This article was authored by Zoe Amar for the building boards for a digital age campaign.
Trustees should be aware of the wider digital trends and how they could affect their charities. They should refresh their knowledge regularly in this area, and agree how they can best incorporate digital into their organisational strategy.
Boards need to agree the big picture overview of how their charity will use digital. All areas need to be on the table for this discussion. Our starters for ten are: digital fundraising, more targeted communications, scaling up service delivery, building relationships with key stakeholders, or simply as a catalyst for change to their business model.
Boards should be aware of areas where things can go wrong , from data protection to reputation management to understanding how the charity will take digital products and services to market. Trustees then need to know how those risks can be managed.
Boards will often be asked to sign off on significant investment in digital (for a small charity, this could simply mean a new website, and for a global NGO it could be a digital transformation programme). Trustees must ask the right questions to evaluate these proposals and they must know how they will judge if they have been a success.
Boards need to satisfy themselves that their charity has the right people in place to drive digital change, whether at trustee or executive level, and that their skills are being kept sharp.
Trustees must be confident about challenging their executive on the results they are getting from digital. This means understanding the story behind the data they are being presented with and interrogating it for insights. They must also be clear on the vision of where digital should ultimately take their charity.
Often the executive drive digital change but where this is not happening, boards need to ensure that they have buy-in from all trustees, the executive, staff and volunteers for greater adoption of digital. This includes keeping people motivated and interested for the long term, which is particularly important if the charity is embarking on digital transformation change.
Whether that is collaborating with a digitally savvy organisation who has the skills that the charity lacks, or looking at the potential to use systems already in existence (why reinvent the wheel?), boards can tap into their networks to leverage contacts and resources that will help their charity on its digital journey.
Zoe Amar is one of the sector’s leading experts on digital. She heads up digital agency Zoe Amar Communications. Zoe also has eight years’ experience as a trustee and sits on the board of The Foundation for Training and Education in Care, as well as on the board audit and risk sub committee at The Samaritans as their digital expert.