How nonprofit board members can lead during a crisis

People sit around for a meeting with papers.
People sit around for a meeting with papers.
Board members play a key role in helping nonprofits through the COVID-19 pandemic.

How nonprofit board members can lead during a crisis

Regular communication is one of the several strategies to engaging board members.
June 25, 2020

Nonprofits have been stretched in any number of ways during the COVID-19 pandemic. Falling revenues, reopening anxiety and other operational challenges continue to plague nonprofits – and board members should play an important role in alleviating those problems.

For Claas Ehlers, CEO of Family Promise, a nonprofit fighting family homelessness, meeting with board members more frequently was helpful. The board chair joined him for hour-long conversations each week and participated in some operational meetings with staff. “Communicate frequently, concisely and positively,” Ehlers advised during NYN Media’s Nonprofit OpCon event on Wednesday. 

John Eusanio, a partner at Citrin Cooperman, agreed on the importance of communication. “The relationship between the board and the executive director really needs to be there,” he said. “It needs to be strong.” 

That point becomes particularly important as nonprofits formulate plans for sustainability amid the crisis in the future. For organizations creating committees to address the crisis, Eusanio emphasized that board members should be included alongside other executive management, programmatic personnel, IT staff and others. Ehlers has emulated that approach in task forces his organization created which are led by staff but allow for the board’s inclusion. 

“Where they provided the most value is on strategy,” he said. “So we had organized for them to take this information, look at different scenarios and make recommendations based on those scenarios so they’re not (openly) ideating, they’re improving the ideas staff came up with.”

NYN Media reporter Kay Dervesh
Kay Dervishi
is a staff reporter at NYN Media.