Board Diversity for Charity Trustees

Posted on
15 Nov 2019
by Doris Abuchi-Ogbonda, NCP Project Coordinator

With the introduction of the Charities Regulatory Authority (CRA) in 2014, new regulations were introduced which changed the procedural and operational methods of doing things in the charities or non-governmental sectors. The aim was to increase public trust and confidence in the management and administration of charitable trusts and charitable organisations, and to promote compliance by charity trustees with their duties in the control and management of organisations. So ‘the way we do things’; ‘this is our organisations culture’ is no longer accepted in explaining non-compliance with governance or good codes of practice.

In my view the wave of change should spread to composition of Boards or charities trustees. Especially when viewed with the lens of the multicultural society or diversity in Ireland, the Inclusion banner flying where one who lives here should contribute to the society. A diverse work force has been identified as a high performance index in spaces and should achieve as much on boards and trustees.

So what is the role of charities trustees or boards of management of community organisations one might ask?

Charities trustees or boards of management define the mission statement, ethos, constitution and direct on the strategic plans of an Organisation irrespective of size. The same applies to the requirements of high standards around governance, transparency and accountability. Under the law Paid and unpaid directors who are volunteers and those who are paid, when it comes to issues of governance.

Suffice me to say at this stage that the work of charity organisations is focused on working on issues that impacts on disadvantaged members of the society or providing services that reduces exclusion, poverty, homelessness exclusion and isolation, integration, access to justice, equal opportunities etc. Generally, on social determinants that impacts on members of the society settled or migrant.

Looking at the big charity organisations and their boards of management; the target population they serve is not represented on their boards. In my participation as a panellist at the wheels 20th Anniversary workshop some of the responses I received for the lack of representation of people from ethnic minority backgrounds or disadvantaged backgrounds were; not knowing where to find them, lack of integration and lack of skills/experience.

My simple answer to this was and remains that it is the unequal valuing of migrant’s qualification, lack/belief of trust in migrant’s skills, experience and knowledge. If anything the recently published ESRI report of 2018 has resolved some of the gaps. With the efforts Charities are putting in to identify disadvantaged and marginalized members of the society and people from migrant communities to develop and deliver services to; I am optimistic that diversity on board membership will come to be.

My optimism stems from the fact that there are different roles on a board or charities trustees to start with and training is provided to board members, so that will make for learning opportunities. It will also support existing boards efforts at encouraging a culture of openness, responsiveness and accountability to the client base they serve. I think a little encouragement from members of the migrant community or a bit of support from community Organisations should point the way to a board member.

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