Keeping things simple is key to boardroom success

Boards work best when there are no relationships in the boardroom, says Eva Gurn, chief executive of Boardmatch Ireland

Eva Gurn, chief executive of Boardmatch Ireland: ‘You shouldn’t have to know someone to get a seat at the table’

Boardmatch is breaking down the barriers around recruitment in the NFP sector, according to Eva Gurn, chief executive of Boardmatch Ireland.

“Boardmatch provides a free service that allows boards to find individuals anonymously that have the required skills,” she said.

“We continue to be innovative in how individuals can volunteer as board members, how they can assess a board. You shouldn’t have to know someone to get a seat at the table, every charity and not for profit should have a transparent board recruitment policy giving equal access.”

Boardmatch is a registered Irish charity and the only one in Ireland that solely focuses on board recruitment in the not-for-profit and charity sector. “We believe in a transparent and independent board and committee recruitment process, recruiting for the necessary skills the board requires, rather than who the person is,” said Gurn.

Boards work best when there are no relationships in the boardroom. “Avoiding asking friends, colleagues or family is best for the charity or not-for-profit when it comes to decision-making,” said Gurn. “Decisions should always be made in the best interests of the organisation to progress its purpose or have more impact.

“Building boards using a skills gap analysis is a model widely used in other sectors. Boardmatch founders, who include the late Dr Mary Redmond, knew this model would help the sector create more impact.”

While it is volunteering, it is a very different type of volunteering, it is long-term strategic volunteering with a lot of responsible but if you take the right steps in finding the right organisation for you, the rewards are far greater, said Gurn. If the organisation is a charity, you become a trustee of the board and if it is a company limited by guarantee, you are a director. You must comply with company law and chartable law.

“No one is born a trustee or director, so the importance of undergoing training to ensure you are aware of the role and responsibilities is crucial,” said Gurn. “We talk a lot to those wanting to join a board of the importance of finding an organisation you are passionate about, because then you get more involved and don’t see it as a job.”

Gurn said that everyone should volunteer on a board, everyone has something to bring. “It doesn’t have to be a hard skill; community knowledge is as important when building a board of an organisation and delivering activities in its community,” she said.

“Boardmatch is proud to say that the board appointments we facilitate are diverse, assisting in making boards more representative of our communities today. In the last three years, 50 per cent of our board appointments have been female and the average age of those appointed is lower than the national average last recorded by Benefacts. Last year, the youngest board member appointed was 19 and the oldest 76.”

Gurn said that we need to be aware of diversity and include practices in recruitment that encourage and focus on gender, age, ethnicity and background. These are some of the ways that boards can ensure they are building for the future.

“Boardmatch is always striving to break down the barriers between those wanting to join boards and the boards themselves,” she said. “Our new event is Charity Speed Dating, and the concept is simple. This year we will be putting 70 charities in Croke Park and will be inviting more than 200 individuals to meet with those charities. For Boardmatch, it is all about facilitating the match between individuals and organisations whose paths might never cross but together could create huge impact.”

Over the past three years, Boardmatch has facilitated the board appointment of more than 1,000 individuals and, this year, is on track to appoint more than 400.

Gurn said that the most repeated piece of feedback she hears is: “I wish I had done it sooner.”

“I would encourage everyone to join the Boardmatch website and see if there is an organisation that would benefit from having you on board,” she said. “Our communities are very different compared to 20 years ago, to make our boards more representative of our communities, we need more individuals volunteering.”

See boardmatch.ie