How charity trustees can support their executive team

There are approximately one million charity trustees in the UK working with around 196,000 registered charities. With the recent lifting of pandemic restrictions and transition to a 'new normal', the role of trustees and how they effectively support and guide their executive teams is crucial. Strong leadership is needed, not just in the short-term but in the long-term too. Charities have a unique opportunity to review what works for them, and in doing so, future-proof their organisation.

What can trustees learn from the crisis, and what should they be thinking about now? Watch the videos below with Neil Poynton, Head of Charities Financial Services Transformation, and learn how to support your team during this challenging period.


What should trustees do now to support their executive team?

  • Video transcript

    What should trustees do now to support their executive team?

    At this point in time it really does come back to the basics of people: they’re our prime asset. They carry the most value and I’d say that - just as we would normally try to do in normal times - communicate and listen

    Use all of the technology that’s available because of the physical distancing that we’re living in at the moment.

    Don't forget to utilise their skill sets. Encourage and motivate those skill sets to bring out the best that we possibly can in the charity. 

    Be clear. Make sure that your governance structures and direction of travel - especially in the short-to-medium term - is understood and that you’ve got an eye on the long-term. 

    Ultimately, this is all about remaining fit-for-purpose. You perhaps might consider repurposing in the short term to make sure that you remain impactful and relevant but don't forget that ultimately you need a purpose, and maintain that purpose.

    Embrace and be flexible about change. Innovation is always important and be prepared to adapt and find the new good. Once you've found that new good and what works, don't go back on it. Make sure you carry that into the next sphere of the lifespan. 

    And consider short-term needs, things like discretionary and non-discretionary spend and make sure that it‘s articulated and understood - particularly from the leadership and management level.

What leadership resources are available for trustees during the crisis?

  • Video transcript
    Are there leadership resources available for trustees during the crisis?

    There certainly are. I think what I would say is that often if you’re doing things well, even within a crisis, those things stand up to the test of time so make sure you continue to do what you know you’re doing well. 

    But make sure you look at taking advantage of free information that exists out there. Whether that be things like the CAF COVID-19 hub that has a plethora of information. But it goes beyond that, the umbrella organisations, the likes of NCVO, Civil Society, CFG, SCC and the like, all have some terrific content on their websites - particularly for this period of time when it really is extremely difficult

    Other stakeholders to bear in mind are people like your bank, your lawyers, your accountants. There’s a lot of really good specific content that those firms and entities have put out for us within the sector.

    Make sure you use that, but also maintain those relationships, keep the dialogue open, because the best way of probably finding out the best things to do is to speak to people, so make sure that dialogue isn’t lost.


What should trustees be thinking about as we emerge from the crisis?

  • Video transcript

    There are some real sort-of basic things to make sure you keep in mind - none more so than making sure long-term you retain being financially and operationally fit for purpose. 

    Consider - particularly at this point in time - diversification of income streams, cost efficiencies and keeping control of those particular two streams and they’ll service you well going forward.

    They include things like discretionary and non-discretionary expenditure. Make sure that you understand which ones you can cut back on without impacting heavily on your charity.

    And probably remodel the ‘what ifs?’. Redefine ‘what if x were to happen?’. One of the classic examples is: what if the interest rate was to fall? This crisis has really thrown us into remodelling all sorts of scenarios - think about that going forward.

    Use your networks and collaborate. Massively important at this time and always draws benefits. At the far end you’ve already established those relationships and perhaps changed the normal way of taking how you address and consider what you do. 

    There’ll be lots of things that went well during this difficult time, don’t let them fall by the wayside. Whether they're efficiency gains or ways of working - could it be working from home and the technology you now use. Make sure that they become the norm,

    Never lose sight of having a really powerful case for support. Make it as compelling as you possibly can. It might be that it needs to adapt in the short term and then revert back to your long term objectives, but think about it’s impact and particularly on the donor and the donor’s relevance in what you do and what they do for you.



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