This success story is part of the building boards for a digital age campaign.
Embarking on a digital project can be daunting, and there are likely to be plenty of challenges along the way. Having someone on the board who fully understands the benefits of the project and the risks too, can make all the difference, as Reach Volunteering learned last year thanks to our digital trustee Dominic Tinley.
‘We were embarking on a very ambitious project to transform our service from a manually brokered service to a self-service online facility. We wanted someone at board level with a depth of relevant experience,’ explains CEO of Reach Janet Thorne. ‘Dominic’s experience meant he could ask probing questions, help when we struck problems and give us the confidence to follow through.’
Dominic joined Reach in search of an opportunity to use his skills at a more senior level, having done some volunteering in the past:
‘I had volunteered with a local charity, but I found this quite frustrating because I wasn’t using my skills. I thought it would be a better use of my time to find a skills-based volunteering role, but I didn’t know how until I found Reach.’
Reach benefited from support for what was very much uncharted territory for the organisation: ‘We had no track record of implementing digital projects’, says Janet. ‘We wanted someone who could scrutinise and advise on the whole process including procurement and implementation, and who could help us draw in other people at crucial moments.’
Whereas, for Dominic, joining the board gave him the opportunity to expand his horizons: ‘Overseeing a major redevelopment such as this was much as I expected,’ he explains. ‘But it has been fascinating to learn about all the other aspects of running a charity and to build my skills in other areas from fundraising and marketing to accounting, and volunteer recruitment.’
‘Technology is developing quickly,’ adds Dominic. ‘Many charities are a few steps behind so volunteers need the patience to explain technology to others and support them in building their knowledge.’
And what impact can a digital trustee have? ‘We are now in a digital age and most beneficiaries expect to communicate through digital channels’, says Janet.
‘The board needs the expertise to be able to ask searching questions and make sure the staff team has adequate expertise to navigate this type of challenge.’
‘Since the launch of our digital service’, she adds, ‘we have seen record numbers of volunteer placements. And by 2019 we expect to have doubled our activity, whilst reducing our costs.’
A final word from Dominic on volunteering his skills on the board: ‘I cannot emphasise enough how rewarding the experience of skills-based volunteering can be. Online matching makes the process of finding the right match and making a commitment so much easier. I just wish I’d signed up sooner!’