and three residences where you run a program for individuals with developmental disabilities. It might even be a location where you have weekly meetings with key stakeholders.

List out the buildings and places where you do your work.


While some nonprofits might not own ‘places’ – no buildings or structures – most all nonprofits have some kind of ‘thing’ that is important. Even if you’re a tiny home office, you still have things.  And if you’re a large multi-state nonprofit, you know you have things. And you probably have experienced the stress of some of those things being damaged, lost, or stolen.

A key point to consider is that things are both tangible and intangible, so don’t limit your list to things you can pick up with your hands.

Here are some bullets to get you thinking about ‘things’:

  • Furniture
  • Stock
  • Data (yes, the stuff in your computer or stored on your server or somewhere up in the cloud)
  • Money
  • Automobiles
  • Computer equipment
  • HVAC equipment
  • Teaching materials
  • Recorded and printed records
  • Art
  • Tools and machinery and other equipment (for some of you community redevelopment and weatherization nonprofits)

Think about the activities your organization does and make note of the important items necessary to accomplish those tasks. From money to basic office administration equipment, write it down. Don’t stress about writing ‘5 staplers’. Just make note of the categories and any particular big ticket items that you want to make sure to address when you get to the property portion of your insurance analysis.


I contemplated putting ‘data’ into this category. But obviously, I included above.  Then I thought about leaving this portion out altogether.

This list isn’t as relevant to the insurance discussion, but I wanted to bring it up anyway. It’s important to take stock of the vital ideas related to your operations.

What is the risk of not remaining true to your organization’s key ideas?

What would happen if you don’t stay committed to…

  • Your mission?
  • Your organizational vision?
  • Your systems and processes?
  • Your core operational values?
  • Your ethics?

These ideas are things that are absolutely central to running a quality organization (whether for-profit or nonprofit).

Your insurance person might not be able to fully help you here (although violating ethics or some systems and processes could lead to liability or other claims). But it’s important to at least make the list if you haven’t.

Why the ‘Things List’ is Important

This list will help you in one of two ways:

  1. Knowing what items you want to make sure you have property insurance for
  2. Knowing what you might need to do to have a backup plan in case something happens to one of these items.

Even if you have insurance, it’s helpful to identify important items and how you would quickly replace them. You might also find that insurance isn’t as important for some items that easily replaced quickly and at a low cost.

Our Buying Process So Far

If you’re following along in this series, then you’ll be developing three lists:

  1. Activities and programs
  2. People important to your organization.
  3. Things vital to your operations

From here, we’ll look at engaging agents and companies. Then we’ll talk about tools and considerations in deciding the coverages to purchase.

If you would like to discuss some of these ideas, don’t hesitate to complete my contact form. I’m happy to bounce around some ideas with you or, if helpful, to walk through the process with you and your nonprofit.  No obligation at all. 



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