13th July – Brendan Lenihan, Managing Director of Navigo Consulting, contributes to the ongoing public debate re Irish charities and accountability with a letter published in the Irish Times on 13th July 2016.
The recent shocking revelations about Console perhaps too neatly reflect the old Dutch proverb – ‘Trust arrives on foot and leaves on horseback’. As donors, what are we to do?
To avoid reticence in giving to the many well-run charities, I suggest donors first take some simple steps to reassurance about their favourite charities. Using the old principle that ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant’, in this digital age the website of every credible charity of any scale should clearly and prominently identify, and give background information on, each of the Directors/trustees. These are the legally accountable people. Ask whether you would give them your hard earned money to deploy. There is little reason not to see full financial statements on the site as well that explain how these people work together to achieve the charitable purpose and deploy your money. This is governance. If you’re still not clear, then start asking more questions.
The website of our Charity Regulator may contain this information in the years to come but surprisingly does not contain all of it today, although the Act dates from 2009. In any event the onus is on the charity to positively reassure the public about its governance.