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What About Your Board?

March 26, 2020


You’ve probably noticed that we are putting calming images at the top of our eNews issues. That’s intentional – we figure everyone can use a bit of visual calm amid the chaos bubbling elsewhere. The picture above is of the Half Moon Arch at Red River Gorge Geological Area in central Kentucky. The popular trail leading to this arch rewards hikers with a panoramic vista after a steep ascent and a bit of scrambling up boulders.

Boards can help you across your metaphorical boulder field to a place with a calmer vista in the months ahead. Our main topic today is board governance. Read on for some tips that may help nonprofit’s boards and staffs interact optimally during this challenging time.

(As usual, we also have a daily self-care tip.)

Today’s featured topic: Board Governance in a Crisis

Quite understandably, all of us are head-down, buried in the day-to-day challenges. Thinking big picture right now: the broader strategies, the larger issues, what the organization, the community – or even the world – might look like on the other side of COVID-19.

These are challenging times for directors of nonprofits. Most of them have full-time jobs of their own in either private companies or in other nonprofit organizations that are weathering their own storms. Staying in touch with our board members during this time is really important.

Certainly, your board may be involved in operations, reviewing (if not helping to resolve) unprecedented financial, legal, and human resource issues. Many boards are also helping staff consider strategy, direction, and sustainability once this crisis passes.

So, what sorts of questions should the board be addressing? BoardSource has some great suggestions (read the entire blog post here).

  • What aspects of this situation could affect our organization?
  • What are the organization’s greatest vulnerabilities?
  • What questions from the press would we least like to face?
  • How can we prevent worse-case scenarios from occurring?

Your board will not likely find the time to address these and other such questions without intentionally making room on the meeting agenda. Such attention to the larger questions, as critical as they are, will require that kind of focus and discipline. These times call for nothing less.

Here’s an excellent resource worth your time to read: Board Leadership and Performance in a Crisis: Communicate Often, Elevate the Narrative, and Don’t Declare Victory Too Soon – a 10-page PDF from international HR consultants Russell Reynolds Associates. While not specific to nonprofit boards, it has salient advice you can learn from.

Virtual meetings, once rare, are now standard – though not necessarily easy. Here are resources to help get the most out of this new way of connecting:

COVID-19 Roundtables: We hosted our first virtual Leader Roundtable yesterday. These free roundtables, open to both CNPE members and non-members, let nonprofit leaders learn from local subject-matter experts how to navigate during the coronavirus outbreak.

  • Our first information-packed webinar addressed COVID-19: HR and Legal Perspective for Nonprofits. If you could not attend, you can view the recorded version here.
  • Our next roundtable, Communicating in a Crisis: Lessons for COVID-19, will be this Friday, March 27, at 9 AM. Sign up here.

Future topics will include Budgeting, Fundraising, and Self-Care. Watch this space for details in the coming days.

Member Spotlight: Responding to COVID-19: From time to time, we will highlight how our members are responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Today, we feature one of our 2019 Pyramid Award winners, WaterStep.

This 25-year-old nonprofit based in Old Louisville recycles used shoes as a revenue source and produces a range of simple, sturdy products that help provide clean water and sanitary conditions both in the developing world and in post-disaster situations. Just yesterday, WaterStep donated its compact, powerful BleachMakers® to six local homeless shelters to generate medical-grade bleach for sanitizing.

WaterStep BleachMakerThe patented bleach makers need just table salt, water, and a car battery to generate a gallon per hour of bleach, dramatically cutting sanitation costs for these shelters. WDRB produced a feature story on this generous gift here.

Don’t forget “The List”: The CNPE team continues to curate links to resources that you can use on our COVID-19 Nonprofit Resources List. Keep checking back, because we are adding to it as our environment changes and new resources come on line. If we haven’t covered a topic of interest to you – or if you know of a helpful resource we should add – tell us.

The CNPE Self-Care Tip of the Day: Use FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom to get face-to-face contact with someone every day. You need it, but they may need it even more. We are social beings, so we now have to be intentional about something that used to occur naturally in our daily life.

Hang in there. Don’t forget – we are right next to you on the trail.

My best,
Ann's signature
Ann L. Coffey, CEO

The CNPE office is closed temporarily to help ensure everyone’s health. Our staff will be working remotely, though, and remain available to help members. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. CNPE Staff Contacts

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