Updated: May 8
OVERARCHING PRINCIPLE: ESTABLISH “NEW NORMAL”.
Example: Board governance and engagement plan for next 3-9 months.
Here’s some steps to getting your board back in motion.
STEP ONE: GOVERNANCE
☐ Have I checked to see if our by-laws discuss emergency governance? Many do. If not, your state’s Nonprofit Corporate Law may contain a limited provision authorizing boards to enact emergency by-laws.
☐ Have I checked our by-laws regarding board meetings, quorums, etc.? Your governance committee chair may can do this. Consider updating if needed.
Example: If your by-laws require a minimum number of board members must be present in person, change it to include remote or digital participation.
Note: Thanks to Laura Solomon, Esq. http://laurasolomonesq.com/
☐ Should we continue to recruit/onboard new board members? If you can do it well remotely and can adapt your board orientation materials to the situation.
BoardSource’s free orientation checklist https://boardsource.org/nonprofit-board-orientation-checklist/
Particularly important to appoint a board mentor or buddy for incoming board members. https://boardsource.org/resources/mentor-your-way-to-board-development/
STEP TWO: BOARD DEVELOPMENT
☐ Which board materials have we not had time to develop in the past? And is there someone with the bandwidth to tackle them now? Orientation packet? Board committee member job descriptions? This is an appropriate job for a member of the governance committee, but any intelligent board member or volunteer can do the legwork to consult sources and collect samples.
Blue Avocado has great articles, samples and a sense of humor. https://blueavocado.org/category/board-of-directors/
☐ What board resources are free that usually cost money? Pre-C-19, BoardSource restricted many resources to paid members. Some of these are now free, including its Ask the Expert feature.
STEP THREE: BOARD ENGAGEMENT
☐ Have I engaged the board in implementing our C-19 Plan? http://vmja.com/covid-19-blog-1-engage-staff-and-supporters/
☐ Have I included them in our C-19 Communications Plan? Identify ways board members and major donors close to you can help amplify your message.
1. Market research audience: Outline your objectives and six to nine-month plan for your news-blasts, podcasts, social media postings, webinars, etc. Clearly define who you seek to reach, what action you want them to take, brand, theme and messaging. Then facilitate a brainstorming session. Make it clear you welcome additional resources.
Example: A trustee’s company may have an under-employed videographer
2. Content contributors: Consider interviewing your board members and/or donors in your podcast and/or for social media. Those who have subject matter expertise can comment, and those who do not can discuss why they care, their concerns for your nonprofit during C-19 and hopes for the future. When interviewing, provide question in advance and ensure participants have an opportunity to review content before posting publicly.
☐ Have I included board and major donors in the discussion?
1. Salon: The age of enlightenment was known for its salons, gatherings where cultural, political, and academic thinkers exchanged exciting new ideas hosted by intellectually and socially astute ladies. Plan carefully, chose the right board host and mix of participants and your digital salon can replicate the sparkling thought and conversation. Focus on an issue your nonprofit seeks to address and how to do so through C-19.
Make the structure clear in your invitation. You’ll start with introductions. The host will have prompt questions and moderate perhaps with staff helping with management. Be clear on when the salon will begin and end.
Afterwards, brainstorm next steps with your host. The intimacy of such meetings and mixing with interesting experts can make for satisfying board and major donor engagement.
Example: A prison reform cause could address activism options during C-19.
2. Discussion Group: For a more down-home version, plan a discussion group with meetings including a brief presentation by an interesting expert introduced and moderated by your hosting board member.
Example: Historical Society invites participants to learn about colonial era pandemics from an expert and compare to current pandemic.
WHAT OPPORTUNITIES DOES THIS PRESENT?
☐How might updating our by-laws align us more closely with our mission?
Example: Remote board meetings may decrease your nonprofit’s carbon footprint.
☐ How might crisis management strengthen our board? Going through a fire together can be a powerful bonding experience for your board. It may also show you who you can count on when the chips are down.
☐ How can I engage new prospects, as well as board and major donors, via issue-specific meetings hosted by trustees?