Are digital trustees all the same?

By Lauren Pluss (Senior Digital and Communications Officer, YouthLink Scotland) on 5th Nov 2019

We often use the term digital trustees as if they’re a homogenous group of people all with the same skillset. They’re not! There are so many digital skills, from web development to digital marketing to cyber security. Choosing someone with the right skills for your board (as with any trustee) is important. So, what could a digital trustee help your organisation with?

Digital Evolution

Charities need to evolve and embed digital within their organisational strategies to meet beneficiaries, customers, service users and supporters changing expectations and needs. But evolving digitally has many benefits, for example using digital processes can free up staff time meaning they have more time to deliver a service. It could also save your organisation money in the long term, it could improve internal communications, upskill your staff and make your organisation greener.

Digital evolution isn’t one size fits all, organisations need help with different things – take time to work out what you might need help with. If you’re not sure, take a look at SCVO’s Digital Check-Up tool which can help you assess what areas to focus on.

Digital Marketing

If reaching new audiences or more people is part of your strategic goals over the coming years, then having a board member with experience of digital marketing can help ensure your organisation is making the most of what digital channels can offer. Whether it’s exploring how social media channels can work for your organisation or how you can improve your presence on search engines – a trustee with digital marketing experience could really help you improve your digital footprint and support your staff with this responsibility.

Cyber Security

Cyber security should be high on the importance list for all charities – did you know that 1 in 5 charities have been hit by cyber-attacks in 2018? A trustee with experience in Cyber Security could help you review your processes, or go through the Cyber Essentials accreditation, as well as help other board members understand the importance of cyber security (and maybe increase their skills too!). Plus, if you’re unsure of the risks associated with digital, then a trustee could help you consider your risk register and what needs to be done.

Help or support with a specific project

If your organisation is working on a longer-term digital project having a board member who can provide advice and support through this process and upon roll out could help. However, if it’s shorter term digital project that you need support with, a digital trustee might not be the right support – instead a freelancer or company offering pro-bono support might be the way to go. But if you already have a digital trustee on your board, they might be able to support your project anyway!

There are many benefits of having a digital trustee on your board beyond needing support on a specific project. Someone with digital expertise can help bring digital into other discussions you might not have thought about, they can champion digital at all levels, help you consider new ways of working and support other board members in their digital understanding.

You’re unlikely to find a trustee with experience in all of the above (although if you do, nab them!). So, it’s important to think about what your organisation and board needs. Do a skills audit to see what skills your existing trustees have (there might be some you didn’t know about!), look at your organisational priorities over the coming years and consider what’s missing.

Next, it’s time to get recruiting! If you’re not familiar with Ross McCulloch’s Digital Trustee events, make sure you keep an eye out for future ones as they might help you find the person you’re looking for.