Charity Trustee Week: What it’s like to be a trustee

Lawrence Carvalho is Director with An Oige – Irish Youth Hostel Association. He is also a voluntary trustee of the board of the An Oige- Irish Youth Hostel Association Dublin. He tells us what being part of a charity board is like.

Just over two years ago I formally joined the Board of the An Oige.

My background was in Information Technology began in mid 1990’s. I moved into various ICT projects in Banking, Hospitality and Government websites in the Middle East, Europe and Asia. I finally settled in finance as Data Analyst with Insurance and Hedge Fund industry.

I did feel the need to give back to society which I had done in my youth In Kuwait 1980’s & Mumbai (early 1990’s) prior to going to college in Ireland.

I volunteered with Morning Star Hostel June 2009 to December 2010 as Volunteer Kitchen porter, with Arc Cancer support for 5 runs in Phoenix Park May 2010, with Darkness to Light 2010 Pieta House, with the 16.6 miles St. Patrick’s Day Aware Howth Harbour to Dun Laoghaire Harbour 2010 and the Concern Laughter Lounge Fund raiser tickets and bucket collection outside Phibsborough Shopping Centre in October 2009.

I found the buzz of volunteering electrifying and exhilarating in the aforementioned worthy causes within Ireland.  I saw an advertisement in Volunteer Ireland for volunteers with An Oige which I had used in my youth on a hitch hiking trip with school buddy and my younger brother from Cork to Galway.

I got involved with the booking engine system in 2015 after meeting the Board An Oige Volunteers and head office staff in October 2015 where I found that there was need to help the organization.

Personally, I found it challenging which meant I had to take off my Technical hat and put on an approach from an internal user within An Oige.  It was rewarding and challenging as public speaking is something I still find challenging to this moment in time but I am hoping to get some tips from Anseo Comedy Club on Wednesday 6th November 2019 with Aidan Killian.

I also found Volunteer Trustee role to be a progressively engaging learning curve through bridging departmental coalitions within the An Oige Stakeholders.

I was privileged with lending a small hand in the An Oige Merit Awards in July 24th 2018 within An Oige Volunteer Coordinators Group and An Oige Staff.

I do also manage the An Oige Volunteer Database.

An Oige – Irish Youth Hostel is lively youthful energetic board which helps all youth enjoy Irish countryside through Hikes, Photography, Volunteer Wardens, Cycling all of which is quite active since 1931. Diversity and balanced gender mix on the An Oige board and sub committees has given a richer perceptive on points of view from global mix of fellow youth who love the Ireland’s rich outdoor adventure within 32 county heritage.

I hope to try my hand Volunteer hostel warden or give the lads in Glenmalure Hostel in Wicklow or Ben Lettery Hostel or Errigal Hostel in Donegal a hand in managing one weekend in Spring 2020. An Oige reservations team is great for groups over 10 in Galway (Sleep Zone) or Cork.

If you’re a charity trustee or are interested in becoming one, check out the great events on offer this Charity Trustees’ Week: 

Q&A: Investing in Volunteers Achiever Depaul

Investing in Volunteers (IiV) is the national quality standard for good practice in volunteer management. Depaul were one of earliest Irish achievers of the Investing in Volunteers quality mark first achieving the accolade in 2015 and renewing in 2018. Here, Volunteer Coordinator Jason Flynn tells us a little bit more about the process, why they did it and what advice they’d give others. 

Depaul receiving the Investing in Volunteers Quality Award from Volunteer Ireland.

Why did Depaul decide to go for the Investing in Volunteers quality mark?

Volunteering is an integral part of the service that Depaul is able to provide; it greatly enriches the quality of the experience for our service users. Volunteers contribute so much to our organisation, and we consider it very important to ensure that they get something in return. Therefore, the principles of Investing in Volunteers resonated very strongly with our own organisational values.

What difference has it made to your volunteer programme and your organisation?

Maintaining the Investing in Volunteers accreditation has ensured that Depaul’s volunteer management processes are of as high a standard as possible, and we are able to stand over all of our policies and procedures. It means that all levels of the organisation, the CEO, management and staff, are all involved and well informed about the processes surrounding volunteer management. Furthermore, it has enabled us to attract a high volume of high-calibre people as volunteers.

Is it really worth all of the work it entails?

I feel that the process of attaining and maintaining Investing in Volunteers accreditation doesn’t entail a significant amount of additional work, at least for an organisation like Depaul. It doesn’t require us to do anything other than what we should be to ensure quality volunteer management. The additional administration around the application is worth the credibility and visibility that the award brings to the organisation.

If you had to do anything differently what would you do?

I joined Depaul when we were in the process of preparing for our renewal, and in my previous organisation (which also had the accreditation and achieved renewal), I had already joined when accreditation was attained. I would have liked to be involved from the start of the process, although I am well enough acquainted with the processes by now that I feel I could manage it from the beginning.

What advice would you give to an organisation that is considering starting their Investing in Volunteers journey?

Even if an organisation doesn’t have the capacity, resources or budget to undergo the process at the moment, subscribing to the principles and keeping them alive as everyday practices is a good start. Then, when the organisation is ready to apply, it won’t require any additional or onerous effort to make the values real; you will have been living them all along.

If you’re interested in Investing in Volunteers, you can learn more here

All good things come to an end

Nina Arwitz, CEO of Volunteer Ireland and Chair of the Governance Code Working Group shares her thoughts on the satisfaction of shutting something down, the importance of governance and what the code achieved in the sector.

Last month I got to realise a professional dream – to shut something down.

I think that most, if not all, non-profits should aim to make themselves redundant, even if it might take hundreds of years. As a charity, you are addressing a need or problem. And as part of that you want to not just treat the symptoms of a problem, but also solve the problem itself. If you work for an organisation addressing climate change, your aim ultimately is for the climate change crisis to be averted and for your organisation not to need to exist anymore.

Well it’s not quite as dramatic, and not quite the same achievement as solving climate change, but in June 2019 we retired the Governance Code for Community, Voluntary and Charitable Organisations in Ireland.

Impact of the code

The code was first launched in 2012 in response to a need for guidance for non-profit organisations on implementing good governance practice. Since then, it’s achieved a lot. Over 2,000 organisations have used the code to improve their own governance. The code helped restore trust in the sector, at a time when this was needed. It raised the profile of governance in the community and voluntary sector. It demonstrated that good governance is not about a tick-box exercise but rather is about becoming better at achieving your aims. It set the tone for governance in non-profits in Ireland, establishing the principles-based, comply or explain approach. The code was also quite unique in that it was led by a “coalition of the willing” – organisations that came together under the name of the “governance code working group” to develop, review and oversee the code.

New code for charities

In 2014 the Charities Regulatory Authority was established, and in 2018 the Charities Regulator launched its own governance code – largely influenced by the original code. This prompted the working group to think very hard about the future of the original code. We spent three meetings over six months debating our future and considering options; we consulted with our members and stakeholders; and we surveyed all organisations that had engaged with the code. We thought about continuing for the sake of non-profits who are not charities, and therefore not technically affected by the Charities Regulator code. We considered maintaining our code as a “gold standard” for those organisations that want to go above and beyond the Regulator’s code.

Knowing when it’s time to go

We decided to retire the code and disband our working group because it would be confusing to have two codes out there; and most importantly because we felt that we have achieved what we set out to do. Governance is now mainstreamed across the sector and with the Charities Regulator, and ten years since this process first started we can say with pride we’ve achieved our aims and pass the mantle on. As chairperson of the governance code working group, I am so proud to have been part of that decision. It’s not often you find yourself in the position to end something, for all the right reasons.

To read the full statement about the retirement of the Governance Code for Community, Voluntary and Charitable Organisations in Ireland, visit:

Think Well: Volunteering and health and wellbeing

This year we are delighted to partner once again with Healthy Ireland for National Volunteering Week. In this blog, Kate O’Flaherty, Head of Healthy Ireland tells us why she believes volunteering is such a valuable part of a healthy society.

At Healthy Ireland, our aim is to create an Ireland where health and wellbeing is valued and where everyone can enjoy physical and mental health to their full potential. There are many aspects to our work and we focus on a number of key areas to encourage and support people to lead healthy lifestyles. We are helping people to improve their diets by helping them to Eat Well, to become more active and Be Well and to look after their mental wellbeing and Think Well.

We work in partnership with many and varied organisations, and Volunteer Ireland is one of our key ‘Think Well’ partners. Our current campaign is aimed at helping people to get “off the couch” and get out and about and get more active, improve their diet and to mind their mental wellbeing.

Social interaction is crucial for good mental health and a growing body of research indicates strong links between community involvement, volunteering and emotional wellbeing. People who volunteer report feeling useful, purposeful and valued. They feel connected to the community and have a sense of belonging. And the volunteering you do will also likely have a positive effect on the health of your community, so it’s a win-win.

Maybe you want to get active but aren’t a big fan of sport? Or maybe you’re feeling a bit lonely or simply want to get out and about?

If you choose something that you’re passionate about, something you’re good at and something that fits in to the time you have volunteering can have a real positive impact on your life. Volunteering can help improve your confidence through acquiring new skills and personal growth, all important for maintaining your wellbeing.

If you choose something active it can also be a great way to help you fit in some of your 30 minutes a day physical activity too.

We are delighted to be supporting National Volunteering Week this year and celebrating volunteers and communities across the country.

Learning from other countries

Earlier this month we had the pleasure of attending The Power of Volunteering conference in Zagreb, hosted by the Croatian Volunteer Development Centre. Volunteer involving organisations, volunteers, and government officials from across Croatia were present along with volunteer development agencies from Denmark, Slovenia, Ireland and the European Volunteer Centre. 

The conference provided a wonderful opportunity to learn from our peers in Europe, as well as a chance to share our own learning, challenges and best practice examples in volunteering.  Topics explored included the legal framework for volunteering, impact measurement tools, societal trends in volunteering and national volunteer days.

Some interesting facts that were shared during the opening Q&A were:

  • In Slovenia, the latest conservative estimate is 300,000 active volunteers giving 2 million hours
  • Volunteering is strongly encouraged in primary schools in Slovenia with an aim to build more formally on this tendency. Recently 600 teachers were trained to deploy an anti-bullying programme with students as volunteers – it proved to be very successful in decreasing bullying within the schools involved. Most importantly the students that were recruited as volunteers were not typically the most active participants in school and the volunteers themselves gained so much from being involved in the programme.
  • 41% of all Danes volunteer and 63% of all Danes have volunteered in the last 5 years
  • Volunteer centres, like in Ireland, must deliver core services in order to receive funding which is split 50/50 between the national volunteer budget and the local municipality
  • A new study of 14,000 Scandinavians shows that those who are engaged in volunteer work at least once a week are twice as likely to have a thriving mental health.

Volunteer Ireland participated in the panel discussion, “Legal Frameworks for Volunteering” along with volunteer development agencies from Slovenia and Denmark and the European Volunteer Centre (CEV). Interestingly, neither Ireland nor Denmark have laws regarding volunteering, however both countries have a stronger state supported infrastructure to support volunteering compared to Croatia. We had a great discussion on the pros and cons of an established infrastructure. Panellists explored the idea that those countries that are still trying to develop an adequate infrastructure, like Croatia, are at an advantage for it can be easier to build something new than to try to adapt and change a structure that is already in place!

Dannie Larsen from Volunteer Centre and Self-Help Denmark shared some really insightful approaches to diverse recruitment. Four key points were explored:

  • reflect on our own practice and ask ourselves if are we being inclusive in our recruitment;
  • create a variety of roles for a variety of volunteers;
  • don’t be afraid to try something new and recruit volunteers from groups you have never worked with before; and
  • seek support from organisations that work with and support those underrepresented groups you are seeking to involve.

It was so interesting to hear about the different trends, policies and practices across different countries and to learn a little about why these differences exist – our political history, our economic situations, our demographics and our civil society infrastructure. But as always, when we come together as colleagues in the world of volunteering to share and learn, we realise there are core values that we all have in common – our desire to make volunteering accessible to all and our belief in the inherent value of volunteering for the individual, the local community and society at large.

Mythbusting – Volunteering as a jobseeker

Today we have another mythbusting blog for you, this time focusing on volunteering as a jobseeker.

Looking for a job can be overwhelming and it can take time to find the right opportunity that matches your skills and needs. Volunteering is a great way keep your skills sharp while making a valuable contribution to your community.


A common misconception is that your jobseeker’s benefit will be stopped or reduced if you take up a volunteer role. Thankfully that’s not the case! If you are in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance and would like to volunteer, there are a few steps you need to take.

– Firstly, it’s important to find a volunteer role that suits your time, skills and interests. The best way to find the right role for you is to check out or visit your local Volunteer Centre.

– Once you’ve applied for a volunteer role, your Deciding Officer will give you a VW1 form which is to be filled out by you and the organisation you hope to volunteer with.

– Your Deciding Officer will then confirm if it is ok for you to take up the voluntary role so that your jobseeker’s payment will not be affected. They will consider a number of factors, with the two most important being that you continue to seek work while volunteering and you remain available to take up paid employment should the opportunity arise.


The good news is that we’ve recently worked with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to improve this process for jobseekers. We have recommended a number of updates to the VW1 form making it simpler and placing a greater focus on why a person wants to volunteer and what they hope to get out of it. If an application to take up a volunteer role is refused, Deciding Officers will now send a letter outlining the reasons why it was refused. A circular has also been sent to all local offices highlighting the importance of volunteering and the improvements to the process.

Finding a job can be time consuming and in some cases it can take a long time to find something that’s right for you. Volunteering can help you to keep your skills sharp and develop new ones; meet new people; gain experience for your CV and build confidence if you’ve been out of the workforce for a while.

If you think volunteering might be for you then check out or visit your local Volunteer Centre today!

My experience as a Charity Trustee

Emma Kerins is Head of Policy and Public Affairs with Chambers Ireland. She is also a voluntary trustee of the board of the YMCA Dublin. She tells us what being part of a charity board is like.

Just over one year ago I formally joined the Board of the YMCA Dublin.

My background was in human rights law and currently I work in public affairs, and at that point, had done so for about five years, working in Dublin for the most part, but also having spent some time working in Northern Ireland and New Zealand.

While I wouldn’t say I got itchy feet, I did have the urge to do something else outside of my normal Monday to Friday job and volunteer part of my time with a different organisation, perhaps with a more charitable focus or engaged more in front line services.

It was at this point that I came across an opportunity to join the Board of YMCA Dublin, who were looking for new Directors/Trustees with skills like my own. As both a charity and social enterprise, it immediately struck my interest. I contacted the organisation, made an application and was subsequently invited to join.

I’m now one year into serving on the Board of the Dublin YMCA, so how have I found it? It has been, so far, an experience I have found both challenging and rewarding. Joining a Board of Directors is serious. In order to carry out your duties, you need to be sure you can commit the time required. You also need to ensure you fully understand your role and legal obligations when it comes to both governance and your fiduciary responsibilities to the organisation.

Serving with a Board, particularly that of a charity, is also a great privilege and an extremely positive experience. You really get to know another organisation and through this, you have the chance to actively support the team in implementing its programmes and services.

From a personal perspective, it’s also a fantastic learning opportunity. It puts you in a position where you’re working closely with many other people, often from very different professions, with different skillsets to your own, in order to achieve a common purpose.

As well as being a valuable learning experience, it can also be a very meaningful one. Having the chance to volunteer your skills and your time to a charity and supporting its long term development is something that I am delighted to be a part of.

There is a perception that you need to be certain age or have a certain skillset in order to be eligible to join a Board, but I have not found this to be the case. Diversity on boards has been proven to contribute to stronger and more ethical organisational governance. Having a mix of ages, genders, professions and ranges of experience brings a wealth of expertise to an NGO, so my advice would be not to let any such perception intimidate you. So long as you have the time, enthusiasm and commitment to carrying out your duties, there is no reason why both you and a charity can’t reap the benefits.

Charity Trustees’ Week runs from from 12th – 16th November with events taking place around the country. Join the conversation online using #TrusteesWeekIrl.

Always learning…

Our Training and Programmes Manager, Stuart Garland, reminds us of the importance of listening and learning from others this International Volunteer Managers Day.  Join the conversation on social media using #IMVDay18.

Any of you who follow me on Twitter will sometimes see me use the hashtag #AlwaysLearning.  You may have heard me refer to myself as a Volunteer Management & Leadership Specialist, never an expert. I am always listening to other stories and experiences both locally and internationally.

If I am delivering training on some element of volunteer management and I ask the question “Does anyone have a challenging volunteer and can you tell me about the challenge?” there is usually a stony silence before someone finally gives in with a story that starts with “Well I had this challenge once…” Then a few minutes into the story others in the room begin to nod with agreement or throw their eyes to the sky and say “I’ve a volunteer just like that and this is how I dealt with them…” All of a sudden people are vying for airtime to tell their challenging story.

Sometimes we aren’t that open to share our stories about challenging volunteers or volunteer management issues. I’ll often get a phone call that goes something like this. “I need to talk to you confidentially about this situation … please never tell anyone … I can’t tell you our organisation” The reality is that I’ve heard this exact story already, and probably as recent as no more than a month ago.

We all make mistakes, and hopefully we learn and become more mature.  We may think that another Volunteer Involving Organisation is better than us, in reality we are all dealing with the same situations, what we do and how we react to these challenges is what differentiates a quality volunteer programme from a poor one. It is also about the processes or procedures you have in place to deal with those challenges, without creating an overly burearatic programme full of red tape.

We can all learn from each other. I don’t claim to be an expert in Volunteer Management in Leadership. I am just a specialist in the area. I am #AlwaysLearning and so should you. Never miss out on opportunities to talk to and learn from others in our field.

The role of a Volunteer Manager is often a lonely one, one person in charge of a group of volunteers. Reach out and talk to your fellow Volunteer Managers, talk to us in Volunteer Ireland.

It’s good to talk … about volunteering

Volunteer Ireland’s Training and Programmes Manager Stuart Garland shares his thoughts on talking, listening and learning from others as volunteering evolves globally.


Learning from others

I am one of those people who will gladly talk to people about all things volunteering, from recruitment to retention, from screening to strategy.

These conversations often start with a Volunteer Manager saying “what I am about to tell you is confidential and you can’t tell anyone”, a conversation follows about the challenges they are facing.  They are usually in shock at the end of the conversation when I say “Do you think you are the only organisation facing these challenges?”

Volunteer Involving Organisations are facing the same challenges in terms of volunteer management and leadership worldwide, the problems facing Volunteer Managers in Leitrim are the same of those in Lagos, Lima, Latvia or Lithuania. The question is are we adapting to these challenges?

Some time ago I met some colleagues from the Venezuela.  They we’re very envious of the amount of formal volunteering in Ireland.  At the time in Venezuela informal volunteering far exceeded formal volunteering.  They were very surprised when I said I was very keen to learn from them.  What could I possibly learn from them? Lots.

What do the stats say?

Recent research (2018) by the UN Volunteers Programme reports that the majority of volunteering globally is informal.  Of the 109 million full-time equivalent volunteers 70% volunteered informally for individuals while only 30% volunteered formally through an organisation.  They go on to report that in Ireland there is a Full Time Equivalent of 132,273 volunteers, 72,533 of whom are involved in formal volunteering.

Research carried by nfpSynergy (2017) reported that 21% of people said they “lost faith in charities” and 40% said they “didn’t have the time to volunteer”. Episodic (short term) volunteering is nothing new and was reported as a growing trend as early as 2006 by Handy et al.

In 2016, Volunteer Now and Colin Rochester reported that 80% of micro volunteering was carried out on line usually on smart phones, mainly by young people and it has been most popular in the UK where more than half of all micro volunteering actions took place in 2015.

From another perspective the Central Statistics Office (2016) report 200 different nationalities in Ireland. There were 535,475 non-Irish nationals living in Ireland.  How many nationalities are represented in your group of volunteers?

Adapting to change

You might consider that virtual volunteering, e-volunteering, micro volunteering, taster volunteering, family volunteering, slacktivism are all fads, perhaps you’ve not have heard of them before. Society is changing around us and our volunteer programmes need to adapt too.

Your volunteer programme may need formal volunteers engaging with you on a regular basis but just think of the potential diverse group of volunteers you could be engaging by changing the types of volunteering you offer.

What works for one organisation may work differently for another, we can’t continue to say ‘that wouldn’t work for my organisation’ without trying, without adapting to the local demographic, not just the current demographic of your pool of volunteers.  We all have to learn – learn from researchers, academics, practitioners, our peers, our colleagues.

We may be happy with our volunteer programmes, we might be dealing with challenging situations in volunteer management or struggling to recruit or retain volunteers, but guess what? Others are having the same challenges as you.

We’ve got to listen to others. We’ve got to learn from others.

“It’s good to talk … about volunteering”

Volunteer Ireland offers a range of training (online and face to face), capacity building events, conferences and seminars throughout the year to help build your networking opportunities to meet with and discuss these topics with likeminded individuals.  You can find further details at

What is Microvolunteering?

To celebrate Microvolunteering Day 2018 (15th April), we have a special blog on the little known phenomenon of microvolunteering.

What is microvolunteering?

There are lots of different definitions of microvolunteering but the generally accepted one is ‘bite-sized, on-demand, no commitment actions that benefit a worthy cause’. Microvolunteering is quick and convenient – a microvolunteering opportunity might take less than two minutes to complete and in some cases can be done from the comfort of your couch in your pyjamas.

A great example of microvolunteering in Ireland took place during the 1916 centenary celebrations. The organisers had hundreds of letters written during the time which had been scanned onto a digital archive. Unfortunately, they were still quite hard to read – that’s where volunteers came in! Volunteers were able log on in their own time and transcribe the letters into typed documents. This meant that the letters could then be widely shared and read. You could give 5 minutes or 5 hours – either way you were giving back to a good cause.

Why microvolunteering?

If you ask someone if they’d like to volunteer, more than likely they’d say yes but that doesn’t mean they always have the time. As people lead increasingly busy lives, they are finding it harder to take time out to volunteer. Nowadays, people are looking for short term, flexible volunteering opportunities and that’s where microvolunteering comes in.

Being able to give back in bite sized chunks of time or at a time that suits your schedule makes volunteering accessible to even more people. It also serves as a great ‘taster’ for volunteering to those who would like to volunteer but aren’t sure what’s right for them.

What is Microvolunteering Day?

Microvolunteering Day is an internationally celebrated day that takes place on 15th April every year. Organised by Help for Home, it is a unique opportunity for dedicated microvolunteering platforms, volunteer-involving organisations and individuals to join together in a synchronised effort to promote their contributions and demonstrate the power and potential of the microvolunteering concept.

Are there any microvolunteering opportunities in Ireland?

While microvolunteering is still a lesser known form of volunteering this side of the water, there are plenty of opportunities to get you started. These are just a few examples:

Help the environment

Take part in Birdwatch Ireland’s Garden Bird Survey. Each year between December and February, Birdwatch Ireland ask the public to take note of the highest number of each bird species visiting their garden every week. Keep a note then simply submit the information online.

Or you could use Inland Fisheries Ireland’s handy app and help them track invasive species. Volunteers can take georeferenced photographs that will immediately be uploaded to the IFI server.

Transcribe stories from your couch

Help digitise and preserve the National Folklore Collection. Dú are asking volunteers to help transcribe the Schools Collection – a series of stories collected by primary school children in the 1930’s.

Get cultural and identify photos and manuscripts

The National Library of Ireland use The Commons on Flickr to upload their hundreds of photos, prints and manuscripts. The public are then invited to help date and provide information on the images, helping add to the National Library’s archive.