The Governance Challenge – Why use Digi-Board?

In early 2019 Digi-Board and their ACEVO partner ran a competition to promote good governance in the charity sector. 

The winning entry was selected from ACEVO members for a complete evaluation using Digi-Board’s ground-breaking governance toolThis went to  Age UK Lancashire.  

age UK - Lancashire logo

Prior to the award, Age UK Lancashire had overcome significant financial challenges.  The Trustees had identified governance as a priority.  What happened next is testimony to the power of the commitment of the Board and Senior Management to improve their charity’s governance.

18 months after their first governance review – the Trustee Board of Age UK Lancashire chose to repeat the process to check how effective they had been with their planned improvements.

The impact of the two reviews for the charity have been:

  • A record of their governance and the changes and improvements made over time – providing a track record of the charity’s governance practices.

  • Having a clearer understanding of areas of strength and weakness of their governance –assisting Trustees and the SMT to reach an agreement on priorities.

  • Trustees and SMT know where they are aligned and misaligned on governance – creating harmony through shared understanding of their common purpose.

  • “Quick wins” were identified to make improvements to their governance practices – the review identified what to get to ‘now’ in order to make a difference.

  • Acknowledgment of those aspects of their governance that they do well – both a reward and recognition of the collective approach of the Trustees and SMT.

  • The ability to benchmark governance against others applying Recommendation 4.6.4 of the Charity Governance Code – providing reassurance to the Trustees that their commitment to good governance was paying off.

The participation of Trustees and the SMT demonstrated the importance of the two teams working together to improve the charity’s governance practices. Completing a Digi-Board review was economical both in terms of costs and the time required from each participant of about 40 minutes to complete the questionnaire. The process was not only easy to use, it was also educational and a comprehensive and robust assessment of Age UK Lancashire’s governance.

What follows is the personal account of Teri Stephenson, Age UK Lancashire CEO about their experience of completing their Digi-Board governance reviews.

The Reports

We were not sure what to expect before receiving the reports, but everyone was very impressed with the level of detail and how colourful, targeted, and accessible the reports were. We particularly liked that we didn’t have to plough through lots of detailed information to see the important headlines. Also, we had access to additional detailed information when we made needed to delve into specific aspects about data in the report.

The reports usefully identified differences in scores between the SMT and Trustees. This facilitated productive conversations and identified where for example, the SMT needed to provide additional information to Trustees. A key feature of the reports was being that it identified some “quick wins” that would help us to quickly make improvements to our governance practices.

We also liked that the reports focused on the positives. They identified areas where we were doing well. An example is safeguarding which is so important to our charity’s work and our governance. Another aspect that we found useful, was the reports identified how many times a particular issue was highlighted by individuals as needing improvement. This helped us to prioritise areas where we need to focus our attention. The reports also identified that we needed to revisit specific governance practices for our organisational purpose, our leadership, and the extent to which we operated in an open and accountable way.

How We Used the Results

Everyone felt that the reports and charts provided as part of the reporting pack had increased their personal understanding of and engagement with governance. This was because of the focused and practical information provided, along with helpful suggestions for how we could improve.

To have got to this stage without the Digi-Board review would have taken a long time – the review made this quite simple and focused. The Trustees were so impressed with the Digi-Board tool and report and so agreed to undertake another review within a reasonable timeframe, to monitor progress. This demonstrates the commitment of Age UK Lancashire’s Trustees to good governance and helps us stay focused for now and the future.

In March 2021, the Trustees wanted to review our progress against the action plan and targets we set following the 2019 governance review. Once again, all Senior Managers and Trustees completed the self-assessment.

In addition to the standard report, we commissioned a more detailed comparison. This highlighted where progress had been made since last time. It gave constructive feedback and made suggestions for what we could do to make on-going improvements in areas where we had lower scores.

As well as providing information for a new set of targets, the report also highlighted how well we were doing with our governance. This bought us assurance that our action plans are working particularly as Digi-Board provided the data so we could benchmark our governance performance and how we compared with others. Again, our Trustees found this comparison to be reassuring in that our governance compared well with other charities

Learn more about how your Governance Review works with Digi-board’s solution.