Nonprofits: How to Hold Successful Virtual Board Meetings During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has forced many of us to work differently. Even if your nonprofit’s board of directors usually meets in person, current events strongly suggest the need for an alternative option. Here are some best practices for holding virtual board meetings.
Virtual meetings can enable more people to attend and your board to achieve a quorum when many board members under stay-at-home or quarantine orders. Be sure to check your state’s laws before you set up a Zoom, WebEx or other online video meeting. Some states, for example, allow nonprofit boards to hold teleconferences, but not videoconferences. Your organization’s bylaws may also prohibit virtual meetings.
Even if your state’s laws and nonprofits’ bylaws give you the go-ahead, consider potential communication issues. For example, participants won’t be able to read each other’s facial expressions and body language in teleconferences.
It also may be difficult for the chair to guide the discussion, especially for a large board. Confidentiality is a concern, as well. You must be able to trust that participants are alone and their family members aren’t listening to the conversation.
Voting on any issue will need to be verbal and not anonymous, with each board member identifying himself or herself. Straightforward issues, such as updates from development staff or the formal approval of a policy, are better suited for virtual discussion than potentially controversial ones. Given the current situation, your board may have no choice but to consider emergency measures via tele- or videoconference.
Be sure to discuss with board member the implications of holding virtual meetings. Some board members may prefer to wait until stay-at-home orders are lifted and delay a meeting rather than conduct one remotely.
To help prepare for successful virtual meetings, all participants should have the equipment they need, and the system should be tested ahead of time. Establish backup plans in the event of technological failures. Plan to send board members supporting materials in advance of the meetings as well as having them available online during the event.
As your nonprofit confronts pandemic related challenges, board members have likely already been in touch. However you choose to hold board meetings, stay in constant touch with your directors and solicit their advice when any difficult decisions need to be made.
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