Learning from Lockdown: Governance and Zoom

Thursday, 10 September, 2020

Blog written by Lin Whitfield, Chair of Trustees at Voscur


Do you remember the old days, when you hadn’t even heard of Zoom? How times have changed.

The Voscur Trustee Board, which meets roughly every six weeks, had a full board meeting scheduled for 17 March but it was, of course, cancelled. We rescheduled it for a month later and held it on Zoom, but we realised afterwards that we had no provision in our Articles of Association for trustees to meet electronically.

Fortunately, we were able to deal with this on a temporary basis. The Charity Commission’s advice on their website states that if there is no such clause in your governing document and you decide to hold board meetings over the phone or “using digital solutions”, they will understand as long as you record this decision in your minutes and state that you’ve done this to demonstrate good governance.

However, checking our Articles of Association also revealed that they dated back to 2012 and were almost certainly in need of updating. We were using our own interpretation of procedures for the retirement of trustees; we were sometimes struggling to comply with quorum requirements; and our geographical area of benefit was in danger of being compromised in some of our partnership work.

We began a thorough review process of our Articles which will culminate in an Extraordinary General Meeting of members at the end of September (click here to book your place) to agree a number of amendments. This will give Voscur a more appropriate governance framework to operate under.

So, here are our first two pieces of learning as a result of lockdown:

  • It’s worth checking out your governing document every couple of years or so to make sure it’s fit for purpose.
  • The Charity Commission isn’t just our regulator as charities – it’s a good source of advice.

In the early days of lockdown, Voscur’s work shifted rapidly and frequently as we were asked to coordinate, lead and facilitate to enable and support our sector to respond to the emergency.

The Voscur Board found Zoom invaluable for quick catch-up briefings from our CEO and held these fortnightly between early April and the end of July. Informal but highly informative, these have allowed more questions and ‘rounder’ debates on strategic issues than there’s usually time for at formal board meetings. They’ve resulted in a stronger sense of team between board members themselves and between the board and the staff.

We, as board members, have better knowledge of Voscur and its work, which informs our overview and strategy role; and staff have more understanding of the skills, expertise and experience that board members bring, which they’re able to draw on to support their day-to-day work.

Here are two more things we learned as a result of lockdown:

  • Informal catch-up briefings on Zoom are a brilliant way of keeping board members up to speed in a fast-paced environment.
  • Board and staff are two teams within a bigger team: building that sense of team is vital as we move forward.


If you are a new board member, or you’d like to refresh your knowledge of trustee rights, responsibilities and obligations, don’t miss our bestselling course, Being a Good Board Member, on Tuesday 13 October. This online course will give you the knowledge and confidence to be a successful trustee, and the chance to meet your peers from other boards.

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