OnBoard’s survey shows that digitisation has improved the effectiveness of boards. We look at findings from the survey and discuss how digital transformation can improve collaboration, communication, and the efficiency of charity boards
COVID-19 led to an unprecedented period of digital transformation. Almost overnight, charities had to shift daily operations, ditching tin buckets for online donations, hosting virtual events instead of physical, and relying on e-commerce in place of the charity shop.
Almost every element of charity work was subject to significant change. And charity boards were no exception. In the past, boards have been criticised for their reluctance to embrace digital technology. That has not been the case over the past year. Like many others across the charity sector, board members have learnt to embrace digital technology – and they continue to do so.
Embracing digital may have started as a necessity. Charity board members had to find new processes to chart their vision and mission, new platforms on which to communicate and collaborate, and new ways to monitor and define strategy. They also had to quickly move from traditional in-person meetings to all-virtual board and committee meetings.
But boards started to notice distinct advantages of digitisation. Over the past year, according to the Board Effectiveness Survey Report 2021, boards have become more effective, even in the midst of pandemic. The survey demonstrates that from March 2020 to March 2021, boards have become more collaborative and more adept at prioritising strategic issues. They have essentially risen to the challenge of COVID-19, adopting digital solutions to tackle problems.
OnBoard’s 2021 Board Effectiveness Survey includes responses from more than 282 board directors, administrators, and staff members across the world and spans numerous industries, including charities, higher education, healthcare, and many others.
A key change noted in the report was around board meetings. Digitising meetings started as an inevitability, with board members navigating the new normal. But the survey shows that, despite initial challenges such as the absence of face-to-face interaction, the majority of the respondents (79%) felt that their boards were more effective during the pandemic.
And, interestingly, most of the respondents cited the shift to remote working and virtual meetings as the primary cause of that new-found effectiveness.
The benefits of remote and hybrid working have become increasingly obvious. Remote working can promote a better work-life balance, save employees money on travel, and afford employees space away from the office to focus on complex tasks. And importantly, remote and flexible working can bring improvements in communication and collaboration.
Digital collaboration is essential to the future of charity operations. The use of digital tools to collaborate and retain information in one centralised place will improve the synergy of charity boards. Indeed, the survey suggests that 66% of respondents have seen improvements in board collaboration during COVID-19, which largely stems from the shift to remote working.
47% of survey respondents noticed that boards now spent more time discussing strategic issues since digitising. That’s a positive start. But there is plenty of room for improvement.
Boards need to embrace digital meetings and ensure they prioritise strategy. Digital meetings tend to involve less formalities than face-to-face meetings, which can save time. They can be more efficient, but only if board members take steps to consolidate that efficiency.
Boards need to establish goals prior to the digital meeting, for example, saving time and ensuring time is spent wisely. That will allow members to focus on vital strategic issues and come away with concrete action points. Boards should also ensure they have the latest tech and the right platforms to optimise meetings. That means committing to meaningful investments to improve engagement and collaboration.
The best digital tools allow charity boards to maximise full capabilities, driving forward the charity’s strategy and ensuring more effective governance. Perhaps the best place to start is to look at improving or implementing a digital board management platform.
Ineffective boards create problems. They slow charities down, undermine their mission, and stymie progress. The need for efficiency is essential. The move to digitised platforms almost certainly increases that efficiency. The survey suggested, for example, that users of board management platforms reported that materials were sent earlier compared to non-users.
The survey also showed that 57% of respondents claimed to have used a board management platform. Among these respondents, 81% indicated an increase in effectiveness. Of the 43% of respondents who had not used such platforms, only 58% noted an increase.
There are other benefits of board management platforms. The survey suggested that boards who use board management platforms are more likely to evaluate their own environmental, social, and governance issues. The reasons are simple. Software makes self-evaluation easier, allowing boards to access centralised information and draw important conclusions.
Digital transformation does not end. It is an ever-evolving project, with new developments constantly arising, new opportunities presented, new platforms and software available. Successful charities stay ahead of the curve, implementing the latest digital solutions to improve operation models and change their working culture.
Charity boards should lead that charge. They should build on the lessons of the past year and carry charities into the future. The survey suggested that board members were already taking positive steps, with nearly half of respondents indicating that they’ll make significant investments in their boards in the next year.
The pandemic accelerated the digitisation of boards. It helped board members realise the distinct advantages of digital transformation. Charity boards of the future will either lean into digital transformation, aim to further improve efficiency, or return to more traditional governance models. We believe the successful boards will embrace digital.
Charity boards should be forward-looking, ever-evolving, and always-improving. They should learn the lessons of the past year and continue on that trajectory. The future is certainly digital. And it is time for charity boards to embrace digital.
OnBoard’s survey report demonstrated the importance of digital transformation for boards. It showed how respondents felt digital transformation had already improved their effectiveness and how embracing digital can improve future effectiveness.
OnBoard can help you rise to the challenge. It can help you meet the moments. OnBoard aim to provide informed, effective and simple board management solutions, helping to streamline board meetings. Their platform offers a solution that aims to simplify governance.
OnBoard serves as the board intelligence platform for more than 2,000 organisations and their 12,000 boards and committees in 32 countries worldwide. With customers in higher education, non-profit, healthcare systems, government and enterprise business, OnBoard is a tried and tested board management solution that could boost your board’s effectiveness.
Check out OnBoard’s 2021 Board Effectiveness Survey