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Straight Talk About Risk Management


This year, your Missouri United Methodist Foundation was pleased to become a member/sponsor of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center. This membership, in turn, gives every UM church in the Missouri Conference an affiliate membership and open, free access to NRMC resources.

Recently, we sat down with Melanie Lockwood Herman, Executive Director of the NRMC, for a conversation about the most important topics and resources for churches:

MUMF: Churches of all sizes can benefit from NRMC in many areas. One big topic is human resources and, specifically, the liability concerns that come with volunteers and mission trips (youth and adults). What are some specific ways you see NRMC being able to help churches in these areas?

Melanie: We welcome calls and emails, and we enjoy problem-solving! We can help by answering questions about specific HR and volunteer issues … and we can also address hypotheticals. After learning about a church’s circumstances and concerns, we can brainstorm with a caller to explore options and possible action steps.
There is a lot of value in a church leader being able to pick up the phone and call NRMC with risk and liability questions. If a church calls NRMC, how does that conversation typically unfold, and what can a church expect? What is your greatest hope in helping a client when they reach out to you by phone or email with questions?

Melanie: The first thing you can expect is reaching someone who wants to help! Next, you can expect that we will ask you to describe the issue and then ask some follow-up questions. In our experience, often the crux of the issue is a bit different than the first description of the issue. For example, someone might call and ask, “Can a volunteer sue us for wrongful, discriminatory termination?” During the conversation we might learn that the volunteer occupies a key role, is well known in the community and has a niece who’s a newly minted employment attorney. All of these issues might be worth pondering as the church decides what to do about the volunteer’s refusal to follow church policies. Our greatest hope during a RISK Help exchange is that our members feel supported, heard and more confident about the action they will be taking.
MUMF: Do you work with many other churches? If so, what do they find is the greatest benefit in working with NRMC?

Melanie: We’ve worked with many church leaders and denominations over the years. I think that many of the people we’ve worked with see great value in being able to have a confidential conversation about difficult subjects with someone who advises both faith-based and secular nonprofits. Several years ago we supported a church team facing a crisis after a former employee was arrested for criminal conduct. We helped the church team with the messaging to the congregation and the media.
NRMC has a lot of webinars that people can watch — both archived and new ones coming out. Do you have any favorites? Also, among your featured books, name a couple you think would be most helpful for pastors and church leaders.

Melanie: There is so much to learn in our webinar vault! Some of my favorite recent webinars include “What We’re Learning from our Favorite Recent Reads” and “All Aboard: Building Internal Support for Risk Management.” My favorite books from our catalog tend to be the most recent ones! I’m super proud of World-Class Risk Management for Nonprofits, which features discussion prompts at the end of each chapter as a way to extend the learning from the book. Another favorite is EXPOSED: A Legal Field Guide for Nonprofits.
MUMF: What else would you like churches to know about NRMC?

Melanie: I want everyone to know that we’re a nonprofit too, and our sole purpose is to inspire practical, mission-advancing risk management in other nonprofits. Leaders across the sector reach out to us for help and often share information about what’s ‘not working’ in their organizations. NRMC is a judgment-free zone. We’re here to help support your mission and inspire you to feel more comfortable and confident about the risks you face.

To view the outstanding one-hour webinar Melanie conducted for the Foundation, titled Name the Elephant: Coping with the Biggest Risk to our Mission, go to:

Start using your free affiliate membership today! To learn more and to set up your account access, visit