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Supporting Scotland's vibrant voluntary sector

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is the membership organisation for Scotland's charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Charity registered in Scotland SC003558. Registered office Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB.

Lessons learned from our first online AGM

About 18 months ago, I started thinking about shifting our AGM online. I saw how successful it had been for ACEVO, the English equivalent of ACOSVO, and thought it could work for us. It would allow more people to participate as they wouldn’t have to travel and might be less daunting to ask questions than a set piece formal event.  But it also felt a bit scary.

Coronavirus gave us no choice, so like everyone else we just had to do it. And it worked. We had over 80 people participate from all the four corners of Scotland, and got quite a few good questions on the day. So what made it work?

SCVO is lucky to have great tech, and our events team have had to master the preparation and management of online events over the last nine months. That made it easy for me as I could concentrate on what I was going to say and making sure the Convenor was well briefed, while the team focused on logistics.

And we have a new Honorary President, Maureen McGinn, who had already chaired an online AGM for another organisation and knew the questions to ask in advance and what to look out for during the meeting. I had also participated in events run by the Scottish SPCA and ACOSVO from which I’d picked up some learning – for example, interspersing the “talking heads” with films and montage to break it up and bring in some real-life stories. Because we have Third Force News and had the experience of the Scottish Charity Awards in September, I knew we had the in-house expertise to make it work.

The primary purpose of the AGM is governance. We have formalities to sort out, like appointing the auditors and reporting on the annual accounts. I must say I preferred the online polls to having to work out if people had held up the right card at the right time! And we have elections to our Board of Trustees.  Six of our eleven trustees are elected from the SCVO membership and this year Adam Lang (Director of Nesta in Scotland) had come to the end of his three year term and stood for re-election against three strong candidates. The voting was close, and Adam was re-elected for a second term. It’s important for SCVO to have the voice of our members on our Board and I would encourage you to look out for it in years to come and consider standing.

Of course, you always learn from these experiences, and there are a few things we could have done better. For example, perhaps the speaking bits could have been shorter and punchier, and we should have thought more about what to do if non-members got involved. If you participated and have any feedback, I’d be really interested to hear about your experience, particularly things we could improve. We would also be happy to help with some hints and tips if you are planning an online AGM and wondering how to go about it.

What you can’t really recreate on Zoom is the opportunity to network; to make new connections, renew old acquaintances or just chat over a mince pie. I’m hoping those opportunities come back in 2021, but we won’t lose all the benefits we’ve found in embracing the digital world.

If you’d like to take a look at the SCVO AGM 2020 you can find it on our website. I hope you all have a good festive break and wish you all the best for 2021.

Last modified on 14 December 2020