My Experience as a Charity Trustee: Derek McCabe, Extern

Posted on
9 Nov 2018
by Deerek McCabe

As part of a series of blogs for Charity Trustees' Week (12-17 November 2018), Derek McCabe, Chairperson of Extern and winner of the 2017 Trustee of the Year Award shares his experience.

How and why did you become a charity trustee in the first place?    

My first entry in trusteeship was taking the lead in a local co-op which was tasked with delivering the European Leader Programme in Cavan Monaghan. I believed in the Leader programme principal of “The bottom-up approach”  ( empowering a rural community to draw up an economic plan, access European funds and help to create and sustain rural jobs). 
I have an innate desire to respond to the needs of others and this resulted in me taking on other trustee roles in charities like Cluid Housing and Extern.

How have you used your skills, knowledge and experience in your role as trustee?

In my current role as trustee and  Group chair of Irelands leading Justice Charity,  I have managed to bring an enterprise and business culture into the organisation. I am from a farming background part of the skillset of farming is that you are problem-solving 24/7, and you learn to use all of the resources available to you. Sometimes basic common sense is all that is needed. I believe that it is important that you live the values of the organisation and that you are ambitious for yourself and your organisation. 

How has your experience as a trustee helped you in your day job and in your understanding of good governance?

Without question. I find myself questioning and challenging all aspects of personal and working life. Endeavouring to ensure that things are done right, done for the right reasons and done in an ethical manner.

Tell us a little about what you have learnt personally from your experience as a trustee?

I have learnt the collective power of people with a common cause. I have learnt the art of patience and respect for other people’s opinions. Above all, I  have learnt and been humbled at the trust that has been put in me and trustees like me to deliver much-needed services for the vulnerable and those in most need in our society.

What are currently the key challenges for the trustees of charities and how have these changed since you began as a trustee? 

Funders, benefactors, donors and service users have now come to expect and demand the highest standards from charitable organisations. Indeed trustees themselves want the same. The fall of high profile charities in the past few years will help to focus minds and reset the moral compass. Education, training, compliance and board rejuvenation will strengthen the sector and the consequences will be fewer, and larger charities, with highly trained and experienced trustees.

Charity Trustees’ Week is organised by a steering committee which includes The Wheel, Boardmatch Ireland, Charities Institute Ireland, Carmichael Ireland, Charities Regulator, Dóchas and Volunteer Ireland.

Click here for a full programme of events and more information on Charity Trustees' Week.


Charities Trustees' Week