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Not-for-profit board members commit their resources, experience and time to ensure the organization’s mission is well defined and executed, all with the goal of managing risk and supporting growth. However, even the most experienced and efficient boards have not been exposed to an environment like the one we are faced with today. It is critical for board members to understand their vital role during this crisis, to properly distinguish between the role of the board and the role of management and to trust the assignment of roles and responsibilities.

A board’s role evolves with the cycle of the organization as it responds to disruptive events such as the COVID-19 pandemic. A board must help guide an organization to prepare for response and recovery, as well as an adjustment to the new normal. Important decisions need to be made to determine the allocation of resources, changes to operations and evaluation of the expected impact to program outcomes.

Steps for boards to take now

Boards should consider the following in order to thoughtfully reflect on and respond to current events, and prepare for recovery.

Emergency response and crisis management:

  • How will the board monitor the situation? Is a taskforce or committee needed to oversee progress and impact? When will the work of the taskforce be complete? How will success be measured?
  • What can the board do to best support the management team in responding to this crisis?
  • What is the organization’s current risk profile and how is risk being managed? Consider impacts to health and safety, services, personnel (including volunteers), compliance, financial stability, information security, stakeholder and public relations and mission.
  • How does the organization best communicate with stakeholders regarding the current situation and what steps are needed to mitigate the impacts and comply with relevant regulations?
  • Is independent or expert advice needed to help the organization navigate this situation?

Business continuity and recovery:

  • Assess the comprehensive impact of the crisis on the organization under multiple scenarios.
  • Determine stress points on the organization and identify where resources may become ‘tapped out’ for recovery efforts or ongoing implementation of mission and strategy.
  • Consider how to evaluate, implement and manage the plan to move toward normal operations.
  • Is there a short-term continuity plan in place if the CEO or other members of management are unable to perform their duties?
  • A leading practice is to formalize a business continuity planning process to provide the transparency necessary for both the board and management to make sound and appropriate judgments regarding the level of risk to the organization.

For more information on this topic or to learn how Baker Tilly specialists can help, contact our team.

Laurie Horvath
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