BOARDS AND COMMITTEES
They are volunteers, too!
~ February 2006 ~ Topic
Crisis Management: "A Stitch in Time Saves Nine"
As I have worked with boards over the years, I have been amazed by the energy and commitment a board displays when there is a crisis. Whether the crisis is legal, financial or program or staff related, boards quickly become proactive, talking to a lawyer or a crisis management specialist, if necessary, and forming committees that meet long hours. By the time the organization is rescued, everyone on the board knows each other better, has learned something and is, alas, exhausted particularly the president who will groan if asked to serve for another term.
But the question they have to ask themselves is, "could the crisis have been averted if the board had paid a little more attention upfront?" Did the board, for example, ask staff for copies of the forms a 501©3 needs to submit to the state and local governments each year to make sure they were actually submitted? Did the board have an audit committee which made sure the bills were actually paid and that vouchers matched checks? Did the board make sure that the budget reflected the priorities of the organization, and that each month's financial statement was in line with anticipated expected expenditures and actual income? Did the board demand evaluations of programs midway and at the end of the program cycle? Did the board make sure the human resource policies were up to date? Did the board evaluate the executive director yearly? Were there signed conflict of interest statements from all the board members? Were sensible risk management steps in place and was staff well trained to avoid risks?
Of course a crisis can happen even to the best governed organization, but as my grandmother used to say when a garment was unraveling, "a stitch in time saves nine." Boards must try to be as attentive as possible, month by month, and it can save them the time, anxiety, loss of sleep and burnout that an unnecessary crisis can cause.
Jeanne Bradner can be reached at Jeannebrad@aol.com.
See our online bookstore for Jeanne Bradner's book on boards: The Board Members Guide: A Beneficial Bestiary and Leading Volunteers for Results: Building Communities Today, and Passionate Volunteerism.
Jeanne H. Bradner
Jeanne H. Bradner is an author, consultant, trainer and speaker on volunteerism, board development and leadership. She is the author of three publications, The Board Member's Guide, A Beneficial Bestiary and Leading Volunteers for Results: Building Communities Today and Passionate Volunteerism. She served as director of the Illinois Governor's Office of Voluntary Action, Midwest Regional Director of ACTION, and Executive Director of the Illinois Commission on Community Service. She is the volunteer program specialist for Illinois' Harper College Volunteer Management curriculum.
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