The CRC scandal and continuing criticisms of Rehab have been (or should be) a rude awakening for many Irish charity boards. Here are 8 questions and action points for your own charity's board to look at for their next meeting:
1) Do you know what your top staff are paid?
If not you need to find out and make sure their pay is justified. Is it benchmarked against HSE or the industry? Who was involved in the decision making process? And can you justify it if/when it gets made public? In light of the downturn is it now too high? Have you made efforts to rectify that?
2) Are all of your decisions documented?
Can you stand by all of them? Can you justify all of them? Do you have, in writing, the thought process and reason for doing what you did? As a charity assume everyone in the world is going to find out everything you are doing and everything you are saying. Would you still do it?
3) Is your Board a good mix?
Are people sitting on your board purely because they are passionate about the cause? That's not good enough. Because of the nature of a charity its board is usually set up with friends, family or people in the same space. They are clicky and they evolve in a strange way. We need to move away from that. You do not want a board who are always going to agree with you - it will make your life easier, but for the good of the cause you need a mix.
Do you have a good representation of legal, finance, fundraising, HR, etc.? And do you have fixed-terms?
4) Are your service users represented?
Where possible it is amazing to have your service users,one of their family members or other key stakeholders represented. They will only be one person on the board but their influence is huge, as suddenly there is the face of a beneficiary in front of the decision makers. Do you think the CRC board would have agreed a €700k golden handshake while cutting staff if they had to vote for it in front of the father of a child with a disability?
5) Are you trying to cut costs?
Right now (and always) your organisation needs to be making efforts to cut costs. That is probably the role of your executive team if you have one, but you need to ensure appropriate reviews are happening.
6) Are you signed up to The Governance Code, the Statement of Guiding Principles for Fundraising, and other Codes of Conduct relevant to your organisation?
It should go without saying, but you should be. It's time to urgently make the time to do so. And if you're not going to sign up, why not?
7) Do you need advice?
There are some great organisations and individuals out there to help you improve what you do and the impact your organisation is having. Good starting points are the likes of Boardmatch Ireland, Fundraising Ireland, The Wheel and Dóchas.
8) Why are you on the board?
Really...honestly...why are you on the board?