Nonprofit Blog - Standards for Excellence Institute
Promoting Excellence and Trust in the Nonprofit Sector
Find a Licensed Consultant    Find Accredited and Recognized Organization


Board Members: We Need You Now More Than Ever Before

We are living in unprecedented and uncertain times. For many of us, the normal cycle of work and life has been turned completely upside down. Nonprofits of all sizes are wrestling with more challenging and difficult decisions than they ever have before.

To weather the current situation, we must engage in our organizational best thinking, from staff and board leadership. Every resource at our disposal should be deployed to meet the challenges. Nonprofit staff members cannot and should not be expected to do this alone. As the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector states, “Nonprofits depend upon effective leadership to successfully enact their missions and programs. Effective leadership consists of a partnership between the board and management, each of which plays an essential role.”

At this crucial time, nonprofit boards should be engaged and leading in a way that will help the nonprofits they serve survive the current challenges and the tough times that lay ahead. Here’s how:

Meet as Often as Needed
Many nonprofits are having to quickly adjust their strategies in response to the current climate. This means that the board of directors might need to meet more frequently than usual. The Standards for Excellence code encourages nonprofit boards to “meet as frequently as needed to fully and adequately conduct the business of the organization. At a minimum, the board should meet four (4) times a year.” We know that many boards are increasing the frequency of their board meetings—and, as a matter of necessity, holding remote board meetings using various technologies where all members can hear and be heard, or understand and be understood.

Know What is Expected of You as a Board Member and do That
This is the time for board members to lean into their responsibilities of governance and fiduciary leadership for the organization, honoring the public’s trust in the organization and its leadership, so that the organization can continue to serve future generations in their communities.

Each board of directors should have clearly stated expectations for their responsibilities which as the Standards for Excellence code states, should address, at a minimum, “attendance at meetings, participation in fundraising activities, committee service, and involvement in program activities.” There is no time like the present to remind board members of their crucial responsibilities. And if you do not have formal board member job descriptions, now is a great time to establish them.

If you’re unsure of how to do this, our Standards for Excellence educational resource packet Board Member Responsibilities is a great place to start. This packet includes discussions and resources on board members’ governance, fiduciary, and legal responsibilities, bylaws, policies, board member expectations and evaluations of members’ performance, meetings and attendance

Help Your Nonprofit Fundraise and Connect with Resources
Nonprofits need their board members to step up and help raise funds and develop the resources, especially in situations where budgeted income is no longer expected or anticipated due to the economic climate. Despite the environment, this may be the single most important moment for board member involvement in raising resources for their organizations.

Know the Best Practices for Nonprofit Boards
The full series of Standards for Excellence educational packets include sample policies, tools, and model procedures to help nonprofits achieve best practices in their governance and management. They can be accessed by contacting a Licensed Standards for Excellence replication partner, one of the over 150 Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultants, or by becoming a member of the Standards for Excellence Institute.


We thank each board member for your continued support of the nonprofit sector share our sincere wishes for your continued good health and patience as we all navigate these challenging and uncertain times.

By Amy Coates Madsen | May 26, 2020 | Nonprofit
Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

About the Author: Amy Coates Madsen

Amy Coates Madsen is the Director of the Standards for Excellence Institute, a national initiative to promote the highest standards of ethics and accountability in nonprofit governance, management, and operations, and to facilitate adherence to standards by all organizations. The Standards for Excellence Institute is a program of the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations where Amy has served for more than twenty-two years. Amy is responsible for coordinating all aspects of the association’s comprehensive ethics and accountability program and efforts to replicate the program nationally. She serves as a frequent trainer and writer in the areas of board conduct, program evaluation, program replication, fundraising ethics, and nonprofit management. She has taught courses on nonprofit ethics and accountability at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies Certificate Program on Nonprofit Management. She has held positions at the Trenton lobbying firm of the Princeton Public Affairs Group, and the Public Policy Liaison Unit at the world headquarters of Catholic Relief Services. Amy received her Master of Arts in Policy Studies degree from the Johns Hopkins University – Institute for Policy Studies in Baltimore, Maryland; and her Bachelors degree from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. Amy is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Amy serves on the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities (ACT). Amy is a former member of the Disaster Action Team of the Central Maryland Chapter of the American Red Cross and is qualified to provide disaster preparedness training to children and adults. She has also served as the former President of Central Maryland CAN TOO and was a member of the Board of Trustees of the largest United Methodist Church in Baltimore City. She serves on the board of her children’s preschool PTA and is a volunteer with the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland. Amy is currently leading an effort to establish an endowment for the Virginia Tech University Honors Program.