Zoe Amar outlines the reasons why charity trustees need to think hard about their digital strategy.
For all the talk of organisations going digital first, some boards are still confused about what they want. If that includes your trustees, they are in good company. Recently the Financial Times reported that the boards of FTSE 350 companies were bullish about growth yet conflicted about cyber crime and social media. Three quarters of them said that ‘cyber risks’ were on the rise, yet a quarter were doing nothing to meet this challenge. Meanwhile, a third of board members had never discussed a social media policy, whilst just 37 per cent regarded having a social media strategy as important, despite the obvious reputational risks.
Any board, whichever sector it operates in, cannot afford to stick their head in the sand about digital risks and opportunities. I often work with charity boards and I know that some are making good progress towards going digital first, but there is a long way for the nonprofit world to go overall. There are sound business reasons why trustees cannot afford to pass the buck on digital. Here are some reasons why they must embrace it.
Trustees are ambassadors for their charities
When trustees talk about their charities on social media they will increase reach and, given their networks, bring in valuable opportunities. You could argue that these responsibilities should only be within the remit of the marketing team, yet in my view it should be a shared endeavour. All the trends indicate that supporters, particularly millennials, want to engage with people rather than brands. If trustees lead from the front by being visible and promoting their charities on social media it will encourage the rest of the organisation to do the same. Research from the corporate world indicates that leads developed through employee social marketing convert seven times more frequently than other leads. Getting the board, executive team and staff on social media will broaden your audience and will be good for your bottom line.
Trustees are responsible for digital strategy
According to Deloitte, digital strategy and organisational strategy are becoming one and the same as digital becomes the cornerstone of how we live and work. It’s no longer enough to outsource digital strategy to the digital team. Trustees need to understand the big picture and the key opportunities and risks involved. If your board is on a learning curve with digital, I recommend doing a brainstorming session with your digital team to see how they can help achieve your organisation’s strategy.
Digital can help manage reputational risk
With charities under increasing scrutiny from government, the media and their donors, their brands must be carefully protected assets. Trustees are ultimately responsible for protecting and managing reputation. In a year when a number of Canadian politicians’ social media gaffes cost them their election campaigns , it’s obvious that these channels can make or break reputations. How will your charity respond when something goes wrong?
Digital can help trustees stay up to speed
Trustees are often juggling their roles alongside busy day jobs and other interests, and social media is a fantastic way to stay up to date. For example, trustees could follow trade journalists and other influencers on Twitter. If your beneficiaries have complex needs then you could also follow well known bloggers and vloggers in this area. Ask your digital and policy teams for ideas on who to follow if you’re not sure.
As a trustee and a digital marketer all I want is for boards to engage more with digital. The sector cannot wait much longer. What’s it going to take for this to happen?
Zoe Amar is speaking at Trustee Exchange, Civil Society Media's annual conference for trustees, on 19 April. Full programme and booking details are online here.