Diversity or digital? What’s more important to your trustee board?

The 3rd in the series of GetWired blog posts leading up to our event next week. This time Grant Taylor MD of Peridot and Partners and collaborator for GetWired, talks about charity boards and digital transformation, and the up and coming Trustee Week.

Grant Taylor, MD of Peridot and Partners

The government-backed Davies Report published today suggests that a third of all Board seats should be filled by women in the FTSE 250 companies by 2020. I’m an advocate for more female representation in both executive and non-executive roles, and for proactive and positive discrimination in this area (half of board seats should be filled by women in this day and age), but as far as I’m concerned this is a secondary issue.

When I think about boardroom diversity, skills and experience are the primary focus. What will improve governance and accelerate your charity’s progress towards its goals more effectively: having a generally more diverse board or one with relevant skills and experience?

Staying innovative

Just this week Talk Talk’s share price has dipped after a recent cyber attack and customers are likely to have lost confidence in Talk Talk. I won’t be rushing to sign up and hand over my personal details, will you? Marks and Spencer had to close its website for two hours and it made the morning news the next day. Charities can’t afford to lose public confidence, but this is not just about risk management and reputation, it is about staying modern and dare I say even being innovative.

You wouldn’t operate without a finance professional…  Is digital compliance any less important?

Social media (for reputation and profile), technology (for business continuity and efficiency) and digital development are critical to every organisation now. If Trustee Boards fail to explore the opportunities or properly assess the risks of implementing digital technology then we are failing our organisations in helping them to shape up to the future. Worse, we could have Boards of Trustees making decisions about digital and technology without understanding the questions that need to be asked. It’s like having a board of Trustees without a professional fundraiser. How can you possibly add value to and effectively scrutinise a professional fundraiser without really understanding their role and markets? You wouldn’t operate without a finance professional to ensure that you are financially compliant, would you? Is digital compliance any less important?

Tech skills on a board our as important as financial skills

I have always been a strong advocate for more diversity on Trustee Boards, but increasingly my focus is on the relevance of the skills, experience and behaviours (behaviours is for another day).  Digital and technology skills are still not regarded as core to every Trustee Board even though the capacity of technology to transform every element of how a charity operates from fundraising to communications and through to operations is extraordinary. We need to change our outlook and bring these modern skills into the boardroom as soon as possible.

Partnering with the Social Change AgencyBalderton Capital and GP Bullhound: Dealmakers in Technology we’ve created Get Wired, the 2015 Trustee Week (unofficial) Unconference bringing together the best of the digital technology world alongside the charities that need them, to explore, celebrate all things tech and digital while building greater capacity on Trustee Boards.

The event is full and therefore closed to new delegates, but we will be sharing the learning and making links between prospective Trustees from the likes of Google and IBM who have signed up to attend and charities who are interested in recruiting such people to their Trustee Boards.

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