Executive directors and their boards could not have planned for the events of 2020. Nonprofits, like many other businesses and organizations, have had to make some tough decisions over the last several months. Nonprofit boards may have even created a pandemic task force, reviewed the 2020 budget for revisions, and assessed personnel challenges whether it be a response to an increase or decrease in demand for services. Whatever action or steps have been taken, here are five things for nonprofit boards to consider now:
- Communicate - clear and consistent communication between management and the board is paramount now more than ever. As the COVID-19 world we live in is ever changing, pulling together and providing timely information between management and board members is crucial. It will be especially important for the board to communicate their support of management in word and/or in person as management navigates new rules and regulations while at the same time attempting to maintain morale among team members.
- Review 2020 Budget – traditionally, the budget is drafted annually; however, with the unpredictability COVID-19 presents, a monthly review of the budget is warranted. Comparing budget to actual results and clarifying the current financial position of the organization should be done each month. If the resulting financial position does not cover current year activities, management and the board will be charged with exploring potential COVID-19 related grants for additional resources, solicit donations and/or opportunities to lower expenses, or may even consider tapping into debt to maintain operations.
- Technological Efficiencies – if budget review or program demand has resulted in reduction of personnel, instead of trying to share around all the responsibilities of the open positions, perhaps consider requesting a board task force to explore ways that those responsibilities can be converted to automated processes. For example, if your organization is still working with paper invoices for accounts payable, what would it take to convert to an online coding, approval, and payment process? In addition to streamlining the process it will also allow for continued segregation of duties if you have personnel that will continue working from home.
- Personnel Downtime – if you have had a decrease in demand for services and were fortunate enough to be able to maintain personnel, this would be a good time to focus on projects. A couple ideas include analyzing the processes and procedures within your organization and brainstorming opportunities for improvement. One other project that sometimes gets put on the back burner is envisioning new fundraising strategies and methods. COVID-19 may have already presented a shift to more virtual fundraising efforts so explore new and creative virtual options to engage donors. One additional alternative use of downtime involves allowing employees to use work time to volunteer at another nonprofit that may have an increase in demand for services but hasn’t expanded (or is unable to expand) its personnel base.
- Board Member Responsibility – so you were asked to be on a local non-profit’s board of directors! What a great way to give back to our community. Unfortunately, since you joined the board in early 2020 the meetings had to transition to a virtual format and the normal agenda has included some not so normal issues. Some of the not so normal issues present the need for additional compliance such as making sure documentation to support PPP loan expenditures comply with the program and can be provided if necessary so the organization doesn’t end up being required to pay back the funds. Asking questions beyond the normal ones usually addressed related to program activities and monthly financial results will provide insights into areas the board can additionally support and provide guidance on keeping the organization in the best financial position possible.
If you determine a specialist is needed to conquer any of the above challenges, please contact your trusted advisor at HHM today.