Helen Kelly, Trustee of Barnardos Ireland
Head of Corporate Banking Origination – Ireland, Barclays Bank
Why did you choose to take on a voluntary directorship?
"Firstly, because I completed my Chartered Director exams at the Institute of Directors in 2014 and I wanted to put my learning into practice. Secondly, because I wanted to give something back to the Community – I am not very good at painting or gardening, and I wanted to use my professional skills. Thirdly, because I was encouraged and supported by my employer Barclays to do so and that was also very important."
How has your experience differed from what you expected?
"It is much more fulfilling than I originally expected, and Board discussions can be really interesting. Governance matters are an important agenda item but there are also many strategic decisions to be made that impact on our employees and on the services that we can provide to children and their families. What is particularly striking is when we visit projects or hear case studies about the impact of Barnardos on children’s lives. This helps put my day job into perspective."
What have you learnt by being on the board?
"I am surrounded by very experienced, sage Directors from both public and private sector backgrounds, all of whom have different perspectives on particular points. The experience of listening to and working closely with others who think quite differently from me is what I am learning most."
What challenges did you encounter whilst being on a board?
"Initially the biggest challenge was understanding the services we provide, how Barnardos interacts with service provision from the State and basic sector terminology, so there is a definite learning curve for about a year before you start to have the confidence to contribute yourself."
How important was teamwork and collaboration in relation to board effectiveness?
"Really important. At its core a Board is a collection of individuals who need to work together for the good of the organisation."
Joe McNeill, Tivoli Training Centre,
Retired, Central Bank of Ireland
Why did you decide to join a charity board?
"As someone who was close to retirement, and who has always been interested in community and social awareness work, I approached Boardmatch to see what types of positions were available, which I could contribute to. Following this engagement, I joined Tivoli Training Centre, a community-based programme of education, training and self-development for marginalised people, particularly young adults, who are on probation and at risk of re-offending. The programme covers the Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown and surrounding areas."
What skills did you bring to the Board?
"The Board encompasses a wide range of skills from the voluntary, government and business sectors with experience in probation, training and policing. I was invited to join as the Board, as there were vacancies and I knew the Board was seeking to broaden its skills base, and I have long experience in public sector roles."
What have you learned from your board experience?
"The experience in Tivoli has been very enlightening for someone like me, with little experience of programmes to rehabilitate people at risk, particularly those of a young age. The programmes offered are diverse and varied and regularly reviewed to ensure client needs are met. Being on the Board has not only provided me with an understanding of the great work undertaken by Tivoli, but also highlighted all the legal, compliance and administrative issues associated with running a charitable organisation. These challenges highlight the need for a wide range of skills and expertise on boards, and the need to have proper governance structures in place. Working with Tivoli has been hugely rewarding and educational for me, particularly in terms of better understanding the problems faced by people on the margins. I would strongly encourage people to engage with Boardmatch, as working on boards offers great benefits, not only professionally in terms of driving the strategy of an organisation, but also in terms of making a valuable contribution to society."
David Kiely, Trustee, Merchants Quay Ireland
Group Head of Risk Assurance, Bank of Ireland
Why did you choose to take on a voluntary trusteeship?
"I had a desire to do something useful that would apply my professional skills in a way that might help others. Trusteeship allowed me to do that."
What have you learnt by being on a board?
"I have learnt the importance of always keeping the person to the forefront of decisions. I have learnt about addiction (the charity I work with supports people with drug addiction) and the extent to which it harms families for generations. I have learnt how professional the charity/NFP sector can be. I have also learnt about restricted funds!"
What challenges did you encounter whilst being on a board?
"Understanding the breadth of activities carried out by the charity and the sector and the interplay between charity/giving and government funding."
How would you describe time management with respects to your day-job and voluntary board position?
"It’s important to understand the commitment to the board and to make time for it. I am lucky in that my employer is very supportive of my board membership. They see benefit in both Corporate Social Responsibility and also in the benefits and experiences board trusteeship gives me as an employee in my day-job."
What advice would you give to someone considering joining a charity board?
"Get to know the other board members and the management/full time staff. Hopefully before you even consider joining, you are aware of and have a connection with the underlying work of the charity but in talking with the board and management you will get a sense early on about your own fit for the organisation and the way it operates. I worked on board sub-committees before joining the full board and I found it a really useful way to learn about the organisation."