NFP Boards Can Embrace The New Normal – 5 Tips
Since the advent of COVID-19, the Not For Profit (NFP) sector has been working hard on new ways to do business, and carry on through remote business activities. Working from home has taken on a whole new meaning. Boards meet remotely, management manages remotely, and employees deliver services remotely when possible. NFP enterprises finding ways to provide services in the safest way possible. This is not sustainable. So, do NFPs go back to the old normal?
Normal is behind us, and in front of us. The sector needs to move forward and find a new normal. Not easy for a sector that (for the most part) is averse to change. The silver lining is there, the new ways of the world bring benefits as well as challenges. So where to next?
1. Embrace change
Boards have been meeting remotely for some time now. The new normal will include a board that has identified their knowledge gaps, and when a vacancy opens, look for new ways to fill those gaps. This can be achieved by identifying the board’s strengths, creating awareness of strength gaps, and looking for innovative mindsets.
By now, your board should be adept at using technology to organize board meetings, distribute the agenda and taking effective minutes that can be ratified on the spot. Remote board meetings are tending to have a higher attendance rate. If your board is not enjoying a high attendance remotely, this is your challenge. Find out why board members are not attending. Has the board strayed from its purpose? Is the board following the strategic plan? Are all members voices being heard? Ask enough questions, and the solution will present itself.
2. Promote your purpose
The purpose of the organization is why the NFP enterprise exists. It is why you do what you do. Often the purpose is embraced by the board and, in the beginning, is embraced by staff as well. It takes centre stage on the website and is revisited in strategic plans, but is it brought to stakeholders’ attention regularly? Stakeholders include staff, clients, volunteers, funders and of course, the CEO and Board. In the new normal, there is an opportunity to promote purpose in written form on a regular basis. Take this opportunity.
3. Continue to learn and grow
2020 saw boards lock into a holding pattern. AGM’s were cancelled. Annual conferences were cancelled. Training was cancelled. Fear of change is causing many boards to stay in this holding pattern, but as a board with an essential purpose, it is your obligation to change, to look for and embrace a new normal.
Board meetings are being held remotely, and hopefully, you have upskilled staff in the use of Zoom or another online meeting platform. If you haven’t, then you need to do so. Many short courses cover how to use Zoom, including Zoom’s free training. Once staff are upskilled, the organization can hold a remote AGM.
Previously, organizations hired event managers to host and manage their conferences. So, it won’t be a stretch to hire an online event manager to remotely host your event. There are even conference managers that will deliver lunch and paraphernalia to attendees’ homes during the conference.
Just because you can’t meet in person doesn’t mean boards should stop learning and growing. Governance can be learned virtually. NFP Templates offers a very successful DIY Governance Training Kit. Strategic planning is daunting at the best of times, but when it is delivered in a virtual environment, it enables many who were afraid to speak up to do just that. This is where ideas come from folks.
The possibilities to stand out from the crowd are endless once you get over the fear of change.
4. Empower your CEO
For the sector to reach their new normal, without kicking and screaming all the way, boards will have to arm their CEO (through training, mentoring, coaching or replacing) with the skills to bring the new normal into practice. As a board built around delivering a purpose, it is their obligation to make sure this change happens.
If the CEO operates with a focus on control and micro-management, they will struggle with the new normal. Linear leadership will not be flexible or fast enough to reap the benefits of the new normal.
Technological-human environments that distribute responsibility and decision-making through empowered employees tend to operate effectively. The line of individual functions will be blurred as the entire organization delivers the purpose of the organization as a collaborative team. This will take a CEO with a vision to lead the organization to work as a whole. The CEO will no longer focus on minor dispute resolution, meetings that deliver very little in real terms, and unnecessary activities. In other words, micro-management. It doesn’t work at the best of times but works even less in a remote, diverse work environment. Instead, the successful new normal CEO will focus on outcomes. The role of the board will be to ensure the CEO has these skills. If not, the board is obligated to upskill the CEO through training, coaching or mentorship. All of these leadership skills can be learned.
If the current CEO is not the person to lead the organization into the new normal, then the board must be proactive in replacing the CEO with someone perfect for their purpose, while leading in the new normal. Remote recruiting can be daunting. Hiring an NFP recruitment company who understands the sector, and is expert at remote recruiting, will be money well spent.
5. Revisit your work from home policy & procedures
The CEO is responsible for a percentage of staff effectively working from home. This includes staff struggling with work from home, whether it is the environment or a drop in productivity. There are solutions such as installing portable air conditioners when staff are renters or embracing on-demand productivity rather than counting hours. If these solutions are not evident, bring in a consultant to help identify and mitigate the challenges and update your work from home policy & procedures (which you would have done in 2020) to reflect the new normal.
The future – the new normal – has arrived. Moving a percentage of your workforce to remote work, creating a sense of community and connection by putting purpose front and center is paramount. Addressing concerns around your remote workforce, and arming your CEO with leadership skills to lead a mixed workforce, will put you ahead of the pack when it comes to embracing the new normal. Bottom line, it is the clients who win when an organization overcomes the fear of change. As a board built around delivering a purpose, the organisation must make sure this change happens.