Board governance
June 27th, 2017 by Luke Strachan

This blog first appeared on the Charity Bank website in June 2017.

Finding ways to strengthen your board is never easy and there is no single solution that will work for every board.

To be more effective, however, boards do need to ask themselves searching questions regarding:

  • their own performance
  • their collective skills and abilities
  • how they can best anticipate the needs of the organisation, in the near and long-term future.

A good board makes all the difference to your charity’s future. Poor governance can lead to loss of strategic focus and ineffective oversight of a charity’s management. On the other hand, a strong board will create a shared vision, renewed purpose and ensure that the charity makes the right strategic decisions. Only the board itself can improve its governance, so it is important that it takes this responsibility seriously.

1. Reflecting on the Code of Good Governance

Creating a time and space in which your board can collectively reflect on their work is absolutely essential for ensuring that you are carrying out your duties properly.

The Code of Good Governance is a wonderful tool to help you do this. The Code centres on seven key themes:

  • Organisation purpose & direction
  • Leadership
  • Integrity
  • Decision making
  • Risk & control
  • Diversity
  • Board effectiveness and accountability.

By adopting the Code, board members are committing to a shared understanding of their duties and responsibilities as well as gaining a framework with which to structure a thorough, self-reflective and on-going analysis of their work.

It’s worth noting that inviting an external expert to facilitate the process (either an experienced volunteer or paid consultant) can enhance this process, providing additional impartiality and objectivity especially useful to a board reviewing itself for the first time.

2. Regular skills audits

Making sure that the board is aware of the skill sets it has and those it needs should also be an on-going process. You should set aside a time at least once a year to appraise your composition in relation to anticipated projects and plans.

This will allow you to clearly see where the organisation is going and what expertise you will need, as well as helping you to intelligently anticipate challenges and opportunities.

3. Strong recruitment and induction processes

Recruitment isn’t just about bringing on board valuable new expertise, it’s a process that implicitly sets the tone, culture and expectations of the board.

A strong recruitment process should include open recruitment, induction, training, mentorship and support. These factors combine to directly demonstrate to new trustees how it is they are expected to contribute their expertise and will ultimately result in more engaged, conscientious and capable trustee placements.

There are many free ways to promote your trustee opportunities beyond your own networks including Reach’s TrusteeWorks, CharityJob, Indeed, Do-It’s Trustee Finder, and nonexecutivedirectors.com

4. Create a succession plan

As most trustees well know, recruitment is an on-going process. All too often it can feel like, just as one trustee joins the board, another is preparing to leave. Anticipating this by coaching and mentoring existing trustees to take on important roles such as those of Chair and Treasurer can be a great way of limiting the impact of trustees leaving.

It’s a good idea to make plans for finding suitable replacements for retiring trustees well in advance so they can hand-over their responsibilities and duties properly.

A succession plan is also a great way to avoid the opposite challenge: too little turnover. Trustees should not stay on forever – bringing new trustees on board with fresh perspectives is healthy part of the organisation’s development and should be an integral part of your board’s strategic planning.

5. Training, development and networking

Whilst many boards may not have a budget for training their trustees, you should at least consider some of the courses and networking opportunities out there.

You don’t have to spend your entire governance budget to receive guidance from an expert: Small Charities Coalition, Civil Society and NCVO all offer great opportunities to learn from experts and other trustees.

Similarly, joining appropriate professional and support networks like the Association of Chairs and The Honorary Treasurers Forum can be great ways of meeting and learning from your peers. By joining the UK Charity Trustees group on LinkedIn you can connect directly with an active and friendly online community that is always willing to respond to questions with support and guidance. In addition, annual events like The Trustees Conference and the Trustee Exchange can also be helpful.

6. Constructive criticism & critical friends

Fostering a culture in which trustees are empowered to constructively challenge each other is the cornerstone of a well functioning board. Whilst it’s always incredibly important to respect each other’s opinions, avoiding awkwardness by not addressing potential issues with a given strategy can potentially lead the organisation down a far more precarious path.

Cultivating a culture in which all board members are empowered to challenge each other’s assumptions is a great way of making sure that strategies are tested and re-tested before being implemented and executed. This process is equally important for the Chair’s relationship with the CEO which should include support and challenge in equal measure.

Allowing board members the opportunity to voice their opinions and to challenge each other’s ideas not only reinforces inclusiveness, but can stimulate new ideas, uncover hidden pitfalls and generally refine an organisation’s strategy like no other discursive process.

Luke heads up Reach’s TrusteeWorks team

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Charity Governance Award Winners 2017
May 24th, 2017 by Janet Thorne

The stories from this year’s Charity Governance Awards winners and entrants are a vivid illustration of the difference a good board can make. They tell of boards that have brought fresh thinking,  integrity and a clear vision to their charity’s work, strengthened its impact and, sometimes, averted disaster. The charities themselves range from tiny to large, and their causes are diverse. The governance categories they entered include digital, diversity, impact and turnaround.

They are all stories of great leadership, exercised as a team, for a common cause.

This is quite at odds with the way that we, as a sector, usually talk about trusteeship. Often the focus is on the fiduciary and the language is all compliance, liability, duty. For a long time, I was deeply uninterested in anything to do with trusteeship: it had a fusty, almost Dickensian connotation, and the link between trustees and the work of the charity – the difference it made – seemed tenuous.

However, as the entrants for this year’s awards (and last year’s too) clearly demonstrate, good governance involves so much more than just getting the basics of compliance and scrutiny right.

Keeping hold of the bigger picture

A common theme of these stories is of trustees keeping hold of the bigger picture and not being afraid to think afresh about how their focus should shift in the context of a changing world. In some cases this meant deciding to narrow their remit to key strategic activity, and stopping anything that did not contribute to this. (This can be so hard to do in practice!) Dementia UK decided to focus on exclusively providing care through specialist Admiral Nurses. For others this meant broadening their mission to create a more holistic approach. For example, Off The Record expanded its work from providing counselling services for young people to a mental health service for the same audience. Body & Soul widened the focus of its services from young people with HIV to a broader range of beneficiaries. Always, the board were careful to keep true to the overall purpose of the charity, and to the needs of service users.

Another strand (and a refreshing change from the stereotype of risk averse boards) is the willingness of the trustees to be ready to try new things where this helps them achieve their goals. Voluntary Arts’ BAME Advisory Panel incorporated shared meals into their meetings to help build inclusivity, Raise the Roof has embedded the use of several off-the-shelf platforms to deliver services and increase participation at board level. There are stories of boards taking bold decisions, based on calculated risk to achieve more – for example, Preston Road Women’s Centre took advantage of the Empty Homes Partnership to develop a new programme providing safe accommodation for women escaping domestic abuse.

Collective and collaborative action

The entrants share an evident belief in the value of collective, and collaborative, action; a willingness to look outwards and work in partnership with other organisations. There is also a real seriousness: clarity about the change that the board wants to achieve and determination to draw on the right information and processes to achieve this. These are boards who are interested in the impact of their organisation’s work, who seek evidence of the difference their service makes and take corrective action where necessary. They are also boards who are willing to step up to the plate when the going gets tough. Witness the courage and commitment shown by the trustees of Kentish Town City Farm when faced with a seemingly hopeless situation.

Seeing is believing

These stories are important for three reasons. They show how there is more to being a trustee than scrutinising accounts. They also offer a counterpoint to the bad press that governance has had in the last couple of years – the plethora of stories about people doing it wrong and a focus on the ‘problems of governance’. This negative focus is problematic, and not only because it creates an unbalanced picture of trusteeship. It actually contributes to the problem: underlying much of the existing bad governance. From poor trustee recruitment to lack of board engagement, there is a lack of appreciation of, or even belief in, the difference that a good board can make to a charity. Sharing examples of good governance is one of the most powerful ways to help people to understand the value of good trusteeship. It makes it tangible. These stories demonstrate that good governance really does matter, that it really is possible, and that it is worth striving to achieve. So, please read and enjoy these stories, and share them widely.

The Charity Governance Awards is organised by the Clothworkers’ Company, in partnership with Reach Volunteering, NPC and Prospectus.

The winners were announced at a ceremony at the Clothworkers Hall in London on Wednesday 24 May 2017.

Janet Thorne leads Reach as Chief Executive

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House of Lords recommends digital trustees on Boards
March 27th, 2017 by Janet Thorne

 

We are really pleased to read the recommendation in the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities report, that charities should have a digital trustee. If charities are going to really engage with digital (and they really must!) they need leadership that understands the opportunities as well as the risks. Boards that do not understand how digital is changing the world that their charity operates in will never invest sufficiently in it. Having a trustee with expertise in this area can make a big difference.

A source of digital trustees

Reach launched a programme last year to tackle this very issue. Supported by the Charity Commission, Zoe Amar and IBM, building boards for a digital age provides charities with the guidance, inspiration, and, most crucially, a pool of keen, prospective digital trustees. We have recruited some great candidates, but the uptake from charities has been slower. Research last year found that trustees ranked digital skills as the most needed on their boards. And yet this skill set remains one of the least demanded in our trustee recruitment service, despite our campaign. Perhaps boards find it all a bit daunting?

Elsewhere the report seeks to encourage a stream of more diverse and skilled trustees, recommending that ’employers should be encouraged to give greater recognition to trustee roles in recruitment and progression of their staff’. This would be great – but from where we sit, there is also a need to encourage charities themselves to invest a bit more time and effort in how they recruit trustees. Not many charities do it well. How you recruit is a key part of getting the right people, with the right motivations. The traditional tap on the shoulder approach is problematic not just because it limits diversity, but also because it fosters a ‘hobbyist’ culture.

The supply of willing trustees is only part of the problem.

Volunteers can bridge the gap

The report also looks more broadly at how charities are taking to digital. This is the third report published in one week which focuses on this issue – see Lloyds Bank Foundation’s Facing Forward report on smaller charities, and Charity Digital Skills which hones in on the sector’s lack of digital skills. The Committee’s recommendation that the Big Lottery provides support to infrastructure bodies  ‘to share knowledge and best practice on innovation and digitalisation’ is very welcome. The suggestion that the tech sector provides training and development opportunities is also right. However, I think that the report misses a trick by not seeing the connection with volunteering. There are many people with the right expertise willing to donate their skills for a social purpose, and they could play a big role helping smaller charities develop their capability and capacity. Volunteers could help breach the digital skills gap.

On the subject of volunteering, the report takes the enlightened and all-too-rare approach of recognising that the chief challenge is not in finding more volunteers, but in finding sustainable ways to support and manage them.

‘Investing in volunteers is a way of respecting their contribution as well as increasing their value to the charity’, says the report.

I couldn’t agree more! However, I think that the report’s exclusive emphasis on volunteer managers is wrong.

Many smaller charities do not have a dedicated volunteer manager because volunteers are embedded within different teams, and centralising the role may not be appropriate. The answer is more investment in volunteer recruitment and management, regardless of organisation structure.

Throughout, the report keeps the needs of small charities in its sights, and makes many welcome recommendations about governance, finance and commissioning. Infrastructure organisations are called on to do quite a bit more, although there is scant reference to the fact that many are dwindling or have closed altogether. Still, recognition of their role is something.

Reach will continue to run its programme, supporting charities to recruit trustees that can help embed digital at a strategic level. We will also encourage charities to recruit volunteers that can lend their expertise to implementation.

We are pleased that the House of Lords Charity Select Committee report has helped focus attention on digital, and particularly on digital trustees. We hope that more charities will now act on this recommendation.

Janet Thorne leads Reach as Chief Executive

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Susana Morgado Gomez
February 20th, 2017 by Reach

Susana Morgado Gomez shares her experience of how being a trustee benefits both volunteer and charity.

‘Every year Mind In Camden provides a range of services to some 1,000 people with serious mental health needs and the staff who work with them, in partnership with national and local organisations, and the NHS.

‘I work in the banking sector and wanted to use my skills to make a contribution to a cause I believe in, as well as increase my Board exposure in a different sector. Mind In Camden were looking for a new trustee who, along with financial acumen, would bring strategic skills. They really wanted someone that shared the charity’s values, especially around the core principle of seeing mental health as a continuum on which we are all at different points, at different times in our lives. This means there is no ‘us’ (= well) and ‘them’ ( = ill).

‘In joining Mind In Camden as a trustee, I feel I am making a contribution to an organisation where people are very passionate about their work, but are working under very different circumstances and resources to my day job.

This is a highly complementary experience to the commercial and financial background that I have.

‘Being a trustee is a strategic role, it is not a day to day role, and it’s important to understand the difference. Trustees are ultimately accountable to the public and regulators – so it is important that the fit is right between the charity, the trustee and the chief executive.

Trustees support and challenge the management

‘From a practical perspective a trustee is expected to attend and actively contribute to effective Board meetings and decision making, in his or her area of core competence. A considerable part of the trustee role is about self-education in the sector and the charity to which he or she belongs. This is paramount to help you support and challenge the management team, as necessary. The support angle is very important to maintaining the motivation of the team, but it is equally important to challenge, helping them recognise any blind spots and mitigate risk, or not miss opportunities.

Additionally, a Trustee is a representative of the Charity and should not only be available to represent the charity as required, but also act as an Ambassador for the organisation.

‘In this particular experience I enjoy the different kind of environment and diverse background of the Board – the diversity contributes to you growing as an individual and a professional. In joining a team like the Board of a charity, you have to adapt to contribute – and use your transferable skills.

‘Being a trustee is an extremely personal experience that requires passion and energy.  It is very rewarding and very energising.’

For more information on Mind services visit Mind In Camden.

To find a trustee or a trustee role, visit Reach Volunteering.

Reach is the UK’s leading skills-based volunteering charity

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November 14th, 2016 by Janet Thorne

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

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NPC logo
October 24th, 2016 by Reach

This article was authored by NPC’s Director of Development, Tris Lumley for the building boards for a digital age campaign. 

It’s great to see an increasing focus within charity governance on what’s needed from a board in today’s (and tomorrow’s) ever more digital world. Recruiting trustees with real experience of digital in other sectors is a great start, and will certainly help a charity navigate the huge opportunities and challenges that digital presents.

But just getting some digital experience on your board is only the start.

If charities really want to embrace the potential of digital transformation, they have some big questions to grapple with, going to the heart of their governance and their mission.

In Tech for common good, NPC’s first report on digital transformation in the charity sector, we started to lay out the enormity of the challenge (and the opportunity). As we’ve already seen in the private sector, digital technology upends existing business models, disrupts entire industries, and redefines relationships between businesses and their customers, suppliers, and competitors. It’s incredibly exciting to think about the potential for social purpose organisations to radically redefine how they operate with digital technology infused into their strategies, operations, communications and engagement with service users. It’s also more than a little terrifying for most boards to even start to go here.

When Tom Loosemore, ex-Deputy Director of GDS (the Government Digital Service) spoke at NPC’s recent annual conference NPC Ignites, he made it very clear what’s required to succeed in a digital world, and to develop effective digital products and services. Rather than the traditional strategic planning process (write strategy, develop detailed requirements, build something, deploy to users, etc.) good tech development totally upends this process. It starts with really getting to understand users’ requirements, and then quickly prototyping something. Testing it out with users then means much more than asking them whether it works for them —it’s about observing their behaviour in detail. Then learning from that testing, and iterating the solution. This process, often referred to as agile development, is the key to all the successes of GDS. Build, test, learn, iterate.

So what relevance does that have to charities’ governance?
It’s incredibly important to recognise that this approach is almost the antithesis of charities’ traditional governance models, and to their fundraising and operations. Boards like to develop strategies slowly, through strategic planning processes that often take many months, and ultimately result in weighty tomes that feel like they are written in stone. These strategies then filter into fundraising and operations from the top-down, resulting in funding applications and programme designs that are pretty rigid and long-term. Grant-makers are asked to support three year programmes based on a set approach, and promised reporting against fixed milestones. The strategy sets the design principles that everything else is built on.
That’s all overseen by a governance model based on the rhythm of quarterly meetings. Tick, tock, steady as she goes.

What Tom Loosemore really drove home in his speech is that top-down strategy doesn’t cut it.

In his words, strategy is delivery. Understand users, build, test and iterate rapidly.
While many charities are starting to wake up to the huge potential of digital technology, I don’t think many have yet begun to confront just how much they need to change to harness it. Fundraising will have to adapt to putting the user at the centre, and being open about not knowing yet how a charity’s products and services will meet their needs. And governance will have to adapt to providing strategic oversight of an organisation that’s rapidly changing, flexing, and to adapt the startup world’s jargon, even pivoting entirely.

GDS did this by being established outside of the silos and bureaucracy of departmental structures. Whether, and how charities will take on the flexibility they’ll need to succeed in a digital world is far from clear.

Tris leads NPC’s development of new strategies, partnerships and initiatives to help transform the social sector. He also leads NPC’s fundraising activity to support research and thought leadership.

Reach is the UK’s leading skills-based volunteering charity

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Charity Commission logo
October 19th, 2016 by Reach

This article was authored by Director of Policy and Communications at the Charity Commission, Sarah Atkinson for the building boards for a digital age campaign. 

Nowadays, more than ever, digital is at the centre of our everyday lives. As a result, charities need to have the skills and confidence to navigate and exploit technology for their organisation. That’s one of the reasons why we are supporting building boards for a digital age, a collaborative campaign to increase digital expertise on charity boards.

Diversifying your skill set and adding another perspective to the trustee board

The benefits that technology can bring to charities are wide-ranging; they include the chance to reach a greater audience, to engage more reciprocally with supporters, and to increase operational efficiency. There are also risks that come with digital, from cyber fraud to data protection breaches. Having trustees with digital expertise on a board means that charities will be in a good position to exploit these benefits for their charity, but also to mitigate the risks, and be better prepared to manage any problems quickly and effectively. Digital can also support strong governance if trustees are able to use technology to access information and make quick decisions, increase insight into their charity’s activities, and ensure that when trustees delegate, they are using technology to clarify what the charity’s policies and procedures are.

If you have a digital background and are thinking of joining a charity board, there are huge benefits to taking on such a vital role.

Trusteeship is an excellent way to get involved in your community and help a cause that matters to you. It introduces you to new experiences and people, and allows you to develop new skills, stretch yourself and apply your knowledge to real, fresh challenges. What’s more, spearheading the use of new technology amongst trustees to ensure your organisation makes the greatest difference possible will be extremely rewarding.

Navigating digital without an expert on board

Of course not all charities are lucky enough to have a trustee board with strong digital expertise. With the support of Grant Thornton and Zoe Amar Communications, the Charity Commission recently launched a new resource, 12 questions about digital for trustees, to highlight the issues that boards should consider when approaching digital.

Across 12 wider areas where digital could have an impact – such as strategy, culture, and service delivery – we’ve looked at the key questions trustees should ask as a starting point to navigate the digital opportunities and risks in that area.

For example, when it comes to using digital to build your brand, do you have a website that is easy to navigate and optimised for all devices?

Are you considering the digital trends when it comes to fundraising, such as the rise of crowdfunding?

We hope that boards that don’t yet have a trustee with digital expertise can use this tool to start a conversation and to increase their collective understanding of digital. We also hope that digital trustees, those with a deeper familiarity with and appetite for technology, can use it to evaluate where on a digital journey their charity is, and where there are gaps or opportunities, to ensure the sector isn’t left behind as we move to an increasingly digital future.

Sarah was appointed Director of Policy and Communications at the Charity Commission in October 2014. She is a board member of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years and a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Professional Practices Panel.

Reach is the UK’s leading skills-based volunteering charity

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Charity Governance Awards 2017
October 10th, 2016 by Lucia das Neves

Entries are now open to charities both large and small, from all sectors, for the Charity Governance Awards 2017 – the UK awards that recognise and reward good charity governance.

Reach Volunteering is delighted to be a partner in these awards that by shining a spotlight on the best of the sector, demonstrate how effective governance can transform a charity and the lives of its beneficiaries.

Entry to the awards is free. Each of the seven categories offers a £5,000 cash prize.

The award categories are:

  • Board diversity & inclusivity
  • Embracing digital
    Embracing opportunity & harnessing risk
  • Improving impact – charities with three paid staff or fewer (including charities with no paid staff)
  • Improving impact – charities with 4-25 paid staff
  • Improving impact – charities with 26 paid staff or more
  • Managing turnaround.

Last year’s winners

Looking for inspiration for your entry? Want to know what makes an award winner special? Browse the profile pages and short films for the winners, and the shortlisted charities.

How to enter

You can enter online for free until 13 January 2017. The winners will be announced at the invite-only free awards ceremony drinks reception on 24 May 2017. Follow the conversation at #charitygov17

The Charity Governance Awards are organised by The Clothworkers’ Company – a City Livery company that supports trusteeship initiatives – in partnership with NPC (New Philanthropy Capital), Prospectus and Reach.

Lucia is the Marketing and Communications Manager at Reach Volunteering.

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Building boards for a digital age
September 27th, 2016 by Janet Thorne

Reach has launched building boards for a digital age to increase the digital expertise of charity trustee boards. Working in collaboration with partners, we will be supporting boards to recruit ‘digital trustees’ and maximise their ability to lead their charities through this digital age.

Why digital is important for all charities (including yours!)

Every charity is operating in a digital world now. When you make decisions about any element of your operations, digital is a key component, whether you chose to embrace it or not. How you should store and organise your data, how best to communicate with beneficiaries, donors and funders, how you promote your services, how you deliver them, and how you measure their effectiveness – these are all digital questions.

Many charities shy away from digital because they fear that they have insufficient expertise, and they worry that digital projects can be expensive, tricky and risky to implement. And they can be all those things.

But the benefits can also be huge – greater reach, scalable services, efficiency savings, to name but a few. And the risk of ignoring digital is even greater – a slow but fatal slide into irrelevance or obscurity.

Why you need digital expertise

It is crucial that charities have a strategic approach to digital. Not digital for digital’s sake, but for the contribution it can make to your charity’s strategic goals.

Your board needs to have the expertise and knowledge to:
• see the huge opportunities that digital offers your charity
• make informed decisions about the risks that it brings
• champion digital innovation
• ask probing questions of your plans.

I know from first-hand experience (having led Reach through its own digital transformation) that board buy-in to the project was essential. It made all the difference having trustees with digital expertise who really understood the process. They provided proper oversight, helped source experts, and most crucially of all, kept their nerve at sticky moments. But even if you don’t have any big projects planned, you still need to be considering what role digital should play in your strategy.

How this campaign will help

We are supporting charities to build their board’s digital expertise, by working together with public, private and voluntary sector partners to provide:

• useful resources and guidance
• links to training
• direct support to recruit trustees with digital expertise.

Digital is a topic that the whole board needs to engage with but it can really help to have at least one trustee with specialist knowledge. Someone that can champion the role of digital and ask more searching questions. We are therefore focusing our efforts on helping charities to recruit digital trustees.

Working with partners, we are building a pipeline of prospective digital trustees. We will promote charities’ digital trustee positions through these and other partners; through our TrusteeWorks recruitment service; and through LinkedIn and other channels.

How to get involved

If you are already thinking about recruiting, we’d encourage you to upload a role with us by 4 November so that you can take advantage of our big push this November. This will include promotion with key partners, a tailored search on your behalf by our TrusteeWorks team, and lots of social media promotion during Trustees’ Week (7 -13 November). And all of this is free!

You can also register to receive regular updates from our campaign and links to free resources – just complete the newsletter sign up details on this page.

 

Janet Thorne leads Reach as Chief Executive

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five ways to imrpove your career with trusteeship
September 26th, 2016 by Luke Strachan

In recent years there has been a lot of research on the benefits of volunteering, both on a personal and professional level and there is even compelling research suggesting that it is literally good for our health. Trusteeship, however, is a unique form of volunteering and brings its own distinct brand of challenge and reward. With up to 50 per cent of charities currently having vacancies on their boards and with charities facing unprecedented challenges, let’s revisit some of the many reasons everyone should consider joining a charity board.

1. Contributing to a great cause

There’s no doubt that being a trustee is one of the most powerful ways in which you can contribute to your local community or to a cause you really care about. As a trustee, you play an integral part in the good governance of a charity, not only ensuring that the organisation remains viable and sustainable but ensuring that it adheres closely to its mission and works in the interests of its beneficiaries. These days, corporations of all sizes are taking voluntary and community enriching activities much more seriously with trusteeship considered one of the most effective methods of professional development and community engagement available to employees.

2. Strategic experience

Strategic experience can be hard to come by in the work place and it can often take decades to find yourself in a role which requires strategic oversight. Trusteeship is a fantastic way of getting a head start on this, at once giving you the opportunity to develop and hone your critical thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills as well as developing vital strategic sensibilities and team working skills. There’s no doubt that the strategic experience which can be gained through trusteeship can have an immediate and powerful impact upon your career, opening doors to new responsibilities and more senior job prospects.

3. Professional networks

Surrounding yourself with a wide variety of professional contacts is one of the best things you can do for your career. Ensuring that you have access to good people from diverse professional backgrounds can be useful on so many levels. Whether it’s seeking advice on a current work place predicament or scoping out opportunities for the next step in your career progression, being a trustee can open up your professional network in all kinds of unforeseen and advantageous ways that will only become clear once you have taken the leap!

4. Developing skills and experience

Being a trustee can be a very interesting experience, not least because it allows you to adapt and apply everything you have learned in your day job to an entirely new context. Through trusteeship you can gain a clearer idea of your own professional strengths and weaknesses whilst simultaneously learning altogether new skills. Understanding how to adapt your professional knowledge to useful ends within a charity is a good reminder of your own versatility, giving you confidence in your existing abilities whilst challenging you push the boundaries of your expertise.

5. Team working

It is often the case that so called ‘soft skills’ are eclipsed by a charity’s requirement to have a well rounded set of skills in the board room. However, communication and people skills are just as important and, in some cases, more so. The ability to collaborate effectively with others, to constructively challenge the ideas of fellow trustees as well as those of the CEO and senior management is essential to ensuring that the board’s strategic decisions are scrutinised and tested before being implemented. Negotiating, empathising, listening and clearly communicating ideas and concerns are huge factors in this process and often help to set the tone and culture of board meetings. All of this is essential to positive, forward thinking and efficient charity governance, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity to develop sound judgement and interpersonal skills that will improve your prospects whatever career path you happen to be on.

Becoming a trustee is a fantastic and fascinating way to engage in the charity sector. It’s a role which will give back just as much as you put in and often much, much more. Though often challenging, trusteeship will reward the adventurous and ambitious with a wealth of personal and professional skills and connections which will stand you in good stead throughout your career whilst empowering you with a new sense of purpose and prospect.

Tempted? Visit www.reachskills.org.uk and find the role for you. Got digital skills? www.digitalboards.org.uk might be for you.

Luke heads up Reach’s TrusteeWorks team

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