Communicating with your trustees at the press of a button

Linda Jones, the Chair of both VAL and VASL's trustee boards, talks about how she has found chairing meetings virtually and why the need to communicate during COVID-19 has been so important.

I think it is crucially important for trustee boards to continue to meet. Trustees’ responsibilities remain and we need an effective means of carrying them out. Good governance means that we need to make key decisions about the organisation, its people – staff and volunteers – its services, and its finance.

Given the huge potential impact, we decided at VAL and Voluntary Action South Leicestershire (VASL) to each develop a specific COVID-19 Risk Register. This helped us identify all of the risks, including People, Finance, Services, Premises, Reputation, Data Protection/GDPR, and determine the actions we can take now, and in the future, to mitigate the negative impact – and maximise the opportunities. At VASL, we also decided to increase the regularity of our board meetings, from every two months to monthly, recognising that we need to monitor the impact and be available to make key decisions.

We have used Zoom to hold our board meetings. I had never used it before so my first step was to do some online training about how to host and manage Zoom meetings. There’s lots of tutorials on YouTube but Zoom provides excellent live online training or you can watch their recorded training events. After a couple of these I was ready to go! I have found it a great way to hold effective meetings. There isn’t the same interaction, of course, but it allows the trustees to exercise their responsibilities effectively.

Some tips from me:

  • Plan the meeting, as you would any board, with clear agendas and supporting papers
  • Be clear about what you need to achieve, what decisions are required
  • Enable all trustees to participate and contribute to the discussions. If it’s a large board, getting everyone to ‘mute’ themselves, only speaking when you signal to them that it’s their turn, really helps to avoid possible mayhem!
  • Minute the meeting, as usual, and follow through on actions.

Communication is the key to an effective organisation and board. Keep trustees advised of what is going on through regular emails and updates. If important decisions need to be taken, these can often be done by email – recording it in the minutes of the next board meeting – or one of the great things about virtual meetings is that you can call a short meeting at a ‘press of a button’.

Helen Oparinde, VAL Development Officer for our Voluntary Sector Support team, has also written an accompanying blog post about virtual trustee meetings.

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If you are a charity or community group and you need additional support to deliver services during the pandemic, VAL is here to help.

We can offer advice on issues that affect charities, from fundraising to proper governance and managing volunteers.

You get can in touch via:
0116 257 5050

Linda Jones

Linda Jones is the chair of VAL's trustee board. Linda has extensive experience of good governance in the VCSE sector, leading on governance reviews in a range of charities and setting up systems to ensure implementation. You can find Linda on Twitter at @linda25j