Over 50 delegates gathered in early March at Dublin’s Royal Dublin Society, for the Brewin Dolphin Ireland Charity Seminar.
As a result of changes to the Regulatory environment for Irish charities in recent years, the Dublin office has sought to act as facilitator to charity clients, industry professionals, regulatory and governance specialists to promote and discuss the prevailing issues.
For 2019, the keynote speaker was the Director of Advocacy, from The Wheel, a leading not for profit advisor to the Irish charity sector. He outlined the strategic challenges facing the charity sector, foremost of which are on-going public concerns about how charity money is spent, the associated costs of running charities and fundamentally, volunteering of all types.
For similar reasons to the UK, trust in the Irish charity sector has declined over the past five years. The situation has stabilised but compared with other public institutions Irish charities rank with the average – ahead of the media, banks and the Church but behind government, the legal system and the institutions of the European Union.
The sector and the Charities Regulator would clearly like to improve perceptions and 2014 Regulation provided the tool-kit to enforce compliance.
A 2019 requirement for Irish charities will be the adoption of a charity governance code. Specific to the charity sector it is equivalent to a corporate governance code and to assist in its adoption the regulator has provided charities with a template document to complete. The seminar session highlighted the objectives of improving board standards and charity board skill-sets and to advance the adoption of the code.
A lively environment of information giving, discussion, shared experience and access to advice from an organisation such as The Wheel is aims to ease the burden and concern which trustees, governors and volunteers might feel, given the increased responsibilities which regulatory accountability brings. Many of the solutions to these challenges are found in helpful board guidance notes and policy templates which are adapted to the circumstances of each organisation.
Delegates also heard that, despite the volatility in investment portfolio values caused by stock market falls towards the end of 2018, it was a good year for dividend income, owing to a strong tail-wind from corporate profitability. Indeed, the recovery in capital values in the first quarter of 2019 has provided comfort to organisations experiencing the first significant period of portfolio volatility in over a decade.
The environment for charities has improved significantly in many ways and the pragmatic self-help measures available to charity boards will set down a strong framework for long-term progress, and trust, in the provision of much needed services in key areas such as the relief of poverty, healthcare services, medical research and education.
Email Conor Grimley, Director, Ireland for more details.