Ten things trustees can do relating to digital

In light of the recommendation in  the Taken on Trust report (2017)  that ‘all key stakeholders in the charity sector should review and enhance their advice, support and communications to reflect and draw upon developments in digital technology’, we offer the following tips:

  • Digital is not going to go away. Boards must put the development impact of new technologies as one of the priorities on their governance agenda.

  • Boards can consider using a board portal which integrates features of email, online calendars and document management software.  Board portals organise board work (such as organising away days, off site events, committee work, task forces and working groups).  They also record, organise and access board member data, contact details, biographical content, skills and expertise.  Utilising video conferencing for board, committee and other meetings can enhance engagement, provided these do not take the place of meeting face to face.  Zoom, Periscope, Facebook Live, GoToMeet, WebEx etc are valuable tools and the cost of these software tools keeps coming down.

  • Adopting and implementing a social media strategy and policies to guide the usage of new technologies must feature on the organisation’s agenda.

  • Trustees must explore what they can do to manage risk,  protect their data, staff and service users from cyber issues such as malware, phishing scams, email attacks, hackers,  trolls and the like.  A study undertaken by information services provider Experian showed that 60 per cent of mobiles and 48% of tablets have no security installed.  Alarmingly, victims themselves may unknowingly install malware!

  • Trustees need to ensure that financial controls provide sufficient security for online giving and due diligence procedures are carried out before third parties are hired to manage online donations. Mobile phone and tablets used by charity staff are increasingly at risk from criminal attack. The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) regime, operated by many charities, weakens the security of data. They may consider moving to a Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) regime that consciously limits the number of devices that have access to data systems. Investing in anti-theft software is highly recommended.

  • Boards should explore the possibilities of the digital agenda and its development for their organisation. Social media can be used for feedback from users and beneficiaries. Feedback to the board  can assist in monitoring performance, inform strategic planning and increase the quality and impact of services.

  • The board needs to look online for where  its target audience is engaging and join the conversation on their turf. An added benefit is that the charity can gauge how it is being perceived and have evidence of the ‘external and internal’ images. 

  • Trustees could monitor the different platforms the organisation uses – twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Google chatrooms, Facebook et al and ensure there are sufficient procedures, processes and policies in place to guide their use.  Staff, volunteers and trustees must receive adequate training and be aware about the importance of using the latest technology appropriately and safely.  

  • With the risk of utilising new technologies come the rewards.  Board need to get better at balancing both for  the benefit of the charity.

  • Close the generational divide.  Generation Zers  (born post 1995) adopt the ‘three screen approach’ and probably hold the same expectations in the boardroom.   The board needs to be able to attract and support  young trustees to appropriately use a multi- media approach. The board could benefit from having a digital trustee who could support the development and implementation of a digital strategy from a governance perspective.


Taken on Trust ( The awareness and effectiveness of charity trustees in England and Wales, 2017)

Wired to Govern: a trustee’s handbook for the digital revolution (Onboard/BWB)

12 Questions about digital for trustees (Charity Commission)

This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of November 29, 2017.