Managing Risks - Where Do I Start?

Published November 26, 2013

Dina Bell-Laroche and I have just completed the 30th risk assessment workshop in the multi-year Risk Management Project funded by Sport Canada and the True Sport Foundation, and delivered by the Sport Law & Strategy Group. Twenty-eight of those assessments have involved NSOs or MSOs. This is quite a milestone!

I always like to say that risk management is not rocket science, and the methodology is the same whether you are a national sport organization or a neighbourhood dog-fanciers club. Risk management always involves three key steps: 1) identify the risks, 2) evaluate the risks and 3) treat the risks, using a combination of methods to retain, reduce, transfer and avoid risks.

The first step, identifying risks, can seem at first blush to be overwhelming. How do you start? To make it manageable, it is useful to think of the various categories in which risks can occur. There is no one “right way” to categorize risks, but rather several possible ways. In the Risk Management Project we have adapted (one could also say "sportified") the categories used by the Chartered Accountants of Canada in their handy publication, 20 Questions Directors of Not-for-Profit Organizations Should Ask About Risk.  The following may be helpful to you as you think about risks faced by your national sport organization:

  • Operational/Program Risks: Risk related to key programs in the areas of coach, official and athlete development; management of human resources, including staff and volunteers; organizational capacity to meet member and stakeholder expectations; event and competition management; planning so as to remain vital and relevant to our members; the inherent physical risks of our sport.
  • Compliance Risks: Risk related to failure to comply with existing laws and regulations governing employment, privacy, workplace safety, new corporations legislation (NFP Act), tenant legal responsibilities, RCAAA charitable status, Imagine Canada standards, anti-doping standards, Sport Canada/OTP/other agency standards for funding and accountability, fulfillment of contractual obligations.
  • Communication Risks: Risks related to internal and external communications, information management systems, crisis and issues management, media relations, image and reputation management, missed opportunities to promote and exploit successful outcomes, management of intellectual property, social media opportunities and pitfalls, confidentiality.
  • External Risks: Risks that are not in direct control of the organization such as funding frameworks from government, OTP and other agencies; relations with governments, games organizations and international federations; involvement in other sport partnerships; hosting decisions and requirements; changing political priorities.
  • Governance Risks: Risks related to clarity of roles and responsibilities, decision-making and oversight, organizational structure and performance; management of disputes and conflict of interest, planning for diversity and succession of the Board and committees, retention of corporate knowledge, staying current with trends affecting the organization.
  • Financial Risks: Risks related to financial monitoring and reporting, flexibility to control and direct funds, sponsorship attraction and retention, investment and management of reserve funds, protection of revenue streams, long-term financial sustainability.

At the Sport Law & Strategy Group, we are strong proponents of using risk management techniques as a management tool to improve organizational performance. Risk management is now also an accountability measure in the funding policies of Sport Canada.

To learn more about the Risk Management Project, or risk management generally, contact Dina or Rachel at the Sport Law & Strategy Group. Be sure to also check out this how-to resource we prepared recently for LegaciesNow.

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