As we come to the end of Trustees’ Week 2021, SCVO and members of Scotland’s Third Sector Governance Forum will be looking back at the various events and activities to see what they have learned and what are the key lessons for trustees.

I run a charity called Evaluation Support Scotland (ESS) that helps other charities with evaluation.  You might think: “what a dull job” and it’s fair to say that when a charity we help says “that wasn’t as boring as I expected” we count it as high praise!

Evaluation is about pulling together information about what your charity does and who with – and what difference you make for the people you work with.

That is exciting and relevant for trustees for several reasons.

The first reason is celebration.  As trustee you can use evaluation to celebrate the amazing work of your charity and motivate staff and volunteers with stories of success. 

Secondly, planning:  Trustees have an important role to oversee future plans and make decisions.  Many charities have challenging decisions right now.  You might be trying to decide your model of future delivery – hybrid? remote? blended?  You might be thinking about expanding or contracting.   Those difficult decisions are easier if you base them on evidence rather than only opinion.  ESS is working with lots of charities that are using evidence from evaluation to make informed decisions about their future – you can see lots of great case studies on our website

Thirdly, learning:  charities are often so busy doing that there’s no time to step back and reflect.  But you can’t improve unless you do just that: stop, look at your evaluation and decide what it is telling you about what is working well and what could be improved.  You will probably also realise you have learning to share with others such as potential service users, funders or politicians.

So what can Trustees do about evaluation?

  • Make sure your charity is evaluating – collecting information about the difference it makes
  • Use evaluation to celebrate, to plan and to influence others
  • Get involved in creating the Trustees Annual Report – the narrative side of the charity accounts – where you tell your charity’s story over the past year. 

To find out more about the trustee role in evaluation and reporting why not join other trustees, Evaluation Support Scotland and SCVO for a Good Governance webinar on 1 December 2021 to pick up some simple tips from experts and each other.