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In charities we (should) trust

04 February 2015

We trust banks with our money. We trust lawyers are giving us the best advice. We trust the local shop that the bread they sell us is safe to eat. Trust is fundamental to everything we do. And when trust breaks down there can be a myriad of consequences. This in turn can lead to life being considerably more difficult to live.

 
The charitable sector had a magnificent name in Ireland for decades if not centuries. Many of us grew up with a branch of the St. Vincent de Paul (VdeP) society, or similar, in our schools and when we collected money for these charities we assumed, correctly in the main, that it would go directly to that good cause. But in the last couple of years, following some high profile cases, fought out mainly in the media, that trust has been shattered in some cases, though fortunately not in the case of the VdeP, which remains one of the nation’s favourites and best regarded charities.

 
Loss of trust has been massive
In a recent survey 75% of those surveyed believed that governance at charities was either average at best or downright poor. Poor governance can, and does, lead directly to a breakdown in trust and where there’s a lack of trust then people are reluctant to give these charities their money. This has already happened with leading Irish charities saying donations are down considerably. Though this may be partially due to the recession charities see a correlation between funds drying up and governance issues hitting the media fan.

 
8,000 charities to register
As part of the new Charities Act it is forecast that over 8,000 charities will be registered on the Charities Register and with such a large number of the Irish public not happy with oversight in the sector we at ICSA strongly urge that charities get the services of qualified chartered secretaries. Members of the association should be making contact now with their preferred charities to offer their services. The charities sector needs to make a very strong statement that charities in Ireland are trying to make poor governance issues a thing of the past. As part of that trust-building trustees of charities should insist, and publicise the fact, that they are using the services of company, Corporate secretaries.

 
Do someone a good turn
If you are an ICSA member why not do your bit for charity by contacting those charities that you may be familiar with? Often, as volunteer organisations, the charities’ trustees may not be aware of the role or training of the company secretary. Tell them what you can bring to their organisation and in what may be a win/win, you’ll be able to help ensure good governance while at the same time putting the role of company secretary under a very positive spotlight.