Governance, Leadership

Three ways to being a better Board

What does the Governance App show us about governance in 2023?

Over 2,600 Boards have used DSC’s free Governance App to review their performance so far, and the tens of thousands of questions their trustees have answered give an interesting insight into where the biggest challenges are for a lot of Boards. 

Haven’t heard of the Governance App before? Where have you been?! Trustees are now reviewing their governance on our easy-to-use app, helping them to see what areas they can do better. By simply registering your whole board to the application, you can rate and review your governance as a team. This will give you an idea about what you can work on, and what information you need to help you run a successful charity. 

So far, the Governance App has given us loads of data on what trustees are currently struggling with. Here’s what we’ve found: 

1. Gain a better understanding of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion 

Out of the 70 questions trustees answer as part of a review, eight of the lowest ten scoring questions relate to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. The average score for the EDI section is only 6.1/10, with trustees scoring themselves lowest on: 

“We periodically take part in learning and/or reflection about equality, diversity and inclusion and understands our responsibilities in this area.” 

“We lead the organisation’s progress towards achieving its equality, diversity and inclusion plans and targets and discuss updates on this.” 

How would you rate yourself and your board on your knowledge of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. Do you think it’s something you all need to work on?  

2. Have the big conversations

Another question that trustees score themselves really low on is We know what we’d do if the charity wasn’t needed anymore or become unviable”.  

Now there might be some good reasons for this, when there are pressing matters for discussion the more existential discussions can tend to take a back seat, but it’s important for trustees to be aware of the bigger threats – and goals of their charity.  

What will you do if you achieve everything set out to do this quarter? This year? This strategic planning cycle? What other organisations are operating in the same space and what might that mean for your beneficiaries? These can be difficult conversations to have, but making space for them is really important. 

3. Review your performance more regularly 

The reason we created the Governance App is because we know how important it is for any high performing team to review their performance regularly – and that includes Boards.  

Knowing what you’re doing well, less well, and where you can improve is vitally important to doing the best for your beneficiaries. So it’s a bit of a surprise that “The board reviews its own performance every year, including that of the chair” is another of the lowest-scoring questions – especially as everyone answering it is doing so as part of a review!  

We suspect the two sticking points here are “regularly” and “including the Chair”. So yes, carry out a review using the Governance App, but note your priorities for improvement, set targets, and come back and review yourselves again 12 or 18 months later.  

When it comes to assessing the performance of your Chair, look at what performance measures you have in place, see how you could apply them to the Chair’s role, and maybe tweak or develop them to suit. 

Take a look at the new and improved Governance App here.