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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Nonprofits: How Board Members Can Help During the COVID-19 Crisis


The world has changed, and nonprofits are being challenged like never before. Now, critical decisions about serving the organization’s mission, maintaining funding, meeting payroll and general business operations are being made at the executive director’s kitchen table.

It is time for board members to step up and engage. Where their role has usually been limited to governance, opening their checkbook and Rolodex to fundraise, and attending regular meetings, they have valuable expertise to lend. It has never been needed as much.

The board of a typical nonprofit organization usually comprises people from all walks and skills. Here are some ways board members from a variety of professions can lend a hand to the nonprofits they serve during this crisis.


Attorneys

There have been many new laws passed during the COVID-19 pandemic that may affect your organization. These include new rights for your organization as a tenant, new options for paying its mortgage, new laws to protect its workforce during shelter in place mandates and stimulus options made available under the CARES Act. As an attorney, you have the talent to break down these new laws for your executive director and look for ways to educate on their impact on the organization.


Bankers

SBA loans are a big part of the CARES package. Anyone who has gone through the SBA process understands it is a maze. As a banker, you well qualified to quickly comprehend what is being offered and how to access it. You can help coach your organization through presenting its needs and ability to repay when it goes to negotiate for an increased line of credit or new terms for existing debt.


IT Consultants

As a professional IT consultant, you are needed everywhere as all organizations are working remote but many were unprepared. It is relatively easy to install collaboration tools such as Zoom video communications remotely. You can help get Zoom set up on your executive director’s laptop as well as the laptops of all their direct reports.

Also, if your organization does not yet use online banking solutions (including bill payments), help them implement them. Be aware that sometimes turbulent times bring out the worst in people and this is no exception. This crisis is creating a virtual feast for online scammers. Educate your organization about what forms these scams might take and how to recognize them.


Stockbrokers

If your organization has invested assets, you are probably dizzy and confused from the market volatility. The prevailing wisdom is to stay in the market and it will return, but what works best for your nonprofit is dependent on the organization’s portfolio and short- and long-term needs. As a professional stockbroker, you can help calm the panics from other board members calling for the organization to sell. You can take a seasoned approach to calm the nerves of your executive director and other employees.


Accountants

At Armanino, we know this one well. It’s time for accountants on boards to pull out the cash flow projections the organization did last year and see how they are holding up. Come up with all the different “what-if” scenarios you can imagine, from the most optimistic to the worst-case scenario. Submit them to a stress test to see how the cash differs under each scenario. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Knowing when a cash crunch is coming will help you take strategic steps to assist the organization in avoiding untimely cash deficits.


Insurance Brokers

If you are an insurance broker, review the organization’s policies to determine whether there are valid claims. Check to see if your organization is prepared for any employee or other claims (such as workers’ compensation) that often accompany periods of stress. Also, verify that you organization is adequately insured against these potential claims.


Others

Just because your profession is not listed above does not mean you cannot lend a hand. Reach out to the nonprofit’s employees. Appreciate them. Thank them for continuing to perform their mission now when, perhaps, it is most needed. Be a concierge to your executive director. Offer to be a sounding board for all thoughts and ideas.

And lastly, donate. Many board members make contributions just in time for the year end. If you have the means to accelerate your gift, there is no better time than now. Reach out to your connections and ask them to reach out to their connections. Your organization holds a special place in your heart so be willing to share your story as to why your organization deserves their support. Make appeals through LinkedIn or other social media channels. Reach out to donors you know who have restricted their contribution and ask if they might unrestrict them.

We need nonprofit organizations to survive this crisis more than ever. Their inherent missions are essential to the betterment of civilization.

For the latest regulatory updates and more information on keeping your business running through disruption, visit our COVID-19 Resource Center.

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