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The Role of the Board in Times of Crisis

Category: On-Demand Programs: Governance and Leadership

This is a recorded session from the 2020 AAM Virtual Annual Meeting and MuseumExpo.

As the world responds to the impacts of COVID‐19, many museums are faced with the challenge to simultaneously serve their communities while also trying to ensure their own future. Leaders from BoardSource and the Nonprofit Finance Fund will engage in conversation about the role of nonprofit boards in a crisis and how boards and executives can work together on critical strategy and business planning during these times.

Presenters: Anne Wallestad, BoardSource; Alice Antonelli, Nonprofit Finance Fund

Transcript

Anne Wallestad: Hi everyone, welcome. I just want to let you know that we will be getting started in about five minutes. Thanks for being with us.

Anne Wallestad: Hi everyone. Welcome. We’re so pleased that you can be with us. My name is Anne Wallace said I am president and CEO of board source.And I am going to be joined momentarily. Here we are, by Anna’s Ellis ansanelli from the Nonprofit Finance Fund, I apologize for the technical glitch. I wasn’t able to get on video and share, share slides with you at the same time, but really, we don’t have any slides today because what we want to do is have a conversation with you about the board’s role in in leading through crisis.And I just want to start by acknowledging that when we envision the session.The crisis that we had in mind, and that we were thinking about was the COVID 19 pandemic. And of course, here we find ourselves.In a moment where we have crisis upon crisis. And so, I just want to acknowledge that we might all be navigating through what that means for ourselves as leaders and as humans and for what it means for our organizations, our staffs and the people and communities that we care about. So as Allison. I thought about today’s session, what we really wanted to do was to create space to have the conversation that’s most important to all of you.And that is relevant to the challenges and issues that you’re facing right now.In terms of the shared leadership between boards and staffs, so we’re going to start by just each doing kind of a super brief self-introduction and then we’re going to shift into what we consider a fishbowl conversation, which is the two of us.Chatting a little bit about some things that we think might be of interest and relevant to what you’re experiencing, and our hope is that right off the bat, you will jump into the Q&A and share with us. What’s on your mind and how you would like to use this time together.The issues and challenges that you are facing, if you are museum directors, you know, in terms of partnership with your board if you’re a board member in terms of the way that you’re navigating leadership and some high stakes moments. So, and then we will make sure that we shift entirely to your questions for the, the latter portion of our conversation, but we really do hope that it’s a that it’s a conversation with you throughout so just to kick us off. I mentioned, my name is and I’m president and CEO of board source for those of you who are not familiar with board source.We are a nonprofit organization ourselves that exists for the sole purpose of strengthening leadership nonprofit leadership at the highest level. So really, that partnership between chief executives’ executive director’s museum directors and boards and we do that by doing research to help understand what is happening within boardrooms, and providing resources and tools to support board change board development board action. So let me pause there and invite Alice to introduce yourself.

Alice Antonelli: Thanks again. And thanks for everybody to who’s joining us today. My name is Alice to Nelly, and I am a director at nonprofit finance fund. And for those of you who don’t know us. We are headquartered in New York City, and we are a national organization. We like to call ourselves a CDI which is an acronym for community development financial institution.But we do much more than lending. So, we started out as a lender and those are our roots, but we also advise on clients and funders nonprofits as well in terms of financial issues strategies implementation really anything through that finance lens.We have an advisory practice around that. And then lastly, we also have an advocacy group which lifts up what we’re seeing in the field.To you all through surveys or our blogs, you know, all sorts of free resources on our website. So, I’m very pleased to be here and I’m really excited to join in with and to talk about just what’s on your mind in terms of board dynamics during a crisis.

Anne Wallestad: Thank you so much. So as we think about you know the challenges that I know we both Alice are seeing organizations face with you know, one of the things that that I said, as we were kind of prepping is at least from the board source perspective, a lot of what we’re seeing our challenges that we saw in boards, you know, a year ago, two years ago, five years ago 10 years ago sort of those perennial challenges that boards face and that board staff partnerships face in terms of role definition and level of engagement and, you know, kind of, you know, getting those things well-calibrated you know, really understanding how boards can add value and thinking about where they can add the most value and how to get focus. They’re all things that we hear all the time, but at least from my perspective, in a moment of crisis, which was, of course, we are in the stakes, just get so much higher and the and therefore the intensity around any possible frustrations that folks are facing, whether from the executive or director perspective, or from the board perspective.Just ratchet up really intensely which can make it.Really, really, challenging in an already challenging situation to feel good about that partnership and to leverage it in ways that are really, really needed right now. So I’d love to just start by, you know, sort of, anything you can share about things that that you’re seeing that might be helpful fodder for conversation here as we hear from folks in the Q&A about specific things that they’re facing.

Alice Antonelli: Um, yeah. And in fact, I’m reading the Q AMP. A as you are talking. And there was one actually that came up about endowment and I know since there, they’re probably going to be at least 100 people on this call, um, let’s talk about endowment and let me read. Here we go.So, I’m hopeful that today’s conversation can touch on navigating conversations about endowment and adapting use during times of crisis.I know many boards and executive staff are faced with questions about this in ways that they’ve never seen before, and I’ll get us started in. And if you want to join in that be great. Um, so in terms of endowment. We at nonprofit finance fund.We really encourage our organizations, rather than set up a very highly restricted endowment Fund that they consider more of a board designated fund, because in times of crisis like this, you can rely on your board and talk to your board and perhaps access those funds if necessary.It’s as you guys know, it’s very difficult to do that when you have an endowment that’s restricted by outside parties.And you know the communication with them. Maybe tricky. You know, all sorts of things. So just right off the top of my, you know, top of top of my head in terms of endowment, you know, think about the future, you know, we can’t do anything. Now, if we have an endowment that’s Permanently restricted by outside parties but think about the future and when you add those endowment funds, perhaps, setting aside, something that I like to call a quasi-endowment fund, or you could call it a longer term investment fund. It’s meant to be just like an endowment.But it’s there and the board has jurisdiction over it, rather than outside parties and so it makes it a little bit more accessible for folks I’m having said that, the question was, what do we do now. And really, that depends. You’ll probably hear that word a lot during this conversation.But it does depend on where you are at this moment in time, right.Do you have resources that are available that are not restricted that you can use to be able to weather this time, right?Do you have access, perhaps to a line of credit that would be helpful? During this time, can you do a special appeal and raise money on specifically for your need, you know, in some respects that endowment, because it is Permanently restricted and depending on those outsiders.You know, it’s like a break glass sort of thing. You kind of want to wait until you have to break the glass. I’m going to stop there, pass it over to an and see what you think. And what, you know, what are your thoughts on endowment.

Anne Wallestad: Yeah, I think that’s great advice and if I if I were to add anything, it would simply be, you know, as you’ve outlined, there are some things that you that you simply, you can’t touch.And so really the board decision making is around the things that you can. And so if you have resources, whether endowment or reserves that the board is allowed to touch.Then it becomes a question of should we, and if we should how and I am seeing lots of boards you know, who are wrestling with that right now. And I think, you know, generally speaking, I think organizations are right to think about those endowments, or those funds those reserves that they can touch as rainy-day fund.But not rainy day without an N fun. So, you know, you think about them somewhat like at least from my perspective as do we need this.To bridge to the other side of something, but that’s really, really tough when you don’t know, you know, kind of how far away the other side is. And so those are the things that I’m seeing boards wrestle with.And that you know you can’t answer for someone. There’s no set formula. But if it’s kind of jumping off the cliff of we were just going to start using reserves and we don’t know how far, they’ll get us and we’re going to hope that they get us far enough, that is a risky place as an organization, because what happens if they run out.And so thinking about, you know, what are they bridging you toward and how confident are they are you that they can get you to the, the other side of that bridge.I think are important questions for boards to wrestle with, and that need to inform the way that you think about use of reserves or endowment funds that are accessible.I see that we’ve got yeah, go ahead. I was gonna say, I see that we have a couple of other questions, so I’ll tackle.What’s showing up first on my screen from Maryland about museums need EDIS, more than ever, but is that the time for transitions and searches.And Maryland. That makes me want to ask you a lot of questions about where you know where that might be coming from because I don’t think there’s one answer there. So, I could go back to Alice, is it depends.You know, I think this is a tough moment for transition because it is transition on top of transition because we’re all in a transition moment right now.From the kind of pre code reality to the code reality and hopefully there will be, you know, a postcode reality that comes soon, but we don’t know how far away. That is, and so I do think that that organizations and boards are faced with, you know, questions about how much change.How much change can an organization sustain and handle at once that said you know if change needs to happen whether because it’s time for a director to go and they just don’t, you know, have it in terms of the ability to lean into this, or they’ve got health issues that they’re suddenly facing as a result of the damn pandemic that mean that they need to step back boards don’t have a choice to sort of shy away from transitions that are thrust upon them.And so, while it may not be ideal, or it may be more difficult. We are seeing boards that are in that that situation and thinking about, you know, what’s the, what’s the best way for us to think about executive succession. From this point forward one thing and this is not specific to you know operating in the midst of a pandemic and a racial equity crisis but more generally true is, you know, thinking about executive transition in a way that says, How do we not assume that this institution should continue to exist in exactly the same way before we lean into an executive transition so you know, we encourage boards to ask big questions when you’re in that moment of transition before you lean into search and say, you know, is this a moment where you know different thinking about who we are and what we need to be partnerships etc might be appropriate. That’s of course doesn’t assume that the answer is yes.But it’s an inflection point in an organization’s trajectory that, you know, I encourage boards to pause and think through what would you add Ellis.

Alice Antonelli: You know, I don’t think I would add too much else. I do you know I’m mostly going to echo what you said, but transition as all of us know, and especially for leadership is not easy and i don’t know if you have any statistics on this, but I think I read somewhere that the first person who comes in after a founder or long-term executive director that director may just stay for a year. You know, it’s a real tough transition everybody’s breaking each other in and it’s hard. I’m thankfully nonprofit profit finance fun we had a tremendous transition from the founder and amazingly it worked out well. It was not during a crisis situation. So, I do think change is so hard in just regular times right and to think about it during a crisis is very, very challenging, you’re just putting an additional thing on to an already very tenuous situation. Perhaps, but I do appreciate what you said about you know it may we may have to write and especially during COVID everybody’s personal situation is different. Right. Maybe you have a director who has small kids and has to homeschool, you know, during this time and can only provide 50% or they’re working late at night and it’s very strict, you know, at some point, we’ve got to help our executive directors whatever situation or whatever they find themselves in. And that actually gets to another question. I know we have a lot of questions that are in our chat box here, but how about in where you have the dynamics between the board and the staff in sorry a board and executive leadership in a tight time of crisis.And I’ll paint two pictures for you have the over exuberant board member who just wants to roll up their sleeves and get in and help that executive director that perhaps has to homeschool our kids.Or you have the board member, and this actually happened with me. And one of my clients, where one of my colleagues met the board member at a particular meeting and he was like, I haven’t heard at all from my executive leadership. So, you’ve got kind of the, you know, there no communication at all, or that exuberant communication. What do you do?Yeah.

Anne Wallestad: So, we’re seeing both of those things too. And, and, as I said before, you know, those are not uncommon realities in normal times. I think it’s just so much more high stakes and so much more challenging to have complete disengagement or to have kind of hyper over engagement.I think the advice to the director is actually somewhat similar. I think it’s really about getting your own clarity in your head as a leader about where you need the board to engage and what you know you absolutely must have from the board in terms of decision making an engagement.Talking with the board as a group about what those places are why you need them. They’re trying to not necessarily limit but be intentional about the other asks that you’re making of the board because everybody is the, you know, in sort of a moment of an intensity and making individual asks where board members can be really helpful in those places. So, kind of limiting the group asked to the things that need to be group decisions and you know the board acting as the board making individual ass of individual board members who can help you in specific ways I’m thinking about fundraising advocacy partnership connections, etc.And I think being explicit about what is not helpful in this moment. So, for that, over engaging board member, you know, being willing to say to the board. I’m in a moment of crisis here.And I have to triage how I use my limited time I’ve got, you know, and this is not a kind of dumping your bucket saying everything that you’re facing in terms of a challenge, but being honest about you know, I’ve got a lot of really tough operational realities that I need to deal with as a leader. And so, you know, this is a moment where great ideas are maybe welcome in terms of long term, but I’m that my approach to them is going to be to capture them and come back to them, you know, in a future moment and you know, kind of the, the open brainstorming around anything and everything that we might be able to do may just be less helpful in this moment.Now you may not be in that situation that might be exactly what you need. But being clear about what is helpful and what isn’t helpful.And just to reverse that or invert it and look at it from the board perspective, you know, for that board chair, who hasn’t heard from the executive or the director or who is struggling to think about how they can be most helpful or add value ask so the advice I would give is to reach out to the executive and say, You know, I’m thinking about you. I care about you. I know that things are really hard right now.Please let me know how we as a board and how I as chair can be most helpful. What do you need, what do you need me to sort of take on? Are there places that you know the board has not traditionally played a role. Can we do our own minutes you know that I’m spit balling in terms of the specifics, but really listening to what is helpful rather than inserting in a way that may not be. Now that’s not to say that the board can abdicate its responsibility for understanding where is the organization from a situation analysis perspective. So if the board hasn’t heard from the director or, you know, the CEO about here’s what we’re facing. Here’s what our financial reality is, here’s what our operational reality is then the board doesn’t need to ask for that.And they need to really understand what are we looking at as an organization, what is the CEO or museum director thinking about in terms of what that means.So, there does need to be communication. It’s not a moment where the Borg and can just sit back and say let’s wait to hear what they say.

Alice Antonelli: That’s great. Um, so we definitely have a lot of questions. Here’s one that actually resonates with me with so much change and so much uncertainty in the short-term push in an organization be thinking about strategic of long range planning.Or organization was getting ready to begin a planning process. We’ve temporarily put it on pause when I’m thinking, it may be quite a while before it makes sense to address long term planning. What are your thoughts.So, this is actually, um, the first client that I thought of is a client of mine down in Texas, and we were hired specifically to do growth planning for them.And then COVID hit and everything just they didn’t have to go on complete shutdown, but because of stay-at-home restrictions.They were actually considered a central and so they could remain open. But they didn’t have that much volume and their business model is the business model with a lot of museums really requires people to come in and pay for services. So, it was a really challenging time they didn’t have too much in reserves and where we had to figure out. Cash Flow Planning is and all of that. The good news is that we knew it was going to be temporary, in some respects, for this organization. Yes, it was temporary they’re back open for the stay-at-home orders are have been released, people are now flooding their facilities. Um, so now you know it’s a matter of matter of paying attention to volume. So, we are you know we had to push pause on our growth planning, but now we’re, you know, we’re re engaging on the planning.Again, there’s have word depends. I mean, that was one situation with another client of mine up in Massachusetts, and they were not planning, you know, they weren’t doing too much planning at all. Excuse me.Ready.So, they weren’t doing too much long-range planning, but now they’re going into serious short term mode. So again, we were hired prior to COVID and we kind of pivoted and what we’re doing. And so now we’re looking. We’re definitely looking at planning and we’re looking at it on a quarterly basis, um, this organization is super, just the executive director is very inspirational. She’s very creative thinker. She’s got a lot of different ideas and we’re going to look at them on a quarterly basis. So, in terms of like board and planning, I think.Again, it depends. Depends on who you are and where you are, um, but pushing pause is not about idea, but what can we do in the short term, you know, can we look at planning in the short term yet and do it in chunks. Right. You know, quarterly, maybe next six months, and any thoughts on that.

Anne Wallestad: Yeah, I don’t disagree, and I guess what I would say is and this is probably more definitive than it should be. But I do think that generally a moment of crisis is probably not the right time to do long term planning.I think it’s, it’s probably just not the best place to spend time and energy and it’s going to likely change.That said, if an organization is in a place where they truly don’t have a sense of organizational direction and what is most important for them to be focused on even in the short term.It probably does make sense for the board to spend a little time reflecting on the question, what is our core purpose. Why are we here what’s most important for us to do so that the director or the chief executive can build short term plans and priorities that flow from a shared understanding of what that core purpose or top, you know, sort of organizational priority is rather than being sort of rudderless trying to navigate through crisis now that’s different for different organizations, you know, if you’re a museum that has a very clear, you know, purpose and mandate, you know that that’s probably not such a relevant question, but if you’re an organization that has come to the end of a strategic plan and are genuinely asking big questions about, you know, what’s most important for us to do. Who are we as an organization, it’s pretty tough to navigate through crisis without answering some of those at a pretty basic level?But this is I could talk about this for a long time, and I won’t. But I think this is a moment where you feel the value of strategic frameworks.Rather than strategic plans. And what I mean by that. In terms of the differences of framework is really a framework that says here’s what’s most important for us as an organization, rather than I mapped out plan of here are all the specific strategies and tactics that we’re going to deploy over the next three to five years, a framework allows you to be responsive to changes in your environment in a way that a strategic plan.Does not or it does not as naturally and so even when you get to that place of doing that long term planning. I really like to encourage boards to think not about how are we going to map it all out. But how are we going to get clear on what’s most important. And what we’re really aiming for.In terms of navigating a step by step plan to get there.

Alice Antonelli: That’s, that’s great. And we’re getting a lot of questions related to D. Ay, ay, depending on how you define it. I’m going to put forth. Two questions. So, one was perhaps a more general question about D ay ay initiatives and good resources to help boards plan for institutional change. So that’s number one.The next one is, what kind of leadership can a board provide on D i values during an equity crisis to support staff. And yeah, I just want to say I attended the earlier session this morning, I believe it was the name of the session was something about board ethics.I would highly recommend especially Lynn for you that are interested in resources, that’s a really great place to stop, start the recording. I’m sure is available, it provided for different folks that were had very structured presentations, lots of resources and at least two out of the four really provided a lot of information on diversity, equity inclusion and access. So, the number one, I would go to that recording and it was earlier this morning 11 o’clock. My time 10 central so um and I know you guys probably have a wealth of information.

Anne Wallestad: We do. And so, you know, I would encourage folks if you’re looking for specific resources for boards.We do have a number of resources on the board source website its board source.org I know am does as well.You know that that could be very practical helpful tools. I think at a more fundamental philosophical level if boards have not had a conversation about what diversity inclusion access and equity mean for your organization, what it means.To sort of have an absence of diversity or to not be focused on accessibility or to not be focused on inclusion and equity, what you lose, as an institution, what you’re missing out on what you’re saying to your community.I think that that those are fundamental questions that boards need to tackle and really understand before you can have meaningful action.Happen because if you just start doing things and you don’t really understand why you’re doing them as a board, and you haven’t made meaning of that as a collective I think it doesn’t stick. I think it doesn’t come across as authentic because I don’t think you know why you’re doing it.And so, I would say start where you need to start you know for those for those boards that have done that work and are saying, okay, what’s next, what’s more what can we do, how can we rise to this occasion, I think those are all great questions to be asking. I think there’s a lot that that organizations and institutions can do to provide leadership in this moment, but my opinion.You know, not meant to be rude or disrespectful to anyone.A statement without knowing why you’re making it or what it means to you as an institution and why you deeply believe the things that you’re saying is not the right move

Alice Antonelli: And I would, I would just put in my own experience. I’m I’ve been at nonprofit finance one for 18 years now. And I want to say.Maybe the last six to eight years as an institution, we’ve been working on this, and I could say a number of things. One, it’s a journey.Right, I like and what you say, you know, you have to meet people where they are and as a collective, we’re all in different places. Yeah. All in different places.And as you know whether training for staff or board or both. Um, it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be really difficult. But it is important. And obviously we have to do it but I appreciate what and what you said about you really have to know and understand why I’m and you have to, you have to be you have to be very careful.

Anne Wallestad: So, which is not, not to say you shouldn’t do it because you should we all should it’s so incredibly important for us to understand as organizations really the potential harm that we’re doing when we don’t understand, our community. When we don’t have the perspectives that we need around the board table to make sense of things, you know, this is a moment where a lot of boards are really ill equipped to understand what’s happening.And what does it mean for us as an institution. And that’s unfortunate. It doesn’t have to be that way forever.

Alice Antonelli: And also on the flip side of that, the opportunity that we’re missing out on exactly, you know, exactly.

Anne Wallestad: Right.

Alice Antonelli: Looking to the questions here. How about this one question related to board involvement with launching a planned giving during a pandemic. How can we leverage the leadership and contacts.

Anne Wallestad: So, I’m a fundraiser by background, but I will confess that I don’t have a ton of expertise and planned giving. What I will say from my general knowledge of fundraising is, I do think that this is a moment where deepening relationships with those donors that are already connected to us as a as an organization or an institution.Is time really well spent. For some institutions. It is a tough time to try and reach out beyond our current network that’s not to say that you shouldn’t. And there’s that’s not to say that there are organizations, you know, particularly those working on the front line.Front Lines of the pandemic, or in this moment front lines of the fight for racial equity that are not reaching new donors in this moment there absolutely are.But for those that feel like you know that’s not as much the center of your work. It may feel like a tough time to be reaching out to new donors and so the advice.That that I’ve been giving to organizations and their leaders is to really invest in relationships and communications with current donors and that’s exactly what a plan giving program is it’s about connecting to people who care deeply about your organization. So much so that they want it to be a part of their estate planning or end of life planning.And so, this could in fact be a really opportune moment to talk with current donors about how they’re thinking about your institution.As a part of their estate planning. It’s also a time where you know because of all of the things that I already mentioned that your fundraising staff team may feel like we don’t have as much to do as we would like to, and therefore we have bandwidth to, you know, build new program and and plan giving programs are programs that take a long time. Not necessarily to build but to, you know, to sort of come to fruition. And so, it may be a good use of fundraising capacity from a staff perspective, if you have it. The only caveat that I would make there as I think we sometimes overcomplicate planned giving because you don’t have to be super, super expert in all of the different giving vehicles.That plan giving can create but you do need to understand it from a general framework. And so, if you have team members who are leading that effort, who are not familiar with plan giving they will need to spend a little time educating themselves about how to set up a new program. So that was probably a longer and more detailed answer than you were looking for. But those are my few insights from somebody knows a little bit about plan giving but not enough to advice.

Alice Antonelli: Oh, thank you. And, um, and what those lines. I had a client who is a little nervous right now.Because they are actually getting a lot of gifts at the moment, but they’re wondering if people are moving up their gifts from year end to today and what they’re hoping is that these are special gifts, because they need them. And they’re counting they’d like to count on the gifts.In the future. So how do you talk to boards or board members about making a special gift at this time. In addition to their annual gift that they normally give

Anne Wallestad: I think with board members, you can be really, really direct about that, you know, we’re in a moment of need. We really hope that you will come to you know, consider a special gift.To us. This is a moment where we need you, please give whatever you can.And we hope that you will still give your annual gift at the end of the year. I mean, I think the framing is somewhat similar to the way that we often talk to board members.About capital campaign gifts versus annual gifts. So those of you who have gone through a capital campaign i think it’s similar and philosophy.I think the thing to be thoughtful about is how well do you understand the personal circumstances of your board members.And making sure that if somebody is in a tough situation themselves if they’ve you know lost a job or spouse has lost a position or you know, certainly board members. Many board members are in situations where you know their investment portfolio has taken a really big hit. So, you know, being direct but gentle and kind of acknowledging that that folks may have individual personal circumstances that mean that they can’t give as much as they would like to and then I think you know with board members individually thoughtfully gently. You know, if they do make up special gift thanking them looping back with them and saying, you know, a as I said I really hope you’re still in a position to make your normal Annual gift. But, you know, knowing whether or not that’s possible is really, really helpful. And you can have, you know, gentle conversation about, is that a probably yes or no.Maybe so that you have a read on that. I think it’s much more difficult to do that with others.Particularly when you don’t have relationships. So, with your major donors, where you know them and you have relationships. I think you can you can do that when you think it’s appropriate if you know them well enough that that you know that it is but you want to tread carefully for all the reasons that I said you know with board members, but it is tough because we want to we, in some ways, need to be able to predict what the donor behavior is going to be, but this is a moment.Or a context in which predictions are really, really tough to make

Alice Antonelli: Thank you for that. Um, I’ve got another question to get off of fundraising, who should the Board evaluate the executive director’s leadership in times of crisis and evaluate their own performance shouldn’t stay the same.

Anne Wallestad: Yeah. I think there are a lot of different ways that you could think about that. So, there’s probably not one answer.And it’s something that you know the board source board for ourselves has thought about has thought about in terms of my assessment, the board that I serve on we thought about that in terms of our assessment of our own performance and our CEO assessment. So, I know these questions are on people’s minds and we’re hearing it from folks across the board source network as well.I think this is not a business-as-usual moment. So, if the reason that you’re doing it is because we always do it and its business as usual.That may not be enough of a reason to do it that said the experience of board self-assessment can sometimes be really clarifying and helpful in terms of motivating action.So, if there’s a board that’s not engaged right now that could actually be a really helpful tool for saying here’s the impact of this board not being engaged. And so, it could be a helpful way to hold up a mirror and start a conversation that needs to happen differently, but not completely dissimilar. You know, for CEOs or museum directors, EDs.assessment or evaluation can be a really, really needed and helpful coming together around expectations and it can be a really important moment for the board to express appreciation both in what they say, or right. And in terms of compensation if that’s something that’s a part of that evaluation process. So, I would not assume you know as a board member that, you know, we shouldn’t do the evaluation because you could actually be exacerbating or creating tension and stress.For the exact that you think you’re alleviating so I would just encourage boards to have have conversation about it and not assume that you should do it not assume that you shouldn’t do it and make an intentional choice. That makes sense. Based on your context.

Alice Antonelli: Great. And you are the expert there. I’m not going away. And so, thanks for that. Another question that came in.Was actually a question. It looks like referring to something that you would talked about before.You had mentioned capturing great ideas for the future, what process for capturing. Have you seen to be successful, a database an Excel spreadsheet or emails I see our board sending a rough? Oh, sorry, a raft of emails with lots of ideas. It seems hard to manage what works for you.

Anne Wallestad: Yeah, I think it’s really what works for you. So I think the the advice that I would give is setting the expectation with the board that you are capturing them and we’ll come back to them at some point in the future.Both as a way to be respectful of the good thought. And the ideas that you know the thinking that went into the ideas.And to relieve you from the expectation of dealing with things that you can’t deal with right now because you don’t have the bandwidth to do it.So, if it were me, it would be a folder in my email that I knew that I had all of those ideas there that I could go back to some people are whiteboard people, you know, that works too.I probably would recommend generally that you own this as the exact rather than creating a system that you’re asking board members toInput around because one, it creates work for you or your team that you probably don’t have the time.To manage right now. And it also sets an expectation that this is something that you want the board to populate which might be the exact opposite.Of what you’re actually needing or signaling this in this moment.So, I think it’s, it’s sort of, we’ve all been in trainings where they’ve had, you know, parking lots, where it’s these are important things that we don’t want to forget about and we want to come back to but it’s just not what we can be focused on in the context of of this specific container or this set of hours and time. And I think that’s what it is. So whatever mechanism for keeping those things in that parking lot that works for you. I think it’s fine.

Alice Antonelli: So, when I did that I had I’m spreadsheet, girl. So it would it would be a combination of the of the email folders, but also in a spreadsheet and so in regular times I actually worked with a client just on this where we gathered literally was an exercise and gathering all the ideas right and we create a matrix and I you know I don’t want to go into too much detail, but it was a matrix where we had programs on the top, um, you know, different ideas like, you know, I think they were thinking about a capital campaign, you know, just listing out all sorts of things leadership or all that so across the top and then across the side, if you will. So how does it fit with mission. What is the financial impact of what are some further questions that we need? Is this something that we can do immediately.You know, long term, short term, medium term, um, I like I am idea. Right now, we’re in a crisis and we perhaps this is a seed for later moment.So, I’m not suggesting necessarily that you do the spreadsheet immediately.But it might be a tool that when things. Calm down. You can pull all those ideas out of the email folder and start to kind of categorize and prioritize based on different criteria. And again, that is a very high-level answer to that question. I can talk for, you know, a couple hours and not

Anne Wallestad: Me just, if I may jump in and add a thought, which is not specific to this question, but I think is, is a general bit of advice for executives and in engaging with boards.I think sometimes as executives. It’s really easy for us to kind of put things in front of the board, thinking that the response will beOh, that’s great. Or, oh, that’s interesting. Well, I’m glad to know that. And sometimes that’s how boards react, but often when we put things in front of boards and I say, I say this, you know, sort of, as somebody that works with boards and talks to executives and board members all the time, but also as somebody who is a CEO and who is a board member and knows how hard this can be. The message that we are unintentionally sending to the board is I want you to engage in this I want you to ask me questions about this. I want you to help me finish this. I want you to tell me why this is a good idea, or why this is a bad idea, etc. And so, if that is not what you’re asking be thoughtful about what you put in front of the board.

Alice Antonelli: That’s great. And you know, I think, and correct me if I’m wrong, but you want to be very careful of the board’s time and so you just, you want to be able to frame the question in, you know, what is your expectation and what answer are you looking for. Are you looking for brainstorming because that’s something different than just give me a yes or no answer?Right, right. Let’s keep going. What do you think about launching into a capital campaign this year for building expansion, um, so capital campaigns in regular times are a lot and in my past in my recent past? I used to teach day long facility workshops, talking about the impact on operations and budgeting and cash flow and we would always bring in a fundraising consultant to talk about capital campaign. So, I’m not the expert is probably a little bit more of an expert than I am. But my, again, it depends. It depends on who you are, what you’re doing, you know, you may not have been affected by Kobe and your constituents and your donor population may not have been affected. I’m probably not true. Probably everybody’s been affected in some way. And so, to launch a capital campaign, like I said in regular times is it’s a lot and to do it under times of crisis is very difficult, but there may be an exception. So, and tossing it to you.

Anne Wallestad: Yeah, I mean I think some of the things that I was saying before about your donor base.And if its existing relationships and the nature of those relationships versus new relationships I would pull through to this, this question on top of that.And I know there’s a lot of debate about feasibility studies and whether or not they are essential before a capital campaign, I think, in this context, if I were on a board or, you know, a museum director thinking about a potential capital campaign I would feel really uncomfortable moving forward. If we hadn’t had some you know, level of engagement with our existing, you know, sort of leadership donor base about how they would feel about it.I think the risk is high that it could be perceived as misguided or tone deaf. That is not to say that I think that it is but the risk of it being perceived that way is high and you need to know how your, your top donors would feel about it.So, I think that whether it’s a formalized feasibility study where you use external consultants who do interviews.With folks who would likely be lead donors or, you know, top donors or it’s, you know, putting out feelers with trusted relationships and in your donor community. I think, I think it’s wise to put some feelers out before you go out with actual asks in this type of contacts.

Alice Antonelli: Great, thank you. And so, next question. How do you manage internal board conflict in times of crisis, I’m thinking specifically about fiscal disagreements about tough decisions and I’m curious for this?Anonymous and attendee if you could write just a little bit more about those fiscal disagreements. But, and maybe if you could start us off with just managing internal board crisis. And I think that kind of touches on maybe some of the other questions as well.

Anne Wallestad: Yeah, I mean, this is a moment where organizations are facing really big, tough decisions. And so I just want to start by acknowledging what I suspect are tough dynamics for this, this question or this anonymous customer questionnaire, because you know so many organizations and we’ve seen the headlines, you know, just in terms of the number of organizations that either have already or are planning to are contemplating major stuff layoffs certainly we’ve already been hearing from organizations that are you know, needing to dissolve insolvent already. Unfortunately, you know, just because we have what we know and NFL does amazing work in terms of your research on you know how organizations are really are not capitalized. We know that organizations don’t have enough reserves to weather the storm. If they don’t have revenues coming in or if they don’t have revenues coming in.At the same level. So, we know that there’s going to be more tough stuff coming so with all of that, you know, sort of acknowledged as context, it is understandable that boards are struggling with. What does that mean we should do and that there is a lot of emotion.And intensity and sense of loss and fear around the types of decisions that that boards are having to face. I think as executives and for board members that are on with us today trying to be really clear headed and calm about what you know is true in terms of your organization’s purpose and really centering on what is most important for us to do.In service to that purpose. And I’m using that word intentionally instead of the organization and in the institution because I think some organizations and this is not me pushing this, but some organizations are in a place where they have enough time and money to think really strategically about what partnership, including mergers could look like.That they won’t have enough time and money for six months, nine months 12 months from now. And so, thinking about, you know, what’s most important for us to do.And how do we organize around that using that purpose and sense of shared understanding of what’s most important to do as the North Star and being really rigorously honest about what the numbers are telling you is possible.And acknowledging that that might mean some really, really tough decisions.From a tactical perspective, I think you know it, acknowledging how much intensity and emotion as around that is helpful, getting a chair.Who is willing to kind of navigate conversations in a way that says we hear you.You know, let’s hear from someone else that type of facilitation is really important in these in these conversations, that’s tough to do in a virtual environment because, you know, we’re trying to, to facilitate adeptly of via zoom or teleconference which is even harder.And being willing to call votes, you know, so many boards are used to being able to operate by consensus and that is wonderful. When that happens, but I think, you know when you don’t have time.The goal needs and you’ve got urgent decisions of, you know, existential levels of consequence being willing to be focused on how do we make sure that we’ve heard everyone that everyone has been able to surface, you know, and do some collective sense making around. What is this moment mean and then being willing to call a vote? I think that’s pretty important in a moment like this and

Alice Antonelli: I would just like to echo because I didn’t see any more comments coming in on the fiscal disagreements. But and you did bring up you know the potential for layoffs or furlough another question could be do we use reserves or do we, you know, access the line of credit. There’s so many different financial considerations here.That the only thing that I would offer is to the extent that you can quantify each of your decisions so that you can see perhaps the impact that it might have financially on your organization that’s that should be a part of it, but you can’t ignore mission or purpose, as you say, and where the community that you serve or the employees that you serve. So, there is this balance and it’s and it’s not easy but being the finance person. Don’t forget to quantify because that can help us navigate in those in those difficult situations. Yeah.

Anne Wallestad: And I know we’re running very short on time. So, we probably need to take one more question and maybe we don’t even have time for that.But, but just to add on to that I could not agree more about the financial analysis, making sure that boards. Understand, however, that, that those are text financial texture around scenarios that have assumptions behind them, rather than realities that are sure to happen.You know, or even budgets, because they’re not. They are sort of if this happened, then it might look like this types of scenarios and helping boards, understand that and being really, really rigorous and I guess in some ways, tough minded when the numbers. Just don’t add up because the worst possible scenario is at least from my perspective is to be in a situation where you are so focused on success and what could be what might be what we all want to be that you get in a situation where you just suddenly have run out of cash, and you cannot fulfill the commitments that you’ve made to your staff.And to everyone else who, you know, depends on or has trusted your, your organization and institution and some organizations, you know, may be in that place already. And so, thinking about what’s the responsible way to think about that as a board.But that’s a terrible way to end. So, let’s not end there.

Alice Antonelli: Fortunate because this person did asked give us some context. So let me get out. I know we have only two minutes left.But, um, some board members feel Mary to traditional best practices of not touching the endowment principal and others don’t understand why we just don’t close on our deficit with endowment in reserve funds. We did a round of layoffs before drawing more from the endowment. And I think some board members privately and I can’t see.Wonder why I alright so really quickly on touching the endowment and trying to make that decision.And it’s so hard when things are changing, and everything is rapidly going. But one thing that I would just say, is to have some sort of a plan.For either how it’s going to be paid back in the future. Like, how are you reconfiguring your business model right how are you not just going to keep drawing from the endowment until it’s to zero, right. So, we want to give our board members confidence that there is a Turnaround Plan. It might look completely different than the way you’re operating today.But we need to, you know, or maybe this is the time to unwind, and you know that’s a whole nother discussion. Anyway, it looks like we’re done.And thank

Anne Wallestad: Thank you. Alice. Thank you to all of you for being with us. We appreciate the conversation. We appreciate the work that you’re doing and your important institutions and for your important missions we wish you the best of luck.With the big challenges that that so many of us are facing with our organizations and we’re here for you as organization. So please feel free to reach out to nonprofit finance fun to boards or sports have up both of our websites have lots of resources, you know in in general and for this moment of crisis, in particular, so please don’t be a stranger. We’re here to help.

Alice Antonelli: And I just want to say thank you to all of you for doing the great work that you do. Um, this is not easy to navigate at all, we’re all learning, kind of on our feet, if you will. I do want to put a plug in for board source their ask the Museum Expert website is amazing. Um, it’s fine topic and the answers to those questions are very, very thoughtful so head on over to board source for additional information.

Anne Wallestad: Thanks, fellas. And thanks to you all.

Alice Antonelli: Yeah, thank you.

AAM Session Monitor: Thank you for joining us for this special today and we are now going to be ending our broadcast. Have a great day, everybody.

 

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