All posts by milesweaver

Guest blog by @juliekhutchison – reflecting on #trusteehour 5

Our third #trusteehour for 2018 in March sought to tackle the ‘elephant in the room’, which had been suggested as a topic back in 2017: GDPR.

With the implementation date not far off on 25 May 2018, it seemed a good moment to encourage resource-sharing for charity trustees still looking to get their heads around what’s involved.

We had around 2,500 views during this trusteehour, with a number of online references shared.  This link is for the Information Commissioner’s Office FAQs for charities.

There’s also the resources brought together by the Institute of Fundraising.

Information and guidance from NCVO was also shared.

Taking a proactive approach to data and re-engaging with supporters was a theme identified, as an opportunity to use GDPR as a positive step.  @Osborn_Jo mentioned two charities she had seen active in this space:

@talktokieran continued this positive theme:

Thanks also to @TrusteeLeaders @BruceTaitAssoc @CT_charities @SocialChangeAg for joining the conversations.  The impression I was left with however was there’s a bit of this going on:

And finally, news of our next #trusteehour on Thursday 19 April 8-9pm – topic “demystifying charity accounts”!

Blog by Julie Hutchison
Founding Editor of @InformedTrustee

6 April 2018


Reflections on #Trusteehour 6: on the topic of #GDPR – offering help and support to charity trustees, 2 months to go!

Oh #GDPR that elephant in the room … or might that be the elephant constantly pounded thier way towards you?

It seems as if everyone has heard about #GDPR – that “stop spamming me thing” – well it’s not quite that simple.

Actually the level of engagement in this topic was much lower than others and many of the contributions were offered by #GDPR consultancies and service providers. There certainly is alot of support out there and for some – a business opportunity. For others, a real headache.

Julie kicked-off by providing a link to FAQs for charities, that can be accessed here. @TrusteeLeaders provided useful IoF guidelines, here and @CT_ Charities suggested looking a  resource that contains data processing maps and other free tools to download, here.

We had our first tumbleweed moment. Some of you might know that Julie and I, usually meet for a drink to host #trusteehour and we soon realised that our drinks were going down quicker than normal. We are usually huddled around our smartphone, with a little glance at each other when the conversation hots up. Well we kept waiting, until we had a positive tweet from @BruceTaitAssoc.

Here is another positive perspective from @CT_charities, who see it as an opportunity to spring clean the mailing list:

@Osborn_Jo asked whether charities are completing ‘Privacy Impact Assessments’ before any new projects? Perhaps that is something we could look at a later date.

We were delighted when @BruceTaitAssoc provided 3 tips for planning:

Here is a good concluding tweet from @talktokieran below. Many contributors turned it into a positive and remarked  that its manageable if tackled “one piece at a time”.

…. We should embrace it. We will certainly be returning to this topic and hopefully more people will want to participate.

Thoughts on Anderson Strathern training for the #YCBI #GetonBoard (guest blog by Mary Rudaleviciute)

Mary Rudaleviciute attended the Anderson Strathern training held on the 21st May 2018. Here are her thoughts and thanks to Victoria, John and other Associates at the firm.

On Wednesday 21st March, I have had a great chance to attend the ‘Get On Board’ programme training provided by Anderson Strathern – a leading Scottish law firm. Two experts in the Charitable Sector field, namely Victoria Simpson and John Kerr, provided and facilitated the training. Current employees at the Anderson Strathern warmly greeted event attendees and made us feel welcomed. Meeting was focussed towards the legal aspects occurring in the boardroom and then the following presentation provided useful tips on joining a board.

The first part of the session analysed legal aspects of Scottish law, which charities have to adhere and abide. In fact, it proved to be truly useful because if we have a look at the current affairs covered in media, it shows the importance of adhering to the legislation and what happens when it is being breached, however big or small a charity would be.

The second part of the training provided by John Kerr presented first-hand tips on how boardroom meetings are being run and what are the key aspects of preparing for them. The significance of not being afraid speak up and to question the decisions made were on of the key points. As well as that, the emphasis was put on the magnitude of due preparation for the boardroom meetings.

Personally, I have genuinely enjoyed the session and a possibility to discuss case study scenarios with Victoria, John and other staff members of Anderson Strathern. Their insights, critical and on real life experience based approach has pushed our group forward to ask profound questions of what it actually is to be a trustee of the charity; what mentality should a person possess. Meeting these incredibly knowledgeable and skilled professionals who are directly working with charities across Edinburgh and Glasgow has immensely increased my willingness of becoming a charity trustee myself as after this session I am more aware of the charity’s legislation and what is trustee’s role overall.


Mary is a 2nd Year student at Edinburgh Napier University Business School, achieving her Bronze award recently and now working towards Silver. Part of her silver experience will be shadowing and undertaking governance responsibilities with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society. 

Get on Board – a seminar summary (guest blog by Julie Hutchison)

This is a guest blog by Julie Hutchison, Charities Specialist, Standard Life Wealth.

On 14th February 2018, RSM hosted an afternoon seminar in their Edinburgh offices, for the first cohort of Get on Board candidates from Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Edinburgh.  This blog summarises the topics covered, as a further reference point for those who attended on the day and a resource to support those who could not join the session.

Victoria Simpson of Anderson Strathern began the seminar by going through the various charity trustee duties which apply in Scotland.  This brings in the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005, and a good summary of what you need to know is contained in OSCR’s Guidance here.

The main duties to keep in mind as a charity trustee are:

* you must act in the best interests of the charity
* you must act with due care and diligence

Victoria spoke about ‘conflict of interest’ situations, and the need for a trustee to declare an interest, and for this to be recorded in the Minutes and a Register of Interests.  The key thing for a trustee is to put the interests of the charity first, and declare their personal interest in the matter concerned.  It may be necessary for a trustee to not participate in part of a meeting where something is being discussed, should that be necessary in order to manage the conflicting interests.

Moving onto the theme of charity accounts, Janet Hamblin of RSM ran through some of the financial points trustees need to be aware of. A Statement of Financial Activity was reviewed, looking at income and expenditure, and drawing out the difference between restricted funds (which must only be spent on certain things) and unrestricted funds (which are available to support general charity expenditure).  Janet emphasised the need for good internal financial controls, and the need to monitor cashflow.

From a charity investment perspective, I then gave an overview of why a charity might take the step of investing, moving from having cash only, to having a mixture of cash and investments.  This tends to happen when a charity has built-up a large sum of cash and is looking for the opportunity to gain better returns over a long term timescale, accepting the ups and downs of the stockmarket in doing so.  Ethical screening was introduced as a topic, to show how some charities avoid investing in certain sectors which conflict with their charitable purposes.  I mentioned #trusteehour as a means for the Get on Board participants to engage in an online community of trustees on twitter, to further develop their awareness and knowledge of charity sector issues.

The final speaker was Elaine Crichton of Inspiring Scotland. Elaine looked at board dynamics and the kinds of behaviours encouraged around the board table.  Key to this was the importance of asking questions as a trustee – and there’s no such thing as a daft question!  Trustees can be positive ambassadors for their charity, and Elaine spoke positively about what younger trustees can bring to the role.  The group dynamic was an important point, as trustees take decisions together on a collective basis.  Being an active listener and respecting other viewpoints was also discussed.  Finally, enthusiasm is valued!

For more information about the Get on Board programme and the competency pathway associated with it, see this blog by Dr Miles Weaver of Edinburgh Napier University.

reflecting on #trusteehour 4: ‘Being a charity trustee: one-off role or lifelong learning experience?’

Wow, the online community of practice for trustees has really taken off and we have had such a great level of interest. It got even more interesting as we took #trusteehour to ‘The Gathering’ in Glasgow. Many people approached @JulieKHutchison and I with positive comments about this monthly online get together. Some of whom joined us for a tweet-up over the bridge, oh and some cake!  This time we focused on ‘Being a charity trustee: one-off role or lifelong learning experience?’ 

and here we are …. with

The first question posed was “If you’ve been/are a charity trustee – do you consciously have a development plan/seek training opportunities?”  started us off with a ‘yes’ noting that personal/softer skills are a great facet of trustee experience; serving as a trustee helps with developing understanding of people in a unique way thanks to differing priorities and motivations. @techmeerkat recognised the benefits for staff but added that skills can be developed that can be bought back to a “day job”. Many of us seem to over-use the language of the “win-win” situation. However, there is a clear one here, however recognition of these benefits have yet to resonate much wider with employers? This is changing!

@irenewarnermack raised the need for ‘core training’ for trustees. This is exactly why @JulieKHutchison, @JacqBrodie and I have developed a ‘competency pathway for trustees’ and we need your help to develop this further and get it adopted. This recognises that many pathways exist to trusteeship and that we all bring different skills and knowledge into the board room. It is important that we use a ‘skills audit’ to understand these dynamics and actively develop the competencies of our board members and where there are gaps to fill them with new appointees.

We then went on to ask about the idea of “lifelong learning” and whether it is something that could be associated with trusteeship? Or whether individual experiences was confined to induction training (if it even happened …)and not much afterwards? This raised a few eyebrows, as we expected, with examples of poor inductions. @lindabarlow101 noted the importance of the simple and small things such as introducing a new trustee at the first board meeting and others introducing themselves going a long way. We cannot assume that everyone knows each other! Thats a start but there is still alot to it than that. I shall add to this the importance of the Chair or another board member building the relationship before the meeting. I don’t know many that like going into a cold room … do you? It’s the price of buying, or better still making a cup of tea.  Alot, of lifelong learning is had over a cup of tea … a apple juice … a dram? Everything is about the relationships that we form, surely not?

@mrsannrowe raised the issue of holding the ability to have difficult conversations in a productive way (and got excited when many chipped in and we were able to witness this in our meet-up). So OK … how do we develop this? How can we nuture an environment that encourages ‘challenge’? and when conflict arises how can we bring this to a resolution. Well .. this is has to be about the alignment of values and ensuring those that are marginalised by the decisions reached are considered.  Moreover, where possible drawn into the decision-making process.  This goes to the heart of one of our re-occuring themes – the importance of diversity of thought in the boardroom. For our boards to get the full benefit of diversity, then we need to value difference, recognise that we each bring different capabilities to a board and the Chair and other board members must not “shut-down” discussion when it does not go thier way. This does not distract from the importance of running a timely and effective board. This raises the importance of the ‘agenda’, the craft of chairpersonship and frankly ‘manners’ in the board room. I said to someone recently when watching PMQs with them about the importance of “talking through the chair” and that the chair plays the  role in bringing in the views of members and encouraging that “challenge”. They laughed and said “don’t be so stupid”.  Constantly recognising that boards should be ‘strategic’ helps. Many recognised the importance of more young trustees on boards – they will challenge the status quo. Do we think enough about the simply things we can do in terms of ensuring meetings are well facilitated? It’s probably one of the main reasons why boards trustees lose interest and may miss the odd meeting? It’s basic stuff but we need to discuss these issues more. There is always room for improvement. Interestingly, this is what delegates of our professional development course (Leadership in Board Governance) asked for more to be included in the learning opportunities and toolbox for trustees that we have developed.

Trusteeship provides opportunities to give back, grow and get ahead. We are constantly developing our competencies and forming new relationships … always. It is without question that it provides long-life learning opportunities. But that also depends on whether we continue to serve in different capacities. However, that does not mean we can stagnate and stick around too long? We need to re-assess our competences, what matters to us and where our passion lie and ensure that we give-back in the best way that we can continue to grow and for some to get ahead. This includes that our contribution tanscends the artificial boundaries that we place in what we call ‘sectors’. We may hold different values at home, in the workplace, where we play, study or pray. Some of these are in conflict and we must be mindful of this as this will impact on how we challenge, develop and bring new skills back into the workplace and community.

Oh … ha ha … and below is how we looked in the  “twenty-tens” with smart phone in hand and heads down. Perhaps we could call this decade “eyes-down” without calling any numbers! It was certainly an experience and nice to catch up and put names to a profile.


The next   will take place on Thur 22 March 8-9pm. Our theme this time will be  and help for trustees – the final countdown! Sharing of resources will be much appreciated. I think this is on the lips or perhaps in the ears of all?

Trustee Opportunities

We are always delighted to highlight any trustee opportunities that came up in conversation during #trusteehour. For instance, @TheJubileeCV7 are looking for a trustee (a Community Centre near Solihull)! @YPICounselling also have a look out for new trustees (a  charity in the Basingstoke & Deane area).


A gender conscious approach to addressing grand challenges in Scotland and beyond …

We often hear the term “a unique Scottish approach” but what does it mean? Well, Scotland is distinctive, does things differently and is bold in its approach. This includes building a fairer and more inclusive economy.  Can we pursue growth and do this in such a way that we all prosper – our natural environment, our people and their communities and the part we play in this? I would argue it’s a “yes but …” and I’ll tell you why I hold this view.

Click here to read more on the Global Goals website.

Scott Semple (CHAS – Children’s Charity) offers his thoughts on the ‘Leadership in Board Governance’ short course

Here is a link to a blog posted by Scott Semple (Director of Organisational Development at CHAS –  Children’s Charity) who offers his thoughts on the ‘Leadership in Board Governance’ short course and his three tips for getting on board. Scott was a great to have around, so much experience and had so many thoughts on ‘good governance’. He also achieved a solid distinction! Yes.

You can find his blog here:

Guest blog by @juliekhutchison – reflecting on #trusteehour 3 on ‘What’s the standout positive reason you’d mention as to why someone should make it their resolution for 2018, to become a charity trustee.’ 

Our first #trusteehour for 2018 on 16th January opened with the question: ‘What’s the standout positive reason you’d mention as to why someone should make it their resolution for 2018, to become a charity trustee.’  This thread started early on:

The theme of skills, both new and existing, continued.  It’s clear there is a two-way street – new skills to learn, and your skills to share with others:

Looking at other perspectives, and ‘how to be’ around the board table, this input from @ClaireGibsonEDI points to the value of generous listening:

This is a crucial point worth reflecting on, and might stand in contrast to the ‘day job’ experience where we might operate differently, always in quick solution mode and not necessarily listening in the same way. It brings out that element of deliberation and decision-making (trustee activities) versus execution and doing (more like the day job).

The thread moved on to what new year’s resolution you might make for your contribution to a charity board this year.  @RummleGumption made this this point, set against the backdrop of Scotland’s Year of Young People 2018:

And to round things off, this poll was posted by @DavidRobb22 asking ‘Why be a trustee’? 

It’s an interesting debate – to what extent passion for the cause is a main driver for a trustee.  Can too much ‘heart’ and not enough ‘head’ pose a risk for a charity?  The same would be true in reverse, and it seems a healthy tension between these two factors may be an ongoing feature of charity board decision-making:

If we think about recruiting new trustees, what we can take from this #trusteehour is that there are a range of messages which charities might want to consider, in attracting new board members.  There are different drivers, and caring about the cause, being interested in learning new skills, meeting new people, and having a positive impact in your community may all matter, as well as other aspects.  If too much emphasis is placed on trustee duties and responsibilities, and less on these other positive elements which many people feel they get out of the trustee experience, is there an opportunity to re-consider how trustee role vacancies are advertised?

And finally, news of our next #trusteehour on Wednesday 21 February 8-9pm – we might see you in Glasgow!

Blog by Julie Hutchison
Founding Editor of @InformedTrustee

Join us for the Leadership in Board Governance short course starting in March?

Are you board ready? How might a board position provide an opportunity to give back, grow and get ahead? Do you value diversity of thought and reflect on your contribution to good and effective governance?

If the answer is ‘yes’, then why not join Edinburgh Napier University’s short course: Leadership in Board Governance (LiBG).

The LiBG course provides a valuable opportunity for existing board members and senior staff to enhance their contribution to good and effective governance.  The course includes four days of sessions between March and May. Provided by academic, practitioner and guest speakers including a board simulation, reflective practice and peer mentoring.

Our next intake is March 2018 and spaces are now limited. You can find out more and download an application form here. This is what our last cohort said about the course:

Karen Gribben, Senior Legal Counsel (Routes) at Rail Infrastructure Limited and Board Member at Wishaw and District Housing Association (WDHA) “I think the course has been outstanding. I think that if you think you know governance, you don’t, and you need to come onto this course. It will really challenge your thinking. It’s not just for charitable or trust organisations. Directors would really benefit to understand how they can work more in partnership with their board.”

Alasdair PerryDeputy Assistant Chief Officer at Scottish Fire and Rescue Service “I’ve found the course valuable and I would strongly recommend it to others. It’s given me a broader perspective of working on a board, and a greater understanding of how to work with the board at my organisation.”

Jacqueline McCutcheon, Corporate Services Manager at Patrick Housing Association “I’d definitely recommend the course. It’s beneficial in terms of understanding responsibilities of board members and trustees, as well as business within a wider context.”

The LiBG course is bought to you by the International Centre for Management and Governance Research (ICMGR).  You can find out about a host of initiatives, events and research that we conduct in the area of leadership in board governance here.

Digital leadership & digital inclusion for trustees, employees, volunteers & our service users (blog capturing the last #trusteehour)

Our second #trusteehour focused on talking about digital leadership & digital inclusion for trustees, employees, volunteers & service users. This topic was nominated by @TheRichDB, Operations Director at @citizensonline1 for #DigitalInclusion, Trustee at @thectsbrighton for tackling #homelessness. @JulieKHutchison opened the session by asking: how do you balance inclusion with making effective use of digital when it comes to beneficiaries who are excluded from the latest tech?

You can see all the tweets by following the hashtag: #trusteehour

Firstly, it must be noted that the participants to #trusteehour are probably digitally literate! So, we must frame the discussion in terms of the 12.6 million of the adult UK population that lack basic digital skills and 5.8 million people have never used the internet, according to a recent House of Commons Science & Tech committee report. This report was aptly titled the ‘digital skills crisis’. This has implications for charity operations and reaching out to beneficiaries as well as the skills that we bring into the boardroom. Of course, there are opportunities to reach and have a meaningful engagement with new communities but often we are attempting to reach those that may not be digitally literature. We can’t simply divide the ‘young’ with the ‘old’ as @trusteeleaders highlighted the fact that many older people are tech-savvy and many young people can surf in various social media channels, but might not be picking up the digital skills necessary. I often hear in terms of getting young professionals on board that “they can use social media and help develop a website”. That’s not all they can do and we must remember that they are full members of the board. My 80-year-old bowling partner, Murray, can teach me a thing or two with his iPad (as well as always getting closer than me to the Jack)! He has family in Australia, so knows every trick to maintain his relationship with them via emerging technology.

@TheRichDB captured the essence of the discussion when he said: “it’s important to design digital around the needs of digitally excluded people – not just because it’s ethically right, but because it can open up new opportunities to create a better service”.  The discussion moved from the digital skills needed for the board, to recruitment and then onto measuring the success in terms of reach and engagement.

Firstly, there were many calls for all board members to have digital skills, although it was noted that a good first step would be for one person to be a ‘digital champion’ (e.g. @zoeamar, @trusteeleaders).  In @David_McNeill straw poll of 19 participants, 63% suggested the need for a ‘digital trustee’ and 37% that ‘digital’ should be the ‘responsibility of all’. Many cited the potential offered by digital and noting that digital goes beyond Comms and fundraising (@ThirdSectorLab, @sallyld). This did arise as the priority by the 12 respondents to a different poll by @TheRichDB poll. Followed by cultural change, then governance & risk. @David_McNeill also noted that there has been a lot of focus on fundraising but for @David_McNeill, he is excited to see how online platforms are supporting the creation and development of new types of communities / support networks.  Sally got a lot of retweets when she said that fundraising is only scratching the surface of the potential offered by digital. @David_McNeill cited examples from antenatal classes developing WhatsApp groups for peer support to Mumsnet forum chat to community Facebook groups lobbying on planning policy and posed a challenge for ‘charities’ and asked the community to consider how this might replace some of their traditional activities.

In terms of recruitment, @trusteeleaders argued that we should approach recruitment like you would a paid role – advertise and check their skills set. This is sound advice and this should include a range of digital skills. As noted earlier, the majority agreed that a ‘digital champion’ should be appointed and one of their goals should be to build capability and skills for other members. This was supported by Ross (@ThirdSectorLab) who said that this one expert could drive things forward and sense check new ideas, in the same way that every board has a finance expert scrutinising the accounts and encouraging financial good practice. As part of the regular auditing of skills and competences of board members, these skills should be included and if you don’t have them around the table then it would be good practice to go and actively seek them as part of a recruitment drive.

@OfficialCause4 raised the issue of ‘measuring success’ in terms of digital inclusion and this led to a discussion on engagement being a much more meaningful way to measure. @David_McNeill stated that we should beware of vanity statistics, noting that “hits and reach with large numbers are often meaningless – “ask what impact the reach has made”.  As @OfficialCause4 pointed out “no point having a million followers if only 3 of them are genuine”.  Evaluating the impact of our decisions is critical and grow in importance over the years.  We need to demonstrate how we reach out to our communities, including how we debate who is included and excluded by our actions and where possible how we can meaningfully engage with those that may be marginalised.

It is clear that #trusteehour is raising some interesting questions and good practice is emerging from the two sessions so far. For this one, consensus emerged around all trustees having digital skills but having a board level champion would be a great start. The importance of a trustee competency audit regularly comes up in discussion but in this session, this should also breakdown ‘digital skills’ that the board might wish to develop and seek from new appointees. It is certain that debates around ‘digital inclusion’ in our board rooms will help us to consider who and how we engage and likely to identify new ways to enhance service provision.


Next #trusteehour is Tuesday 16 January 8-9pm. Theme? What New Year’s Resolution are you making as a trustee?!

‏ Further resources: