Maximizing your board’s optimal response during the Covid-19 pandemic will require both you and your board chair to use the most effective communication, relationship and inspirational skills you have. So, this article is for both of you. Because, if your partnership is not one of total trust, respect and transparency, you will not succeed to the level your nonprofit needs to exit this crisis remaining strong enough to continue delivering its much-needed mission.
You and your board chair should meet by phone or video call at least weekly while you are identifying and addressing the key issues and forming your strategy for keeping your board engaged. Use personal ways to keep the board apprised regularly of your plans: individual video or phone calls. Perhaps bi-weekly at first, then no less than monthly after that, or you may find many of them going AWOL.
You, as CEO, must take the leadership role and engage the board influencers, hopefully your board chair and executive committee. They, in turn, must support you in that role. Now is not the time for waffling or indecisiveness. You must make decisions. They will not all be right, and some will have to be replaced by subsequent ones. This is not the time for continuing a “corporate perfection” style of leadership, but more one of community involvement. This may be a difficult change for many board members, because they are more comfortable with the former, not the latter.
Engage board members individually rather than sending out a general appeal for help. People will not know how to respond to a generic “we need your help”. Therefore, they may not. Ask individuals who have expertise in certain areas to assist with those. Provide them clear and specific requests and expectations and give them all the support they need to be successful. Focus on a few key issues, then prioritize them. Ensure your internal and external communications are on the same page and agree on talking points that everyone uses.
In all of this, stay focused on the difference between governance and management. It will be easy for board members to default to the management role during these times, and in some cases, it may be appropriate. Remember, though, that when this is over, they must return to their governance role, and it may be difficult for them to do, given they’ve been more involved in the day-to-day activities. See my previous March article on the difference between governance and management and work with the board to embrace those concepts.
Mirenda & Associates offers 50+ years in working with boards in all types of difficult situations and crises, and we stand ready to assist you and your board leadership. Call us for a free 30-minute consultation to help identify your key issues. We will endure together.