In our first article, “The metrics guiding nonprofit recovery,” we took a broad look at five key economic indicators to take action on. As a follow-up to the first article, we will now discuss the elements of a recovery plan.

In order to plan properly, your organization needs data, your leaders to guide the conversations, stakeholders to inform the process, and a plan to address external urgencies. Use this as a short-term supplement and driver for change of your current long-term plan.


“Role-model leaders recognize the need for transformational change when warranted and then lead the effort through to full fruition. They demonstrate authenticity, admit to missteps, and demonstrate accountability for the organization’s actions.” Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award

The Baldrige program speaks to role model leadership in the following key areas:

  • Committed to establishing a culture of customer engagement.
  • Developing the organization’s future leaders.
  • Recognizing and rewarding contributions by workforce members.
  • Personally engaging with key customers (members).
  • Enhancing their personal leadership skills.
  • Participating in organizational learning, the development of future leaders, succession planning, and recognition opportunities and events that celebrate the workforce.

The question is, how do I get there with my board now given the times we are in? There are two types of approaches to focus on and cultivate on your board. One is the attention to immediate crises and how to mitigate them for future growth. The other approach is one that sees beyond the crises and plans for the long-term future.

You can, and should, have both of these types of approaches with members on your board in order to build a success recovery plan. What if you don’t?

Advisory Task Forces

If you don’t have these two sets of competencies, develop board advisory task forces with individuals that can supplement your current board. There is no need to add to the board but to strategically develop one or two task forces that can advise over both the short and long term. The following are two potential purposes:

Quick Action Crisis Task Force: Identify immediate impact issues to the industry or profession and advise on programmatic adjustments.

Long-Term Focus Task Force: Observe industry data and make predictions over time as to the way members will be doing business in the future; generate a report to the board with key recommendations. Build this into the recovery plan.

External urgencies

“But the future doesn’t wait, not even for a pandemic…we need a strategic plan now more than ever,” is what a dean of a university said. Right now is the right time to move forward and plan. But it doesn’t mean a full-blown live meeting with 30 leaders around a table. You can do this virtually now and have something in place to navigate well into the future. What external urgencies should we be considering and building into the plan?

Social justice: What is your organization’s position around fairness within society and how is that translated into action by your members?

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI): How does your organization make a statement around DEI? United Way Worldwide’s “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Statement of Principle” is a great example and model. Using several other samples, a robust discussion can be had around what is the appropriate organizational DEI statement. Beyond the statement is the action that needs to follow. Having a statement is only one factor. Action is the other.

We value the visible and invisible qualities that make you who you are.

We welcome that every person brings a unique perspective and experience to advance our mission and progress our fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community.

We believe that each United Way community member, donor, volunteer, advocate, and employee must have equal access to solving community problems.

We strive to include diversity, equity, and inclusion practices at the center of our daily work.

We commit to using these practices for our business and our communities.

Economy: It is unknown if the economy will roar back to life or take some time to recover. Each business and professional sector will be different. Collect data and monitor regularly to identify signs of recovery. Build this into your plan as strategies to capitalize on these key indicators.

Budgets: In a recent article on MultiBriefs, “Adjusting budgets impacted by crisis,” it states, “Hopefully your association’s 2020 budget will hold tight and your value proposition is strong enough to survive. If not, convene your finance committee to assess the damage.” The article lists six steps in reviewing your budgets in planning:

  • First, realistically analyze the current budget and financial position of the organization.
  • Second, check on the liquidity of your reserves as you may need them to supplement operations.
  • Third, project what programs will be canceled or supported less by attendees and sponsors. Also, consider royalties as they may decline for lack of use.
  • Fourth, understand the impact to dues. Membership revenue may depend on how you communicate value at this time of urgency.
  • Fifth, develop a contingency budget covering the worst case, best case, and no change scenarios. No one knows the full impact of the pandemic.
  • Sixth, do business differently and look for opportunities to repackage conferences, deliver information, and allow for virtual collaboration.

Relevance: Right now, more than ever, nonprofit organizations need to demonstrate their strength and value. Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more while listening intently.

The needs of your members are going to be very different from just a few months ago. Also, these needs are going to change at a pace that is faster than ever before. Run right next to your members, know what they need, and deliver. Being a partner now will be remembered in the future.

Program and Service Impact: Understanding relevance is the first step in redesigning programs and services. Identify your most impactful programs right now and concentrate your resources into them. Identify new programs and invest new resources into them and finally, reduce/eliminate resources into programs that are no longer providing value.


How do we take all this uncertainty and bring it all together? Monitoring the pulse of your organization is critical. Read the article, “Vital signs to monitor for association recovery” to start tracking key trends that may lead to insights into the future.

The biggest step is to leverage your leadership, current and future, in designing the future. Start with the blueprints and build one wing of the “house” at a time. There will be change orders, there will be design improvements, and there will be delays and cost overruns. But, doing nothing is not an option. As Bob Harris, CAE, says, “Associations are built for this.”

From World War II and the Red Cross’ efforts in launching a war blood donation program to organizations fighting for the civil rights movement. Associations ARE built for this!