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Safety is an essential component of community rec operations, and it requires everyone involved being on the same page, including your risk management partner.

“First and foremost, an organization should select a company that truly understands the nonprofit business model,” said Chris Tointon, the president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Omaha, with 10 locations in Omaha, Nebraska. “Insurance companies that don’t understand our business will institute rules and policies that provide legal protection, but it’s more important to have a partner to help us truly understand the risk.”

The first step in creating a strong partnership is establishing trust, and trust is built by having genuine conversations and properly aligning expectations.

“A great risk management partner should first establish a clear understanding of their organization,” said Cameron Burt, the senior vice president of Holmes Murphy and Associates, an independent insurance brokerage that services YMCAs across the country. “What do they do? How do they operate? Who do they want to be? Insurance carriers can be a great source of information, which, if properly accessed, can effectively help your rec organization appropriately evaluate and rethink safety and cleanliness.”

In an ideal situation, your risk management partner should be able to help your organization strengthen its safety and cleanliness protocols, rather than simply write up a claim whenever you need it.

“Proactive insurance companies can participate on your risk committees and can be comfortable with reviewing facilities as a way to change behaviors for the better,” said Tointon. “Great risk management partners continue to educate the staff on ongoing opportunities to be better.”

When choosing its risk management partner, the Omaha Y sent out a call to action to local insurance providers that had experience working with markets similar to that of a YMCA. According to Tointon, the association was looking for the company that most closely aligned with its objectives. “Those objectives included access to insurance markets, customer service experience, the firm’s commitment to strengthening the community and cost,” he shared.

The Omaha Y’s leadership team identified three firms that could be a good fit, and eventually settled on the one they’re with today. “Ultimately, we chose the company we felt fit our company culture,” said Tointon. “That way, they completely understand our business practices and what we are trying to do for the community, and they can match policy and practice to our expected outcomes.”

Understanding the individual needs of each organization’s mission and values, and personalizing service as such, are the marks of a good risk management partner.

“Regardless of an organization’s affiliation, each group is unique and should be consulted individually, versus a one-size-fits-all standard approach,” said Burt.

Unfortunately, there are also many companies on the market that won’t be a good fit. When evaluating insurance companies to partner up with, it’s also important to know what red flags to avoid during initial conversations.

“The primary red flag to avoid when choosing a risk management partner is a lack of familiarity and alignment with your operations,” said Burt. “When interviewing an insurance broker or insurance carrier, ask measurable questions about their experience with your industry. If they have experience, request the opportunity to check their references prior to making a hiring decision.”

According to Tointon, another major consideration is the price, especially at the beginning of a policy. “Lots of companies offer a large introductory incentive to get started with them, then ramp up pricing,” he said. “You need to find someone who keeps consistent pricing. Do your research and check with others on how level the prices stay.”

In many cases, having an insurance company that simply covers you for any incidents that might occur is good enough. However, a true risk management partner — a company that has a vested interest in your organization’s success — will help you elevate your safety protocols, and give your members and you more peace of mind as a result.

“Insurance companies that understand and appreciate what we do for our community start evaluating any situation with what’s in the best interest of the Y, and how we can support and adjust policies to keep the team safe,” said Tointon. “Our customer relationships are more important than the policy. How we support them and keep them safe is critical to long-term protection, safety and security.”

Cameron Burt’s Benefits of a Great Risk Management Partner

  • The organization involved will become a better operator, which results in fewer incidents and a lower total cost of risk — premiums, claim cost, turnover, etc.
  • Depending on the size of your organization, partners should offer assistance with insurance placement, contract review, loss prevention and claims advocacy services.
  • Some partners who represent multiple organizations should be able to help benchmark the cost, limits and deductibles of insurance programs against similar-sized groups.
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Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former editor of Community Rec Magazine.

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