The skill that charities most want on their boards…

The new National Trustee Survey by ACEVO and nfpSynergy has an interesting and surprising finding that has not surfaced in the commentary. Third Sector News ran with the headline Trustees under pressure. But there was some more positive news buried within the survey.

The question about board skills elicited an interesting and unexpected response: trustees ranked web/digital/online skills as the ones that they most needed on their board – far ahead of the kinds of skills that people tend to assume that boards most want, like financial or fundraising and income generation.

The nearest competitor for this pole position was ‘campaigning’. The detail is informative too: trustees were asked to rank skills from the ‘most needed’ to ‘already had sufficient expertise’.

Digital skills came out clearly as winner across the board – both the most needed, and the least held.

And now to a point I’ve heard made quite a few times: it’s not that boards don’t see the point of digital skills, and therefore haven’t prioritised them – only one per cent felt that digital skills were not relevant to their board. Compare this with the 12% who thought campaigning skills were not relevant.

Reach is an ardent advocate of the need for trustee boards to embrace digital. We recently launched a campaign to promote digital expertise at board level and to help boards recruit in these skills – building boards for a digital age.

However, whilst we are convinced of the underlying need, and can happily agree all day with other like-minded organisations about how important this is, we weren’t sure if many charity boards felt the digital skills gap so keenly. Now we know that they do.

Trustees are often accused of being risk averse and old fashioned. I read this survey as an endorsement of trustees’ attitudes – their willingness to look forwards, to embrace the new and unfamiliar, and to consider how their organisation should operate in a new digital world.

Happily, there are some great people with digital experience that are ready and keen to join trustee boards – have a look at some of their profiles.

It’s time to plug that skills gap on the board and recruit a ‘digital trustee’!

Janet Thorne leads Reach as Chief Executive
November 14th, 2016 by