Digital trustees: digital savviness keeps charities current
In the digital era in which we live, evolving with the marketplace and changing modes of communication is essential. While some charities may prefer to avoid the digital realm, daunted by the uncertainty it presents, this will arguably become an untenable position.
Legally speaking, trustees owe a fiduciary duty and must act in the best interests of the charity; failing to consider digital opportunities or not safeguarding against digital fraud is increasingly likely to be considered a failure of that fiduciary duty.
The changes to the Data Protection Act (as a result of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation) burden companies and charities with the responsibility to protect sensitive information. Ignorance of the technology involved and the law is no longer sufficient excuse.
Duty aside, ‘going digital’ presents opportunities in areas such as efficiency, marketing and fundraising. As just one example, exploiting digital working spaces, enabling employees (or volunteers) to work flexibly from multiple sites or even from home, can reduce running costs and may increase employee efficiency.
Through digital media reaching new and existing audiences and connecting with them in real time becomes possible; platforms such as Twitter provide a self-perpetuating advertising network which can increase a fundraising pool. Despite these clear opportunities, the Charity Digital Skills Report 2018 states 31% of charities do ‘use digital’ but with no strategy around the way it is used. Further, last year the Civil Society and the Charity Commission published a report observing most charity boards do not necessarily reflect the communities they serve, with the majority of trustees being aged between 55 and 64. Younger generations are comfortable in the digital world, and this is a market charities need to unlock.
Think about appointing a ‘digital trustee’ or ambassador; one who is able to embrace the technical age and demonstrate your charity’s commitment to the future. This could be an employee or volunteer with a comprehensive understanding of social media and the digital world; or a current trustee willing to apply themselves to learning about the opportunities (and threats) presented by the digital world.
To hear more about trustee responsibilities in the digital world please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.