Guest Blog Post from Pat McGaughey, CPF, IOM - ChamberMentor.com and ActivatingPeople.com
War stories are starting to surface regarding secret board meetings happening without the Chamber Executive to discuss the closing of the Chamber of Commerce. If you believe there is even an inkling of something like this happening, it's time to take your job back.
The one and only person who should ever suggest the demise of a Chamber of Commerce must be the chief executive officer. If you as CEO don't think the organization can weather the storm, tell them, but if you think it's worth fighting for, then scream at them! This is your moment to take the organization back.
If you believe the organization can survive while some (or all) of your board members don't, why not turn the tables and ask them to resign? Your neck is on the line either way but if you believe in your heart you can lead the organization through the crisis, this is your moment.
Imagine getting on the phone and calling your list of business members and letting them know you are looking for leaders who aren't ready to quit. If anybody respects anyone, it's someone who's willing to put it all on the line. What a perfect time to take charge and, take your job back.
Feedback is welcome, please reply to Pat@ChamberMentor.com
Guest Blog from Patrick McGaughey, CPF, IOM
Our first BONUS BLOG during the COVID-19 pandemic featured Perry Webb, president & CEO of the Springdale, Arkansas Chamber of Commerce admitting he really didn't know what to do as we began facing this crisis. So, he said, he went back to his original management model and chose to lead by prioritizing the issues that came up. It seems to be working.
As state governments begin relaxing the shelter at home orders and allowing certain businesses to re-open, the biggest priority is helping them do it right! The current priority is just that, and the Springdale Chamber is providing business with a PLAYBOOK FOR REOPENING that any business can go online (click here) so they can hit the ground running.
What can be more essential than that? If I'm a chamber executive and don't have one of these ready for my members, I'm going to stea.. uh, plager.. uh, research this document cover to cover and then get permission to copy it A.S.A.P!
This is what they pay us for. Kudos to Perry Webb, Bill Rogers, and the entire Springdale Chamber team for developing this Playbook for Reopening Your Business.
For another example, click here for what Don Long is offering the Lake Nona Chamber of Commerce members in Florida. I continue to recommend that everyone market these reopening links as "Another Essential Service" from your Chamber of Commerce.
Note: If you have a 'playbook' for reopening, please send me the link so I may share it. Send to Pat@chambermentor.com.
Guest Blog from Bob Harris, CAE and Arturo Mariani, Life Coach
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before,” said Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel.
Now there are hundreds of stories about chamber of commerce and personal improvement during the pandemic. People are sharing ways they are adapting.
Many of the changes have positive, long term impact. The adaptations are necessary or organic to survive, sustain, and thrive.
For example, what used to be a day-long board meeting requiring hours of travel, is being replaced by a video conference. Groups that shied away from on-line technology are rethinking the concept, realizing governance decisions can be made without the expenses of in-person meetings, meals, and travel.
Regarding staffing after the government closed offices, employees and their bosses might have thought working remotely would not work. At first it was awkward without guidelines and technology. Now it is being embraced to save time, be effective and add quality of life without the hassles and costs of commuting. Could it be the new normal?
At the Ventura County Coastal Association of REALTORS®, in California, CEO Wyndi Austin, CEO, said that employees have been able to collaborate and complete projects that often were set aside by the urgencies of the day when they worked in the office.
Associations and chambers of commerce serve as platforms for sharing concerns and learning how others are surviving. Among others, Wyoming and Minnesota chamber executives are sharing by webinars frequently.
The Colorado Society of Association Executives transformed its May membership luncheon to an online forum, including break out groups. The meeting was an hour of questions and encouragement. For instance, while some associations were thinking of foregoing dues billing for a year, others explained how they had become indispensable to members and recruitment was up.
Business associations and chambers in the Republic of Georgia amplified their advocacy by creating coalitions and sharing challenges through webinars.
Organizations are improving by evaluating activities, transforming events, and creating new services for members. Many of these will be lasting enhancements for chambers and associations.
For individuals, do not let the crisis paralyze you. Be proactive instead of waiting for the situation to pass. Many executives have kept blogs or written about how the pandemic has affected them.
Anastasia Baklan, a communications specialist at the Center for International Private Enterprise office in Ukraine, wrote about five ways the pandemic has changed life for the better. Among them, development of women in business, increased use of technology for learning, and personal development.
Some people suppress their thoughts instead sharing. They might think they are alone, or nobody else will care. During social distancing and isolation, communication can be a real gift.
Do not stifle sharing for fear of the reactions. What you share can enrich others, offering solutions and help. Knowing how others are coping can have a powerful positive impact.
By sharing and writing we lighten our own fears. All people need opportunities to express themselves. Many are fearful of taking the first step of sharing their experiences.
Receiving knowledge enhances personal understanding and self-confidence. The reader opens themself to new ideas.
The pandemic may be a good time for making improvements. Through sharing, blogging, writing, and reading, the possibilities expand. You have the power to give others encouragement through this difficult time.
This moment teaches us about sharing and adapting. We do our best and realize what is beyond our reach, such as grief, economy, and pandemic.
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Note: Bob Harris, CAE, provides free governance tips and templates at www.nonprofitcenter.com. Arturo Mariani is a speaker, author, athlete and life coach in Rome, Italy. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bob Harris, CAE and Kateryna Glazkova
As the economy was faltering and associations began hurting, Ukrainian executive Kateryna Glazkova circulated a statement, “Associations are made for times like these.”
Kateryna is the executive director of the Union of Ukrainian Entrepreneurs, founded in 2016. Its purpose is to protect the interests of entrepreneurs and create a favorable business environment. UUE uses the acronym SUP in Ukrainian language.
We discussed the impact of her statement. I agree, associations have proven to be resilient through wars, politics, recessions, depressions and pandemics.
We shared what characteristics make associations strong.
Collaborative – Associations build partnerships to solve problems. SUP organized a union of regional and professional business associations, named COVID-19 Business Task Force. The purpose of the initiative is to analyzed problems and increase influence.
Member Care – In troubled times especially, members need support. We should be positioned as their indispensable partner. Listening to members, we have created new products and services. SUP launched a hotline so entrepreneurs can get advice on government lockdown and legislative changes.
Strategic – Association boards and staff are strategic, realizing the need to stay out of the weeds and avoid tactics. Plans have been made during the pandemic that reflect urgent and short-term goals. It is often said, an idea without a plan is simply a dream.
Advocacy – An association best knows the issues of their members. SUP knows the pandemic will end, lockdown will stop, and entrepreneurs will face new conditions. We are preparing proposals for the authorities addressing reforms needed to restart the economy.
Leadership – Few organizations have assembled the depth of leadership found in an association. From emerging leaders to past presidents, they step up and champion the cause when called upon.
Convenor – Many organizations are seeking answers to the same questions. Associations provide trusted platforms where others can share news and projects. “…associations have proven to be resilient through wars, politics, recessions, depressions and pandemics.”
Adept – An association has two distinct workforces. Volunteers govern, while the staff manage. The board develops governance finesse through orientation. Continuous training is the cornerstone of performance excellence for staff.
Transparency - Clear communications with state authorities, entrepreneurs and the media are a priority. We inform the government of the mood and problems of business, explain to the media the real situation, we tell members the most important news about coronavirus and how we are addressing the problem. SUP issues the Coronavirus Business Digest to advise entrepreneurs of progress and victories.
Empathy – Associations maintain close relations with members and understand their challenges. It requires flexibility. For members unable to pay dues, be ready to extend the deadline or offer waivers.
Holistic – While associations serve their members, they impact the community, economy and jobs. Associations are positioned to see the big picture and to work for the benefit of all.
Innovative – Associations are innovative, using leverage, expertise and experience to find solutions.
Resourceful – Associations are able to develop sustainable streams of income. It requires the work of committees and staff to monetize programs and deliver value. Diversity in income streams is critical.
Passionate – People are drawn to an association because they share a passion. It is rare to find such passion in any other type of organization. Volunteers dedicate time and energy; staff are known to work hard.
Visionary – Whether a new or seasoned organization, participants develop and communicate a clear vision. This vision is often the fuel for hard work. Few organizations have this combination of characteristics to survive a crisis and sustain the association.
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Note: Bob Harris, CAE, provides free governance tips and templates at www.nonprofitcenter.com. Kateryna Glazkova is the executive director of the Union of Ukrainian Entrepreneurs (SUP), in Kiev.
Guest article by Bob Harris, CAE
The executive committee met in secret, without the full board and disinviting the executive director. “I suggest we layoff all the staff immediately except for our executive,” was the motion.
A few weeks earlier this board discussed a plan. Everybody agreed that with sizable reserves they would wait to assess the situation in June.
At a different association, the executive director offered a plan to furlough some staff. The board of directors met and offered, “No, the staff team is too valuable.” They decided to keep all staff, making best use of their savings reserve.
Roles and Responsibilities
The pandemic and economic recovery pose challenges for boards of directors. Good governance remains essential.
State corporate law authorizes the board to make governance decisions on behalf of stakeholders. Trustee roles are described in the governing documents
Most boards understand their responsibilities to approve budget, protect resources, set policies and positions, and to advance a mission and strategic plan.
The exuberant executive committee firing staff without consultation with the full board and their executive, is problematic. Even in a crisis there is no reason for poor governance.
If staffing issues arise, it is likely a personnel committee will be appointed to study and make recommendations to the board of directors, with the counsel of a HR specialist or a lawyer.
Missing in Action
Another effect of the pandemic is a board that is MIA or AWOL. Understandably some volunteer leaders are focused on the survival of their businesses or jobs
In their minds they may have abdicated responsibilities to the executive director. But to drive a nonprofit organization it requires balance: governance by a board and management by the staff.
If board members are MIA or preoccupied, consider relaxing some demands so they can continue to serve.
Because of urgency, the board may need to convene more often. Plan shorter meetings to address critical issues. It may be easier to get 20 minutes for a meeting rather than an hour or two. In lengthy remote meetings it is easy to be distracted or drop off the call.
Create board agendas that address only the vital issues. Delay the ordinary reports and updates for a later meeting.
Pause the multi-year strategic plan. For now, the board should focus on immediate initiatives. Return to the strategic plan as appropriate.
Bylaws indicate the minimum number of directors needed to conduct business. If circumstances find the board lacking a quorum, do not adjourn the meeting. Document all actions to present recommendations to the full body at the next meeting for affirmation.
For maximum efficiency, the bylaws should empower the executive committee to address issues when the board cannot meet. Authorize the executive director with full management responsibilities.
Help the board adjust to technology and small screen meetings. The benefits of reading body language and casual discussions are missing, so urge everyone to turn on video screens; and mute microphones unless called upon.
Rules of Order
For groups that hire a parliamentarian and follow Roberts Rules of Order, they may have to be relaxed. Respect the chair and require motions be made and seconded, but do not let parliamentary procedure slow progress.
Agree on Vision
Set a short-term vision for buy-in by volunteers and staff. It may be, “To sustain the organization and deliver value to our members during the pandemic and economic recovery.” Create a written plan to support the vision.
Put members first. Volunteer leaders should be willing to listen, empathize, and categorize member challenges. Turn needs into opportunities and offer solutions. Members must see the organization as their indispensable partner.
Pause standing committees prescribed in the bylaws if they do not have urgency, i.e. bylaws review. Appoint quick action teams, strategic project groups and strike forces to address the challenges.
A subsidiary foundation may have reserves dedicated to education and scholarship. Approach the foundation board about expanding its mission to include pandemic and economic recovery. Consider using funds for the support of members with hardships.
Anticipate adjustments to revenue. Sponsors may not be available, events postponed and membership recruitment on the back burner. The treasurer and finance committee should prepare a contingency budget. Project income and expenses through December 2020.
Organizations usually keep a savings equal to at least half of the annual budget. The rationale is for survival for six months if a crisis occurs. Some boards call it their “rainy day fund.” Maximize best use of reserves and assets.
Circumstances may cause missed deadlines. The election process may have passed or the annual meeting postponed. Document the reasons and find other ways to conduct business. Current board members may be asked to extend their terms until an election can be held. Urge past leaders to serve in open seats or supplement board work.
The organization is not in this alone. Collaborate with organizations having similar interests. Maintain open channels of communication to exchange ideas, needs and solutions.
Organizations amass a host of activities and events. Now may be the time to analyze activities to check their alignment with mission, return on investment, and the drain on resources. Circumstances necessitate the board perform as the leadership team. Now is not the time for micromanagement, distrust or board absence.
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Note: Bob Harris, CAE, provides free governance tips and templates at www.nonprofitcenter.com.