Message from Institute President on Charity Trustees’ Week

Nov 20, 2020

This week was Charity Trustees’ Week and every year it is a very timely opportunity to acknowledge the valuable contribution of volunteer trustees and celebrate the excellent work they do on charity boards and subcommittees. Giving is part of the Irish psyche, with Ireland ranked 5th in the most charitable countries in the world. This level of generosity is a testament to the commitment of trustees to build public trust in the charities sector through good governance and oversight of strategy to achieve charitable purpose, as well as working with stakeholders to deliver value for money and make a positive impact for all beneficiaries. 

This week also saw the Good Governance Awards take place yesterday and this year they attracted the largest number of entrants to date, highlighting the commitment of charities to setting and maintaining high standards of governance. 

As a body founded to act for the public benefit, Chartered Accountants Ireland is pleased to add our voice to others in commending trustees for their invaluable contribution to the charity sector and our society. The Institute celebrates the commitment of many of our 28,500 members to the charity sector as managers, employees, trustees, professional advisors, volunteers, regulators and, of course, as donors. We also acknowledge the role of beneficiaries (the raison d’être of charities) and members of the public for their important role in holding charities accountable and providing feedback on how charities can improve services and delivery.

2020 has been a very challenging year for charities due to the Covid-19 pandemic and many have had to radically adapt how they provide services and achieve their charitable purposes.  Many trustees have had to be more generous in their commitment, perhaps at a time when there were other increased demands from their businesses, employers or at home.  This year trustees have overseen the crisis management of some profound challenges for the charities sector, for example:

  • Pressure on Fundraising - According to recent analysis by Benefacts in the first quarter of 2020, at least €0.9 billion was raised by charities in Ireland through fundraising and donations. This highlights the significance of fundraising to charities. Although fundraising on social media has been successful in some cases, it has not been possible for many charities to replace their large traditional fundraising drives involving face-to-face interaction. Christmas 2020 will be a critical time for charitable donations.
  • Maintaining Existing Services - Additional costs of maintaining existing services with Covid-19 precautions are a burden, for example the cost of PPE. For those charities that rely on government funding and that are subject to an annual funding commitment from Government, rather than a multi-annual funding model, planning is restricted by the increased levels of uncertainty the Covid-19 crisis has entailed.

Trustees have also to be commended, along with charity management, employees and volunteers, for stepping up and fulfilling a need in society for key services during this pandemic. We have seen many positives for the charity sector during 2020, including:

  • A greater appreciation of the work of charities, for example, meals on wheels, supports to vulnerable groups and the broader healthcare and education systems delivered by and supported by many charities and volunteers. This should lead to more government support and greater empathy and understanding from the public.
  • An increased ability of charities to progress the agenda of the sector on a number of policy fronts to government, for example highlighting deficiencies in services for some sectors of society, making recommendations for improving philanthropy and providing greater incentives for giving through tax reform on relief for donations.

Members of the accounting profession are held in high regard by charity and not-for-profit boards and there is strong demand in the sector for trustees with accounting, finance and governance expertise.  We encourage members of Chartered Accountants Ireland with an interest in the sector to get involved and make a difference. Members of our profession have always been accountable and are held to a high standard in the application of their professional knowledge. 

We would like to remind members that Chartered Accountants Ireland is here to support you in your role with various expert publications including guides and toolkits as well as courses and member support services. The voice of the sector is represented by charity and not-for profit groups in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in addition to advocacy work undertaken on behalf of members engaging with regulators and standard setters.

Finally, on behalf of the Council of Chartered Accountants Ireland, its Chief Executive and staff, we congratulate all involved in Charity Trustees’ Week 2020 and acknowledge the important work of this vital sector all year round. 

Paul Henry

President, Chartered Accountants Ireland