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Capacity Building Toolkit

Board Governance

The Role of an Effective Board During Times of Stress

Part 1

Part 2

Board members today are being pressed to make more difficult decisions than they’re used to. In times of stress – including the current unforeseen and unpredictable environment – it is more critical than ever that the board and executive leadership work collaboratively and transparently. This set of two workshops provides tools, exercises and examples of healthy approaches to uncertainty and stress.

In these sessions, we focus on the criticality of mission and focus; The board’s role in supporting the chief executive as they steer the new course; The information a board should expect and needs to make good decisions – e.g. financials, participation figures, reliable funding sources, staff morale, CDC updates, trends in like organizations, Federal assistance packages, advocacy alerts. The meaning of the current “numbers” e.g. revised budget, balance sheet, assets & liabilities, cash flow, cash margins, quarterly budgets; Stepping up board participation: board meetings, task forces, scenario planning, strategic planning and evaluation; Enhanced communications: standardized messaging for the public/stakeholders, public spokesperson roles; Emergency succession basics.

At the end of this session, participants will be able to understand the critical role of mission in decision-making, create actionable tools and ideas for use by board leadership and executive leadership to motivate and guide board members individually, and boards as a whole, understand crucial information a board member should expect to receive, to understand, and to act on, learn principles of organizational communications strategy and understand the unique dynamics created by stress within an nonprofit organization’s leadership and basic methods for using it to advantage.

Firm: Claire West Consulting, Tucson, AZ

Content Experts: Claire West and Mollie Quinlan-Hayes with organizational panel: John J. Linehan, Zoo New England; Christine McCarthy, Provincetown Art Association and Museum;  Michael Machnowski, Tower Hill Botanic Garden.

Session Resources:


How to Motivate and Support Board Members Remotely

The routine of board membership, including regular in-person meetings and collegial interaction at events, is a fixed part of the culture of most nonprofits. Public health concerns have limited or prohibited in-person participation at precisely the moment when board engagement is the most crucial. This session considers both formal and informal strategies to ensure that board members working remotely not only receive all the information necessary to do their work, but also maintain a personal sense of engagement with the organization, its community, and its mission. Discussion includes roles for executive staff who may be working remotely and with minimal staff; special circumstances board and staff members may be dealing with, such as loss of childcare or changes in their own employment; free online tools that may help, not overwhelm, board members; and suggestions for ways to make the most of online board meeting time.

At the conclusion of this session, organizational leaders will be familiar with multiple options that will enable the board’s work to be done remotely, foster a strong sense of community, and strengthen board commitment to the organization even with challenges spurred by the pandemic.

Consulting Firm: Arts Extension Service, Amherst, MA

Content Experts: Dee Boyle-Clapp and Lisa Williams with organizational panel: David Snead, Handel and Hayden Society; Bill Veillette, Northeast Document Conservation Center.


Successful Board Recruitment and Retention in Times of Stress

In this session, we focus on gaining the tools and ideas for fearless recruitment, including communicating the current value of your organization as a community asset, tools and ideas for updated needs assessment and prospect identification, methods that assure retention of the finest board members through to the conclusion of their terms, gain examples to help organizations practice equity, diversity and inclusion from the inside-out, identification of areas which are always critical to good governance, and sharply in focus now, and gain the ability to help reassure the board that they have the information they need to make wise decisions.

Firm: Claire West Consulting, Tucson, AZ

Content Experts: Claire West and Mollie Quinlan-Hayes with organizational panel: Susan Robertson, Gore Place; Catherine Wiskel, Margaret Chen, and Martha Robinson, Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras.

Session Resources:


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