VCSE Contingency Planning

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We are updating this guidance to support organisations during the Covid-19 pandemic. Please bear with us as it is work in progress . See our page on general Covid-19 Guidance

Contingency planning, business continuity planning or organisational resilience planning is the process by which an organisation identifies risks that may impact its operations and develops plans to mitigate them both in terms of reducing their likelihood of happening and responding to their effects. In general:

  • Identify events that may affect your organisation negatively (a Pandemic for example).
  • Identify the critical aspects of your operations.
  • Understand how these events may affect critical aspects of your organisation in a worst-case scenario.
  • Plan how you would respond to these events to maintain critical aspects of operations where possible.
  • Implement and communicate this plan.

These are Community Action Norfolk’s business continuity plan and Covid-19 action plan. We are not saying these are in anyway perfect but hopefully will help, particularly if you don’t have policies or processes in place.  

Business continuity plan

Covid-19 action plan

Critical to contingency planning are:

  • Making sure you are identifying all risks and critical areas of your operations.
  • Having the right infrastructure, tools and policies in place before an incident or crisis happens.
  • Making sure a plan is in place (documented) together with training and effective communication of that plan. This means you don’t need to think about what to do as much when an issue occurs and, it is easier to communicate what is happening and team members know what they should be doing.
  • Continually reviewing and testing – what aspects work, what don’t and how do you continually improve your resilience.


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Also see Charity Digital Article on Coronavirus comms for charities. 

Communication is critical. Think about who needs to be kept informed; your team, trustees, services users, partners and funders. Keep messages consistent, simple, action orientated and regular.

It is important to repeat messages and keep people updated but don’t go overboard. Website messages, pinned Facebook or twitter posts or answerphone messages (not forgetting posters on doors etc) are good ways to do this.

Keep in contact with your team (whether volunteers or staff). How you will keep them regularly informed of changes? You need to think about wellbeing (the effects of potentially being isolated or home working), welfare (being clear about their state of health and safety), performance (home working is still working, how will you monitor this).

Time to double check that emergency and home contact list (and make sure it is accessible outside the office – unlike us during the beast from the east).

Tools like Whatsapp group chat, Microsoft Teams and slack are great ways to keep a group of people regularly informed with the same message. Email and phone calls also work.

Identifying Areas affected

Core areas of business affected will depend on the nature of your organisations but think about:

Computers, phones, email, website, equipment, documents and files, premises.
Think about how your staff and service users may be affected.

Are there any practical issues you may want to adjust your policies for (does payroll need to be signed physically, do you need physical signatures or authorisations, who holds keys)?


Understand how the event may affect your income and expenditure.

Check with your insurance as to whether you have any income protection cover or other relevant cover.

Check your cash-flow position. Is there a point you will physically run out of cash? What expenditure can be delayed? What point would you need to trigger redundancies? Talk to your funders, a number of funders are pledging to support organisations by being flexible.

Map out key decision points.


Understand what your minimum workforce level requirements are.

Understand how your services will be affected and how you may adapt if you have lower levels of staff and volunteers.

Think about where you may be able to access additional volunteers or staff in a crisis or at short notice.

How might you make use of and respond to spontaneous volunteers in a crisis. Government guidance of the coordination of spontaneous volunteers https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/planning-the-coordination-of-....


What technology will enable your team to be able to work from home?

What is the nature of the work your employees can do from home? If this is not ‘normal work’ what tasks could they be usefully completing?

What policies do you have in place to cover home working and what changes may be required?

Keep in contact with your team (whether volunteers of staff), how you will keep them regularly informed of changes? You need to think about wellbeing (the effects of potentially being isolated or home working), welfare (being clear about their state of health and safety), performance (home working is still working, how will you monitor this)?

You retain Health and safety responsibility for people working from home. We use a simple declaration form and provide guidance on risk assessment.