Communication and COVID-19: Working With Your Board and Audit Committee

As the saying goes, communication is key—and it’s never been truer than in times like these. As you navigate the rapidly evolving COVID-19 landscape, you can help ease the impact on your institution with deliberate, careful strategy setting and information sharing.

As a financial leader at your institution, you play a key role in keeping the channels of communication open. Here are some guidelines to help you stay connected and aligned with your boards and audit committees.

  1. Be clear about roles of senior leadership vs. board members during crisis management. Be intentional when defining these roles to ensure alignment on operational decisions and public responses.
  2. Determine short-term and long-term strategies and how they tie in to your mission. Review your strategic plan and revise it as necessary in light of the new reality. On a positive note, you can view this time as an opportunity for innovation. Think about what you want to achieve when you come out of this situation.
  3. Prioritize items to communicate. Build consensus with your governing personnel on how you’ll share information. Think about operational data, financial information, workforce updates, technology needs and other important crisis management information. You should also develop public relations strategies to remain transparent and keep key stakeholders—students, faculty/staff, donors, fans, etc.—informed.
  4. Manage financial data to support decision making. Boards should have a finger on the pulse of revenue forecasts, cash flows, budget modifications, impacts to bond covenants and investment performance. Understanding the complete picture under various scenarios will provide context before you work with your boards to make tough decisions.
  5. Inform your audit committee of the changed audit landscape. Your audit committee should be assessing risks based on changes to financial reporting processes and controls as employees work remotely. They should also be aware of conditions that impact the financials to be audited. Financial leaders and audit committee members should use this information in open dialogue with auditors about anticipated changes to audit logistics (or the audit plan) to avoid surprises.

And then there’s the million dollar question: What will the fall semester look like? No one can predict when things will return to normal. And as time marches on, the likelihood of continued financial strains increases. How will a socially distanced fall have an impact on enrollment numbers, football season and overall economic recovery? These risks should be discussed with your boards so that you can be as prepared as possible to weather the COVID-19 storm.

James Moore’s higher education team is here to help with these communication challenges. With our industry experience and up-to-date tracking of the latest news, we’re your partner in these unique times. We’re also planning a future webinar on educating board and committee members to expand on the ideas presented here.

All content provided in this article is for informational purposes only. Matters discussed in this article are subject to change. For up-to-date information on this subject please contact a James Moore professional. James Moore will not be held responsible for any claim, loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of any information within these pages or any information accessed through this site.