What do trustees need to know about impact?

By Jane Thomas 1 July 2010

What do trustees need to know about impact? How should they focus on collecting data and evidence that is meaningful to their organisation? And what’s the best way to receive information about impact, through paper reports or meeting people on the ground?

These were just some of the issues discussed at the last of NPC’s series of seminars for charity trustees, held this morning at Clothworkers’ Hall.

The series of three events, which have taken place over May, June and July, have covered a diverse range of issues, including the role of the chair on trustee boards, the importance of having the right board structure, and ways that charities can use their results to build a stronger evidence base.

At all the events, our speakers, who have included trustees, chairs, chief executives, and governance experts, have offered some fantastic first hand accounts of how they have learned to make trustee boards more effective.

At the breakfast this morning, Jean Templeton from the youth homelessness charity, St Basils,  talked about her charity’s ‘active governance’ structure model, where trustees go out through the year visiting and assessing the charity’s projects on the ground. She called on trustees to see themselves as ‘guardians of purpose’, with a role to ensure that charities’ activities focus on achieving the outcomes they set out to achieve. Meaningful measurement, she says ‘comes from identifying what you want your users to do, feel or think differently as a result of your charity’s work.’

Geoffrey Baruch from The Brandon Centre, which supports young people with mental and sexual health issues, then shared his experiences of working for a much smaller charity— The Brandon Centre has 23 staff compared to St Basil’s 200+, and works with a smaller number of young people. His talk was focused on how charities can build the evidence base for an intervention by collecting and sharing evidence. Baruch shared his charity’s experiences of running a randomised control trial—the gold standard in research practices—for a ‘multi-systemic therapy’ service for children in trouble with the police. The trial completed in March and full results will be available later this year. (You can read here a Guardian article by NPC’s chief exec Martin Brookes which features The Brandon Centre.)

The seminars are by no means the end of NPC’s work on trusteeship. In fact, in around a month’s time we’ll be publishing a short update on our earlier trusteeship report, Board matters. A mixture of news, case studies and opinion, the briefing will discuss new developments and ongoing issues in the world of trusteeship, and will draw on some of the findings and discussions from the trustee seminars. Watch this space for more news.