Creating an effective disaster recovery plan for not-for-profits

A disaster recovery plan minimises down time and staff disruption, giving you a tested plan to get things back as quickly as possible and allowing staff to focus their efforts on making a difference.
Person planning next to computer

Technology failures are inevitable, and a robust disaster recovery plan is crucial for minimizing downtime and disruption. Such a plan ensures that your organization can recover quickly, allowing your team to focus on what truly matters—your mission.

Key Steps in Developing a Disaster Recovery Plan

Gain Executive Buy-In

  • Leadership Involvement: Secure commitment from top leadership to support the disaster recovery planning process. Assign a dedicated individual, ideally from management, to coordinate all recovery efforts.

Establish a Planning Committee

  • Cross-functional Team: Form a committee that includes representatives from all critical areas of your organization, such as IT, operations, communications, and key operational units.

Define Recovery Objectives

  • Clearly define what your organization aims to achieve with the disaster recovery plan, such as minimal operational downtime and effective response strategies.

Scope the Plan

  • Determine which infrastructure, equipment, IT systems, and services are critical and must be included in the plan to ensure continued operation.

Assess Critical Systems and Services

  • Identify essential information services and IT systems and perform a high-level impact analysis to determine their availability requirements.

Set Recovery Objectives

  • Establish the maximum acceptable period in which data might be lost due to a major incident.
  • Define the maximum acceptable time to restore the function after a disaster.

Risk Assessment

  • Evaluate potential disruptive threats such as cyber incidents, power failures, or natural disasters.
  • Document scenarios that could impact critical IT services/systems.

Plan Documentation

  • Define roles for the disaster recovery team, including leadership, technical coordination, and operations. Develop a communication plan that includes internal and external stakeholders, detailing what will be communicated during a disaster.

Testing and Exercises

  • Conduct regular tests of the disaster recovery plan to ensure it works as expected and adjust as needed. Involve IT support providers in testing the plan, especially for critical system recoveries.

Maintain the Plan

  • Keep the disaster recovery plan updated with any changes in IT infrastructure or organizational priorities. Use insights from tests and real incidents to continually refine and improve the plan.


An effective disaster recovery plan is more than a set of procedures; it's a critical component of your organization's resilience strategy. By preparing in advance, you ensure that your nonprofit can withstand and quickly recover from disruptions, maintaining continuity of service and protecting your mission.

Download the Disaster Recovery Plan template. Follow the above steps to customise it, to meet your organisation's requirements.

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