Crisis is something no one expects, but it is something that every organization should be prepared for. In this post, Eric Ewald, Vice President, CAE lays out 7 actions that every board should consider taking in times of crisis.
1. Make sure board members are well informed
Board members should always be well informed and knowledgeable of organizational programs, projects, and services, but it is critical that they are in times of crisis. Also, assure members have a good working knowledge of the bylaws, policies and procedures and budget. It is important that meeting time is spent wisely by reacting to change and planning. Confusion over the way the organization operates and catching board members up on things they should know is not a productive use of time.
2. Be agile
Many boards have been doing things the same way for years. This is not the time to lean back on established routines. Assess what your members need during the crisis and adjust service offerings to best meet their needs. Your board must have the ability to which can foster feelings of uncertainty and discomfort. This requires good communication and patience.
3. Assess risk
Where are you vulnerable? Take time to review your annual budget for areas of potential exposure and make appropriate adjustments to the budget and operational plans. For many organizations, conferences and other in-person events bring in a significant amount of their revenue. How will your budget be impacted and what can you do about it? Take time to review your current strategic and operational plans and make any needed adjustments. Reviewing all of your plans: budget, strategic and operational in the light of new circumstances and assumptions is critical.
4. Evaluate meeting times and practices
Your regular cadence for board and other governance meetings should be revisited. When not in times of crisis, frequent meetings may not be necessary as things tend to operate predictably, but given the dynamics during crisis you will likely find you need more frequent meetings and check-ins.
5. Communicate well
Is everyone in the loop? Pay close attention to any gaps in communication. Communicated well between amongst volunteer leadership and staff. For many, this means increasing communication of all kinds. Assure your members, partners and other stakeholders receive good communications about organizational activities and plans. Make it clear that leaders are available to answer questions and provide a convenient vehicle for communication and that you are open to their thoughts and suggestions.
6. Think creatively
In times of crisis, look for ways to go beyond your regular services offerings to members. Think thoughtfully about your members, listen to them and define challenges and needs. Some may be struggling more than others, such as small business owners. Your organization was formed to serve your members and other communities, so how can you be there for them right now? During this current global pandemic, some organizations are offering gratis extensions of memberships, informal video gatherings of members to share their experiences and delivering more professional development content online. Take time to listen to particular “pain points” and consider what the organization might be able to do to help.
7. Consider sending a message to the broader public
Is your organization in a unique position to contribute to relief efforts? Do you represent an industry that has been particularly affected by the crisis and is there information the broader public should know? Craft a press release that to inform audiences and discusses any solutions you are providing or problems you are facing. Consider consistent follow-ups to keep the public and stakeholders informed.
In summary, listen and communicate more and use this opportunity to help your board become more agile and creative and learn from the experience. This is will serve as good preparation for future crisis and disruptions.