Many of us are rushing to hold our first online board meetings, getting up to speed with tech we or our colleagues have never used before, and figuring out what’s different about chairing an online meeting. And at the same time making some of the biggest decisions ever to have faced our charities.
Here are some key tips and resources to help you:
Many boards are going to be making very big decisions right now- so it’s especially important to ensure that trustees have appropriate information (as far as is possible in a fast moving situation). Now is a good time to have at least one trustee read the Charity Commission guidance on decision making- and remind you all of the key principles, especially section 2.6 How do trustees ensure their decision is within the range of decisions that a reasonable trustee body could make? Make sure the minutes record particularly carefully any big decisions made, not only the decision but why it was made, that risks were weighed and alternatives considered.
Don’t forget about procedure: notice, quorum and having the power to meet remotely
Following the right procedure may be low on your list of priorities right now, and both the Charity Commission and the OSCR have both said they will be relaxed about technicalities, but don’t lose sight of it completely. We spoke to our friends at charity lawyers Bates Wells and asked for their guidance, in response they have kindly created a briefing on the procedural aspects of trustee meetings during the coronavirus crisis.
Online meeting options
Before you arrange your remote meeting, you’ll need to decide which online platform to use.
There are a wide range of options but below are three widely available, low-cost options:
- Zoom is a popular option. There is a free option but it only allows meetings of up to 40 minutes so you’ll probably need to take out a paid subscription starting at £11.99 per calendar month. Zoom has created lots of resources for using the Zoom platform during the coronavirus outbreak.
- Microsoft Teams (free). Microsoft have training resources for using teams
- Google Hangouts (free) Google has created resources on using Google Hangouts
Charity Digital has more extensive advice on digital platforms for charities.
Practical considerations for an online meeting
- Once you’ve decided on a platform, make sure your trustees have access to the technology and if it’s new for them, help them learn how to use it. Send them links to short training videos.
- Test the technology ahead of the meeting. This will allow you to see if there are any issues and resolve them. It also gives meeting attendees the opportunity to check their set up and that their webcam and microphone are working correctly.
- Many online platforms give the opportunity to record meetings. Consider if this will be useful for you and make sure you get permission from all meeting attendees.
- Think about online meeting etiquette. Minimise background noise by asking trustees to either put themselves on mute or to make sure they’re in a quiet place.
- If you want to hold a trustee only section of the meeting, and you’re using Zoom, consider creating a virtual waiting room for staff. This functionality allows for the host to select participants to join the meeting and temporarily remove them. If recording the meeting, make sure the trustee only part of the meeting is recorded separately
Contact Association of Chairs:
We’re keen to support Chairs as best we can during this unprecedented situation. If you’d like information on any areas which we’ve not yet covered or have suggestions to improve this page, please email us.