Board Members: How to Approach Decision-Making in Times of Crisis

If you’re a board member serving an institution or organization, you are probably dealing with many challenging decisions in this time of crisis.

This is a difficult time for everyone and board decision-making is not easy. Your organization may be facing serious financial issues.  Or, the pandemic may require shutting down parts of your work. Even more, your hardworking staff may need to reinvent your programming and services. 

With everything now upended, many boards face decisions that involve major restructuring of programs and initiatives.  In these times, boards are creating new strategies and policies that can have major long term impact. 

How is your board approaching decision-making in times of crisis?

We’re currently seeing some boards step up to the plate and make bold strategic moves. Because of wise decisions now, they are setting their institutions up for a successful post-pandemic future. 

Other boards are taking a slash and burn approach – cutting staff, programming and revenue streams in an effort to save the organization. Other, less bold boards are simply withdrawing from their roles, leaving their organizations adrift.

Here are three ways that brave, committed board members can approach the current crisis:

1. Step up to the plate and deal with the difficult decisions.

Board members, your time is now! Of all times, this is the time to pay deep attention. When there is a crisis, it’s urgent that the board step up and face the issues frankly.

Renew your personal commitment to your organization to support its mission, no matter what effort it takes. Educate yourself thoroughly on what’s happening.  Explore options. Look at the deeper issues thoughtfully. 

This is absolutely not a time to step aside. Bring the best of yourself to your work and your role. Thoughtful decisions take time. So, put in the time you need to ponder the implications of these difficult decisions.  

2. Commit yourself to the long-range overall health of your organization. 

Make sure that you keep the bigger picture in mind. Once the current crisis passes, then how will your organization fare? Will your nonprofit be in a position to move forward vigorously? 

Or will it be crippled with a lack of trained staff or decreased fundraising revenue? If board decision-making considers only the short term and not your long term positioning, then your organization may not make it on the other side.

3. Consider your organization’s long-term financial health.

Above all, don’t cut your fundraising program. And, don’t layoff your fundraising team. Remember the revenue relationship:  your fundraisers are responsible for a significant part of your revenue stream. 

If you cut back fundraising right now, you are cutting off major sources of current cash flow. 

And think outside the box, the pandemic has really provided some unique opportunities for fundraising!

Cutting fundraising programs right now will irrevocably hamper long-term cash flow. This is because you will lose vitally important donor relationships that you have already invested so much in. 

When your donors are no longer hearing from you or their regular fundraising staffer, they will gradually drift away to other organizations, ones who are fundraising. 

What will be the result?  Your organization will be poorly positioned to grow and flourish when times move forward.  You may have even more severe financial challenges, because your revenue streams have been irrevocably damaged.

It may be wise to consider pulling reserves out of your endowment to cover short-term cash flow issues, rather than cutting so severely that your organization is crippled when the pandemic is over. 

Bottom Line: The key decisions you make now will have long-term impact.

Adapting to this changing environment is not easy. But there are many resources out there, such as blog posts and trainings, that will help your board, and your organization, understand how to quickly pivot fundraising strategies in order to keep operating. Use these resources, and dig deep. Now is the time to move forward boldly and make key decisions.

Make these decisions carefully, considering all options – and keep the endgame in mind. 

 

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Hope you have a wonderful weekend.