Your trustees can be one of your charity’s greatest assets. Learn how to keep them engaged with the good work you’re doing
In a study of the UK charity sector, the Guardian reported that the most common reasons why charity trustees don’t get involved in fundraising are as follows:
At Charity Digital, we’re here to debunk those myths. Engaging your trustees throughout your digital strategy adds momentum to charity goals. When building digital culture and infrastructure, it’s important to get everyone on board, and secure buy-in starting from the top.
This year, Trustees’ Week starts on November 2nd, and runs until November 6th. The week is designed to showcase the vital work that trustees do. Danielle Macleod is a trustee at Safe Space, a Scottish charity helping survivors of abuse.
“Since I joined I’ve had to turn my hand to all kinds of things in the hope of making a difference. Anything from advising on HR issues to running workshops, from finding pro bono experts to support us in moving space, to this year rolling up our sleeves and bringing together a gang of volunteers to launch our biggest fundraiser yet, the Safe Space Write-athon.”
- Danielle Macleod – Trustee, Safe Space
For many charities, trustees can make a difference both internally and externally.
For many charities, trustees can make a difference both internally and externally. They are your in-house experts. They work to support the charity’s strategic aims and help ensure good governance. Outside of their formal roles, charities can benefit from a trustee’s expertise and network.
The first step in working to engage your trustees is to make sure that they are comfortable with your ask and your strategy.
The Guardian reported that many trustees don’t feel comfortable soliciting funds. This doesn’t mean that they can’t be involved in charity fundraising efforts.
Ian McLintock, Founder of Charity Excellence Framework said that trustees don’t have to ask for money. Simply inquiring as to “who in their own network might be engaged and help arrange an introduction or invite them to visit,” could lead to a significant donation. Trustees could also help boost fundraising by sending personalised emails and attending events.
This is a big one. Having visible trustees on your board means getting them active on social media.
The NCVO has key tips for developing trustee social media accounts. First, trustees should develop their own presence. They should also understand that this isn’t a day-to-day media commentary, but a strategic one. As part of having a social media account, trustees should also follow relevant people, accounts, and campaigns.
Second, trustees should get into the habit of promoting charity fundraising events and campaigns. Ideally, trustees should not only be in-real-life charity ambassadors but digital ones too.
Finally, the NCVO recommended that trustees know their role in a communications crisis. Trustees should be familiar with emergency social media policies. This could mean sharing press commentary or offering views if appropriate.
We’ve previously highlighted how digital success can come from trustee board members. In order to engage trustees at all levels, charity leaders should bear in mind the digital experience of members.
The New Reality study by Julie Dodd hammered home the importance of having digital capacity at the trustee level. She found a couple of stand-out issues. She concluded that “sector leadership wasn’t demonstrating vision or bravery in digital transformation”, and that “trustees are failing to support proactive change.”
Part of the challenge in building digital capacity on trustee boards is that trustees tended to be a bit older. The Charity Commission cited that the average age of a trustee member was 57. Age diversity seemed to be an issue.
Installing younger trustees is a good solution. Charities like the Young Trustees Movement promotes trustees under 30. The charity believes that younger trustees challenge the status quo and introduce more diversity of thought into trustee boards.
“Digital skills should be represented on all charity boards, with the aim of every trustee understanding how digital could increase their charity’s impact,” is the very first principle of Leadership outlined in the Charity Digital Code.
Appointing a digital champion to your trustee board formalises how important technology is. A digital champion is someone who is really mindful of digital transformation and how digital can work for their charity. It is someone who is dedicated to driving digital change.
Once appointed, your champion can bring together your digital strategy. They may also help promote the use of social media, online fundraising, and bring other trustees on the journey. Engaging with your trustee through the common purpose of being more digital can help charities affect change.
Since trustees only meet a couple of times a year, promoting the use of digital tools encourages trustees to engage with each other. Basecamp, Google Documents, and Zoom are all free to use. Helping trustees communicate means that decisions aren’t limited to infrequent meetings.