Step 1: Define What You Do

One of the first questions to ask yourself when starting the insurance buying process for your nonprofit is this: ‘What do we do?”

Buying Process Step 1

Buying Process Step 1

Do not limit your answer to your programs and your mission statement. Include those things, but don’t limit yourself.

Mindmap or brainstorm all of your activities.

For example, my mom runs a small nonprofit called Aaron and Andrew Ministries. If I asked this question ‘What do we do?” about this organization, my answers might include (I’m giving myself 3 minutes to brainstorm starting…. now):

  1. Wednesday home church meetings
  2. Saturday home church meetings
  3. Board meetings
  4. Occasional special event fund raisers
  5. Outreach school supply giveaways
  6. Thanksgiving turkey giveaways
  7. Christmas party
  8. Miscellaneous informal mentoring
  9. Pastoral counseling
  10. Teaching
  11. Occasionally transporting of members and volunteers
  12. Volunteer training
  13. Backoffice management (accounting, document filing, record keeping)
  14. Fundraising
  15. Newsletter production and mailing
  16. Partner with other churches and nonprofits for joint ventures
  17. Children and youth ministry

It’s amazing that a relatively small nonprofit generates this much activity.

The list paints a picture. It reveals where exposures to loss lie. Special events, home church services, and other activities inform the need for general liability.

Mentoring and pastoral counseling indicates an exposure to professional liability.

Work with children (my time ran out) highlights a small risk of accusation around abuse and molestation. That coverage should be addressed.

Accounting, fundraising, and other back office activities might spark a conversation around accounts receivable and employee dishonesty coverage.

Board meetings reveal a need for Directors and Officers liability.

I realize that this isn’t rocket science. Many of these exposures are obvious, yet the exercise is extremely helpful to uncover risks we might not have considered.

Any nonprofit (or small business in general) would benefit from brainstorming the activities it does – from programming to revenue generating to internal, back office administering.

It is the first step that a nonprofit should take to start getting out how to evaluate the insurance coverage it might need.

The question isn’t ‘what kind of claim will we have?’

The question is ‘what do we do and how do we cover those activities?’

Hopefully you’ll never a have a claim!




  1. I belong to non profit organization, which we are under the County which we live, in NJ
    Our volunteer group, set up shelters, for pets, when people have to go into a shelter themselves, during a disaster, like hurricane Sandy, My question is, If something should happen to an animal,,
    like dog fight, death of an animal, or anything, where a pet gets hurt. I am asking this on my own,
    for my own knowledge.. We have a Licensed vet, and vet techs. besides rest of us or volunteers who
    love animals. I know we are covered under the county’s liability insurance. But I wanted to know if the owner of the animal decides to go after the county, and their lawyer says we need to bring the people who were at the shelter at that time, can they go after those folks. We do training, and have drills, for practice. Like I said, I am just asking for myself just interested

    • Brett Cohrs says:

      Hi Dolores,

      Not knowing agreements for coverage that might be in place, I’d always be nervous to depend on another entity’s insurance to cover you. People can sue anybody they’d like. And you’d have to defend that suit. Liability insurance would provide defense for a covered claim even if nothing comes of the claim. You’d want to make sure a policy would cover your specific type of operation – animal care/shelter nonprofit. If you are a super small nonprofit with no budget, then it’s a tougher call.


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