Nonprofit leadership in the best of times is challenging… but leading in nonprofit crisis? This might seem almost impossible.

We’ve survived a few weeks of what we thought would be the toughest… but it seems we’re not even close yet.

So… now what?

That is the big question, isn’t it.

Where do you go from here?

You’re the leader so everyone expects you to have all the answers.  Never mind that we’ve never experienced a pandemic like this in our lifetime….

In theory, in times of nonprofit crisis, you need the support of your leadership team (your board of directors) the most. But you may feel a bit uneasy going to them without having thought through some critical and basic questions first. No one wants to go to their boss without having a clue…

So what questions should you be asking yourself? How should you try to prepare for this difficult conversation? What answers should you try and collect first, if possible? 

Can you keep your facility open? Is it even possible or wise? If so, should you? Do you provide services or products (food, pro bono legal services etc.) that are otherwise unavailable?

If you decide to remain open, how can you best inform others so your clients understand they still have access to the services you are still offering?

How will you operate as safely as possible? Can you reasonably ensure your staff, volunteers, clients, & and delivery people can be kept safe? How do you keep your facility as virus free as possible?

If you choose to stay open, what changes to your standard processes and procedures must occur?

Can you get by with a limited amount of staff? If so, who is in that group? Are you able to provide any type of additional risk pay? Can some of your team work from home?

Must you continue all services or are there some you should rightfully suspend?

Do you think establishing a nonprofit crisis “hot line” or an FAQ section on your website would be helpful? At the very least, should you add something to your website informing your clients and other web users about your response to the situation? 

How can you stay in communication with your team?

  • Those who you may have furloughed. 
  • Those working from home.
  • Those still physically showing up.


We’re definitely living in difficult times. The world is oddly “on-hold” while also changing at warp speed. It’s difficult to adjust to what seems to be a new normal every day.

While this nonprofit crisis and your work-around operating processes will end at some point, it’s difficult for even the experts to suggest a realistic timeline. When it does significantly shift in a positive direction we will likely all find ourselves in yet a new normal as we adjust.

If possible, try not to make promises about the future to your team members or clients. Be honest and tell them what you can do now, how you can help today. What support you can provide in the present.

If I were talking to you today, I would ask these vital questions:

How will you take care of yourself?

How do you ensure you will be there for the others?

What boundaries will you set so you can continue to deliver the servant leadership your team and clients need?

These times are not easy. Leading yourself and your team will demand more of you than you may realize you have. But we can get through this together.

Hopefully thinking through some of these questions will help prepare you for a meaning conversation with your board.

If you find yourself at a crossroads, I would be honored to donate a few moments of my time to help you as a leader during this difficult time. If I can offer you support, or lend an ear to listen, or advice to help you strategize, please reach out. I want to help however I can. You can contact me via my site, or reach out on Linkedin.