How to join a charity board
Now, more than ever, it’s important for charities to be able to leverage professional skills and experience to help them run their operations most effectively. This guide explains how to join a charity board.
Governance developments in the charity sector
Since the introduction of the Charities Regulator in Ireland in 2015, charity boards have continued to develop their boards and governance structures in response to regulation and the need to increase their board’s capacity.
Boardmatch is a registered charity that works to respond to the growing board needs of charities and not-for-profit organisations. Boardmatch’s primary service connects enthusiastic and passionate individuals who want to volunteer their skills and expertise to charities with board and committee vacancies.
Over the last five years, Boardmatch has seen more and more charities begin to think strategically about the composition of their boards, seeking individuals with not only an interest in their cause and purpose but who have specific skills or experiences that will help to build a diverse board.
Transferable skills across sectors
Joining a charity board is your opportunity to utilise and lend your skills and share your personal and professional experiences to be part of an organisation’s strategic development. In 2020, with many boards moving to remote meeting facilitation, Boardmatch saw a 50% increase in candidate applications. This stems from a combination of online meetings making board volunteering more accessible and people looking for an impact and purpose outside of their ‘day-job’.
“From my perspective, there has never been a better time to consider joining a charity board. The current environment is challenging for every organisation, and charities are no exception. Now, more than ever, charities need to be able to leverage professional skills and experience to help them run their operations most effectively.” Irene O’Gorman – markets director, EY, appointed to the board of the Irish Cancer Society in 2020
What does a charity board member look like?
With more than 1,000 people appointed to charity and not-for-profit boards and committees through Boardmatch’s services in the last three years, steadily, becoming a charity board member in Ireland is changing. The average age of a board director/charity trustee in Ireland is 58 (Benefacts, 2021).
The average age of appointment through Boardmatch in 2021 was 43. 59% of our 360 board appointments in 2021 were between the ages of 35 – 54. The gender profile of charity boards is more equal than corporate boards, and Boardmatch’s gender ratio of appointments was 54:46, male: female, in 2021.
“Taking on a board position was a professional development goal I had set for myself, so Boardmatch became the perfect way to gain invaluable experience at board level and be a ‘skills-based’ way to give back.” Laura Larkin – principal, KPMG, appointed to the board of Marie Keating Foundation in 2019
Why joining a charity board is your first step?
A boardroom is a boardroom, no matter what sector it serves. Many candidates who register with Boardmatch are looking to gain board experience, with the goal of promotion or transitioning to a corporate or state board in time.
A charity board role, whilst voluntary, can be an excellent opportunity to be introduced to the workings of a board and committees, governance structures, and reporting lines between the board and management.
While the first step to joining a charity board might be for professional reasons, we find that most, if not all, individuals become passionate and invested in the charity along their journey.
How to join a charity board and finding your match
Four hundred and fifty board vacancies are advertised through Boardmatch each year, with a wide variety of sub-sectors included from the charity sector, including arts and culture, homelessness, youth, children and families, housing, sport, international development, LGBTQI, education and training, to mention a few. There is an opportunity to meet everyone’s interests.
The proof of the benefits of sharing your skills and giving of your time is heard across our successful matches over the years, but also from the charities themselves, many of whom would not have been able to connect with these candidates if there wasn’t an open, transparent and accessible organisation like Boardmatch.
“Knowing we needed a board chair with substantial experience and the skills to guide our continued growth, we felt that we would not be best placed to recruit this person directly. Working with Boardmatch Ireland made this crucial journey one of ease, assurance and results.” Breakthrough Cancer Research
With compliance and governance a core duty of being a charity board member, Boardmatch provides support and training to new, prospective and existing board members. Our goal is to provide ‘board ready’ candidates to charities – candidates who are passionate about their mission, are eager to share their skills and understand the duties and responsibilities.
When we ask charity board members for their one piece of advice to those thinking about taking the first step, it’s unanimous, “Go for it!”. There will never be a perfect time to take the plunge, so be brave, be open to new experiences and challenges and ready to start your board journey.
About Boardmatch Ireland
Boardmatch, established in 2005, is a registered charity that provides board recruitment, training and review services, with the objective of upskilling charity boards. Visit www.boardmatch.ie to find your charity board role and how to join a charity board. This guide was written by Hannah Coleman, communications & development manager with Boardmatch.