The following is taken from an original post from Nonprofit Quarterly titled, “Turbulence Ahead: 10 Questions for Nonprofit Boards to Urgently Ask and Answer” We are addressing nine of the ten questions originally offered that most directly affect the Christian nonprofit space.
Good governance and effective, efficient management are never more important than when facing a sudden or impending period of instability…. Is this organization fit enough, self-knowledgeable enough, foresighted enough, and connected enough to make it through an obstacle course with as yet unknown threats? The only way to gauge that is to begin the self-questioning now.
- Does your board have a common understanding of the organization’s business model? Are board members able to track the critical metrics in that model by an easy to interpret dashboard? If you have been putting this off, do it now. Have your board review NPQ’sexcellent webinar on the construction of dashboards and adapt these insights to fit your circumstances. At the same time, this classic article by Jeanne Bell describes in simple terms what pivots need to be made by the board right now in regard to financial management.
- Do you have enough liquidity? Start now to create or build out your cash reserves, open lines of credit, and restrict unnecessary spending. Pay special attention to building your unrestricted dollars, especially if you are predominantly supported by contracts. Prepare as best you can to gather cash and sufficient unrestricted capital (cash and human) to weather significant change. This article by Claire Knowlton will help your board understand different kinds of capital, including that which provides liquidity.
- Do you have strategic connections with local, state and national networks so that you are first in line for critical information and advocacy? This post-9/11 study showed the importance of this planning following a disaster.
- Do you fully understand the policies and regulations at the federal and state levels that could significantly change your operating position? Make it your business to create an advocacy capacity at the board level that allows you to move quickly with community engagement and support. Ask your state agencies what they can see as dangers in the upcoming environment.
- Meet with your private institutional and major individual donors to help them process their own planning, including your organization in that narrative.
- Look around at your partner organizations—do they need support you might be able to lend and vice versa? There is nothing like a circle of friends in a time of need and this planning exercise may make new friends for your organization.
- Have you recently reviewed your mission and “margin matrix” to make sure you know the degree to which each program contributes to your mission and to the financial margin? This examination is much easier to undertake without the agonizing specter of looming budget cuts. Here is an article to help you consider that process.
- Are you making sure the organization stays in close contact with its constituents and stakeholders so they understand what may be at stake? Again, this does not need to be alarmist, but it is a good way to ensure they are watching your back.
- Do you have a constant and open enough conversation going with executive leadership to ensure that they feel supported through what may feel like an unstable period?
As a nonprofit leader, you know the stress, patience, and attentiveness it takes to do it well. You can help lead your Board in that direction as well.
Keep going. It is worth the journey.
If ACN can help please feel free to contact us at 623-688-3403 or via email here.