ICT governance in the voluntary sector
Well managed and effective ICT is fundamental to successful voluntary organisations but too many trustees and management committees are disinterested in ICT. What are the roles of trustees and management committees in ensuring ICT is fit for purpose and how do trustees get involved and to what level?
What is ICT governance?
The term "governance" refers to the way trustees work with chief executives and staff, volunteers and service users, members and other stakeholders to ensure their organisation is run effectively, meeting the needs for which it was set up. Good governance is key to the health and sustainability of an organisation and your organisation's approach to ICT governance will have a major impact on how effective and efficient your organisation is, the quality of services you provide and how many problems you’re likely to face in the future.
Whether they love ICT or hate it, trustees have a role to play in how ICT fits in your organisation. It's not just about computers. Ensuring ICT is well managed is as important as ensuring the financial books balance.
Making ICT a priority
ICT must be a priority for your organisation and the role of the board is to lead. Starting from a needs analysis, trustees must work with the management team on an ICT strategy and plan (understanding it if not developing it), ensure resources are available, engage the interest of others and showcase how ICT will help you do things better and do better things. Trustees must ask the right questions and challenge appropriately. This doesn't need to be dull or technical - it can offer new opportunities, help bring new ideas to the fore and underpin the whole trustee-staff relationship.
Risk is a key issue for trustees to consider. With ICT, people create more risks than technology. Trustees need to consider the risks involved, develop a risk management plan and make sure risks are monitored. Investing time upfront to minimise risks can save time, money and reputations in the longer term. This is at the heart of governance, ensuring systems work well and minimising problems in the future.
ICT policies and smooth running
Policies are a necessary part of good governance and help support effective management and operations to keep things running smoothly. Policies can be developed from templates but need to fit your specific organisation and be understood by all. They should also consider ethical (and environmental) issues around ICT use. The trustees role is to ensure these policies are in place and working well.
Making money go further
Responsibility for agreeing and setting budgets and overall financial oversight is a big part ofthe trustee role. Effective ICT, whilst costing more money at first, will generate better returns in the medium to long run and give your organisation more outputs and outcomes for your funds. Build a business case for projects and their impact, work with funders and see how ICT can generate more with less money. Prioritisation is important - don’t try to do everything at once. This is one area where trustee support is crucial and could have the biggest impact.
Making change happen can be challenging. There are eight key steps to successful change processes and trustees need to support all of them. Provide oversight and support, confidence, leadership and direction in addition to resources and a firm hand to make sure things don’t go back to the way they were. Don’t be afraid of change or risk taking.
ICT can support you as individual trustees and help your board communicate more easily and effectively. It can support easier performance management, aid decision making and help you discussissues between meeting. You might even be able to run an AGM over the internet as well as in the local community centre. Use what works for you but take advantage where you can. You’ll save time, effort and make better and more timely decisions.
Facing the future
ICT offers new opportunities with old risks and liabilities. No one knows how it will progressbut you don’t need to predict the future. Try what works well, learn from others and use ICT whereit can make a difference, not for the sake of it.
Advice and support
- Funding and finance
- Coping with cuts
- Addressing needs
- Managing change
- Planning for the future
- Involving people
- Public Service Delivery
- Governance and leadership
- Compact Advocacy programme
- Campaigning and influencing policy
- Collaborative working
- ICT (information and communication technology)
- Climate change
- People, HR and employment