Unfortunately, Federations are at a disadvantage when it comes to skills diversity on Boards. They are vulnerable to member agenda’s and often suffer from large v small member divisions.

These issues arise from the democratic process whereby any member has the opportunity to stand and present themselves to the membership for election. This is a great strength of any Federation but can also be one of its greatest weaknesses.

There is more interest amongst the membership of Federations in serving on Federation boards in comparison to the rest of the not-for-profit sector, and the election process can often produce a one dimensional skill set. Boards of Federations tend to be made up of staff of membership organisations who reflect the skills and expertise of that organisation, but this skill-set often becomes predominant on the Board of the Federation.

Thus we have Boards of Federations with huge amounts of knowledge and skill around the operational aspects of the Federation – what they do, how they do it, the message they want to relate – but fewer broader skills about how to run a company i.e. legal, financial, marketing and general business skills that other not-for-profit boards would have. It is interesting to reflect that the boards of the individual member organisations may in fact be more diverse and therefore more effective than the Federation which is representing their interests.

The outcome then is that Federation Boards tend to be too operational in their focus and not strategic enough in their outlook and their process.
How is that challenged or changed?

Firstly, there has to be an acknowledgement from the Federation that a mono-skilled Board is not going to produce the desired outcome. Hoping that one CEO of a member organisation is also a qualified accountant is not a structural process and does not serve the governance structure of the organisation.

Instead, some Federations in Ireland and in other jurisdictions are making considered changes to their Articles and Memorandum of Association allowing for Board-nominated experts to sit as Directors on the Board, who are often not members of the company.

This provision is to reserve spaces on the Board for specific skills that are needed to support the Board’s skill set. It also serves the additional purpose of allowing independent, non-biased Directors onto the Board.

These Directors can be time-served, they can be recruited independently, they would be non–remunerated and would provide valuable expertise and insight.

If for example a Federation has a Board of 12 people, all of whom are elected by membership at keenly contested elections once a year, the Board would then have the option to co-opt two additional Directors from specified professions to support the Board. For example, this could be Legal and Accountancy, or Marketing and Communication.

To enable this process to go forward, the membership would have to change the Arts and Mems at an EGM or AGM by resolution. It would then be a decision for the Board to choose to find individuals willing to serve on their Board with those specific skills.

Boardmatch has a wealth of highly talented individuals who could be considered for these roles, equally there are other networks where individuals could be sourced.

The National Federation of Voluntary Bodies has gone down this route and appointed one Director from outside the ranks of the membership. According to CEO Brian O’Donnell, the outcomes have been very positive:

“Bringing on an external board member has given the Federation added insight, new skills and an alternative perspective on key issues. It has also changed in a very positive way the dynamics of Board meetings.”

The nature of Federations means they will have to struggle with the composition of their Boards. Unlike their members, the risk is that their Boards become dominated by one skill. Looking to appoint external professionals with specific skills can only strengthen the ability of the Board and the overall efficiency of the Federation.

Chris White
Boardmatch Ireland


Unlike the UK and Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland does not have an overarching umbrella body for the not-for-profit sector. Instead, the sector is divided into major areas of interest which are represented by various Federations.

Criteria for Federation Membership:

-Must be not-for-profit or predominantly not for profit

-Must have only corporate membership

-Must be based in Ireland

-Must be representative of a number of different but similar types of organisations, not just branches of the same organisation

-Must be incorporated

-Must have an elected board

AOIFE – the Association of Irish Festival Events – is an all-island voluntary network organisation that brings together organisers of festivals and events in Ireland, suppliers to the festival and event sector and policy-makers and funders to act as a forum for the sharing of ideas and to resolve common areas of concern and to influence government policies in relation to the sector.

Business to Arts
Business to Arts brokers, enables and supports creative partnerships between business, individuals and the arts.

Care Alliance Ireland
Care Alliance Ireland is the National Network of Voluntary Organisations supporting Family Carers. Our vision is that the role of Family Carers is fully recognised and valued by society in Ireland.

Carmichael Centre
Carmichael Centre is the first and largest shared services centre for the community and voluntary sector in Ireland.

Catholic Primary Schools Management Association
CPSMA is the National Federation for Catholic primary schools in Ireland.

Children’s Rights Alliance
The Children’s Rights Alliance is a coalition of over 100 organisations working to secure the rights of children in Ireland, by campaigning for the full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Community Television Association
CTA is the representative body for community television in Ireland.

Craol is the representative, co-ordinating, lobbying, training, and support group for Irish Community Radio.

Create is the national development agency for collaborative arts in social and community contexts.

Credit Union Development Association
The Credit Union Development Association, is a progressive representative and development association working on behalf of member-owned, member-directed and professionally managed Credit Unions in Ireland.

Disability Federation of Ireland
Disability Federation of Ireland is the national support organisation for voluntary disability organisations in Ireland who provide services to people with disabilities and disabling conditions.

Dóchas is the association of Irish Non-Governmental Development Organisations.

Dublin Aids Alliance
Dublin AIDS Alliance is a voluntary organisation working to improve conditions for people living with or affected by HIV and AIDS.

Early Childhood Ireland
Early Childhood Ireland is a member organisation whose vision is that every child gets a loving, secure and stimulating start in life.

Family Resource Centre National Forum
The Family Resource Centre National Forum is a support network working with the Family Resource Centres throughout Ireland.

Federation of Local History Societies
The Federation of Local History Societies was established in 1981 to promote the interests of amateur historians and voluntary museums and to represent their views.

Fundraising Ireland
Fundraising Ireland is the association for professional fundraisers in Ireland.

GLEN is a Policy and Strategy focused NGO which aims to deliver ambitious and positive change for lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Ireland, ensuring full equality, inclusion and protection from all forms of discrimination.

IACTO is the national representative organisation for the voluntary Boards of Directors of Community Training Centres. Established in 2000, IACTO provides management services to promote and enhance the delivery of quality training outcomes. Nationally, IACTO supports local CTC boards in their employer and governing functions.

ICTR is a membership organisation of charities, focused on creating a policy climate in which philanthropy can thrive – through a combination of taxation and regulatory reform.

Inclusion Ireland
The Vision of Inclusion Ireland is that of people with an intellectual disability living and participating in the community with equal rights as citizens, to live the life of their choice to their fullest potential.

Institute for Managers of Community and Voluntary Organisations
Established in 2011, the Institute for Managers of Community and Voluntary Organisations in Ireland is the only professional body for management practitioners working in the non-profit sector in Ireland.

Irish Association of Suicidology
The IAS has been working with community, voluntary and statutory bodies since its inception to inform, educate and promote positive suicide prevention policies throughout the island of Ireland.

Irish Charities Tax Reform Group
ICTR is a membership organisation of charities, focused on creating a policy climate in which philanthropy can thrive – through a combination of taxation and regulatory reform.

Irish Charity Shops Association
The Irish Charity Shops Association is the national umbrella body for Irish charity shops. Its members operate over 250 shops nationwide.

Irish Council for International Students
The Irish Council for International Students is an independent organisation advocating for the rights of all international students in Ireland.

Irish Council for Social Housing
The Irish Council for Social Housing was formed in 1982 by housing and hostel organisations in Ireland to act as a national representative, promotional, information and advisory federation.

Irish Environmental Network
The Irish Environmental Network is a membership based organisation dedicated to the promotion of environmental protection.

Irish League of Credit Unions
The Irish League of Credit Unions was set up by a small group of credit unions in 1960 to represent & service affiliated credit unions on the island of Ireland.

Irish Local Development Network
The Irish Local Development Network was established in 2010 to represent all Local Development Companies throughout Ireland.

Irish Museums Association
The Irish Museums Association is dedicated to promoting the interests of museums and the Irish museums community (those who work and are interested in museums) throughout Ireland.

Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed
The INOU works at local and national levels on issues affecting unemployed people, supporting local groups through services such as training, information and analysis of Government policies.

IPPOSI is the Irish Platform for Patients’ Organisations Science and Industry.

Irish Rural Link
Irish Rural Link is the national network representing rural communities.

Irish Sports Council
The Irish Sports Council plans, leads and co-ordinate the sustainable development of competitive and recreational sport in Ireland.

Irish Traveller Movement
The Irish Traveller Movement is a national network of organisations and individuals working within the Traveller community.

Joint Managerial Body
The JMB through the Secretariat of Secondary Schools provides a range of advice and support services, in addition to negotiating on behalf of school management in the network of 400 Voluntary Secondary Schools.

Medical Research Charities Group
The Medical Research Charities Group is an umbrella group of medical research and patient support charities.

Mental Health Reform
Mental Health Reform promotes improved and prioritised mental health services in Ireland.

NABCO (National Association of Building Co-operatives) is Ireland’s national federation for the cooperative housing sector.

National Association for Youth Drama
The National Association for Youth Drama is the development organisation for youth theatre/drama in Ireland.

National Federation of Group Water Schemes
The National Federation of Group Water Schemes is the representative and negotiating organisation for community-owned rural water services in Ireland.

National Federation of Voluntary Bodies
The National Federation of Voluntary Bodies is a national umbrella organisation for voluntary/non-statutory agencies who provide direct services to people with intellectual disability in Ireland.

National Women’s Council of Ireland
The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) is the representative organisation for women and women’s groups in Ireland.

National Youth Council of Ireland
The National Youth Council of Ireland is the representative body for national voluntary youth work organisations in Ireland.

Neurological Alliance of Ireland
The Neurological Alliance of Ireland is the national umbrella body representing over thirty not for profit organisations working with people with neurological conditions and their families.

New Communities Partnership
New Communities Partnership (NCP) is an independent national network of 165 immigrant led groups comprising of 75 nationalities with offices in Dublin, Cork and Limerick.

Not For Profit Business Association
The Not for Profit Business Association is the representative body of the largest service providers in Ireland, principally to people with physical and sensory disabilities.

Nursing Homes Ireland
Nursing Homes Ireland is the representative organisation for the private and voluntary nursing homes sector.

Philanthropy Ireland
Philanthropy Ireland is the Association of independent philanthropic organisations in Ireland, including grant making trusts and foundations.

The Carers Association
The Carers Association is Ireland’s national voluntary organisation for and of family carers in the home.

The Federation of Irish Sport
The Federation of Irish Sport was established by the National Governing Bodies of Sport in 2002 to act as representative body for all sporting organisations and to provide an independent voice for sport.

The Wheel
The Wheel is a support and representative body connecting community and voluntary organisations and charities across Ireland.

Theatre Forum
Theatre Forum is the representative association for theatre and the performing arts in Ireland.

Treoir is the national federation of services for unmarried parents and their children.

Voluntary Arts Ireland
Voluntary Arts is the UK and Ireland representative agency for the voluntary and amateur arts and crafts.

Volunteer Ireland
Volunteer Ireland is the national volunteer development agency in Ireland and a representative and support body for over 20 Volunteer Centres in Ireland.



A number of member organisations of the Federation of Irish Sport are making great strides towards the creation of a well-governed sports sector…

Whilst Governance is often viewed within a framework of compliance, its purpose and impact is much more profound. Good governance is intrinsic to the performance of an organisation with bad governance invariably leading to a poorly-run organisation. Central to this is Board composition. A Board which enjoys a broad range of voices, skills and experiences will be able to tackle issues and problems more holistically. Conversely, a Board which is lacking in essential skills and diversity, risks slipping into stagnation and a ‘group-think’ mentality – the implications of which can be disastrous for the performance of your organisation.

The issue of Good Governance in the sports sector has been in the spotlight at both a national and international level for quite some time. Since 1997, a Danish initiative called Play the has focused on the promotion of Good Governance in grassroots sports organisations. The EU-backed organisation has recently released a report on governance in sporting organisations titled ‘Action for Good Governance in International Sports Organisations’ (AGGIS) and has developed an innovative measuring tool for governance practice in sports organisations. At EU level, a framework for governance in sports organisations has been in place since 2001.

In Ireland, there are currently 70 National Governing Bodies of Sport (NGB’s) and 28 Local Sports Partnerships (LSPs) in operation across the country. The majority of these are unincorporated whilst only a select number of larger sports organisations are Companies Limited by Guarantee. Controversially for many in the sector, sports organisations are excluded from obtaining charitable status. Ireland boasts a rich and diverse sports sector, and whilst its governance journey is still ongoing, it is clear that Good Governance is increasingly becoming a key objective for many.

Boardmatch Ireland, as the National Corporate Governance Charity in Ireland, has recently engaged with a number of sports organisations to help strengthen their governance structures through the recruitment of new, highly skilled board members.

To date, 30 high-calibre candidates have been matched onto the Boards of sports organisations. The new board members hail from a variety of professional backgrounds, and bring with them valuable skills and expertise. Amongst them are senior figures in leading financial institutions and multinational organisations, PR executives, accounting professionals and legal experts. Below is a list of the organisations who have found board members through the Boardmatch website.

  • Badminton Union of Ireland
  • Cerebral Palsy Sport Ireland
  • Cycling Ireland
  • Federation of Irish Sport
  • Football Association of Ireland
  • Community Games
  • Irish Blind Sports
  • Irish Clay Pigeon Shooting Association
  • Irish Gymnastics
  • Irish Olympic Handball Association
  • Irish Squash Federation
  • Leisure Cycling Ireland
  • Mountaineering Ireland
  • Special Olympics Ireland
  • Swim Ireland
  • The first Tee of Ireland

In addition, some of Ireland’s leading rugby stars have been matched to a number of charities through Boardmatch’s recent partnership with the Irish Rugby Union Players Association (IRUPA). Click here for some footage of the Boardmatch-IRUPA launch.

  • Johnny Sexton to Headstrong
  • Leo Cullen to Enactus
  • Shane Jennings to Ronald MacDonald House
  • David Wallace to Special Olympics
  • Eoin Reddan to Irish Youth Foundation
  • Marcus Horan to Limerick Learning Hub
  • Johnny O’Connor to On the Road Again
  • Kevin McLoughlin to ARC Cancer Care
  • Eoin O’Malley to St Luke’s Hospital


Being a member of a National Federation can bring many rewards, below are a list of some of the core responsibilities of National Federations and the benefits they bring to their members.

Advocacy and Policy Development

As a representative body, advocating on behalf of its members is a key aspect of a Federations’ remit. Federations will interact with other organisations, statutory bodies and governmental departments to advocate for positive change in the area of interest it represents. For example there are currently 17 representative bodies in the Community & Voluntary Pillar, the purpose of which is to represent the interests of the sector in the policy-making process.

Access to Education and Training

Federations will usually hold a number of trainings, seminars, advice sessions and events for its members throughout the year. For members, these events are sometimes free of charge and always at a discounted rate. As opportunities for those in the sector to connect are scant, these various events and training days provide a rare opportunity for member organisations to meet, network and share experiences.

Information Provision and Research

Another core aspect of a Federations role in the sector is to provide relevant information and research to its members and the wider community. This will often include a members directory, periodical newsletters, issue specific guidance, factsheets and various research projects. Access to this pool of information is of great value to organisations and is often restricted to members.

Sense of Community

In the midst of a large and heterogeneous sector, it is sometimes easy for organisations, particularly small ones, to feel disconnected. Federations play an important role in this regard, bringing issue- secific organiastions together and creating a sense of sectoral cohesion. As not-for-profits face an uphill battle in light of stringent government funding, these networks play a key role in avoiding duplication of service and facilitating a resource-efficient sector.



Boardmatch Ireland is the national Corporate Governance charity. In addition to our free matching service, our various trainings, seminars and events form an integral part of our mission which is to strengthen governance in the sector. Boardmatch work nationwide, and have recently engaged with a number of Federations to assist in the development of their member’s governance structures.

Trainings and Seminars

We are mindful that every organisation is unique in terms of the training and assistance they require. As such, Boardmatch provide a range of bespoke training and consultancy services to members which are tailored to their specific needs. Our trainings and seminars cover all aspects of Good Governance, including:

  • The Governance Code
  • Board Renewal
  • Board Rescue
  • Skills Audit
  • Board Evaluation
  • Governance Review
  • Mediation

In addition, Boardmatch hold a number of Board Member Induction training courses throughout the year, as well as our coveted Chairs and CEO training which provides a comprehensive insight into the Governance/Management interface of a not-for-profit organisation.

Annual National Federations Lunch

This unique event provides a forum for Chairs & CEOs of National Federations to meet, network and share experiences. January 2011 marked the launch of the first National Federations of Ireland Event in the Aviva stadium which was attended by 100 Chairs and CEOs and led by former England and Wales Charity Commissioner Andrew Hind. Boardmatch were thrilled to welcome Dame Suzi Leather, another former Charity Commission Chair for the 2012 lunch who spoke on the role that National Federations can play in improving the governance standards of their member organisations.

The 2013 lunch promises to be another key highlight in the not-for-profit calendar. This year we are delighted to announce that Una Ni Dhubhghaill, Principal Officer in the Charities Regulation Unit of the Department of Justice and Equality will head the event. With the introduction of a charity regulator under the Charities Act 2009 on the horizon, this event is a must for Federations keen to prepare for the impending legislative changes.

For further information, please feel free to contact the Boardmatch office on 01 671 5005, or email Eva Gurn at



The third annual fundraising report by 2into3 and sponsored by Ecclesiastical Insurance found that 73% of charities total income is state funding, based on a sample of 1,000 charities’ annual accounts.

The report also found that the total amount raised by the sector rose between 2010 and 2011, in spite of the economic downturn, but also found that the increase was not uniform across the sector. Developing and Housing subsectors saw their income increase, whilst social services and international organisations reported a loss of earnings.

2into3 Director Neil Pope called for greater transparency within the sector and emphasised the need to implement regulation in the form of the long awaited Charities Act 2009.

Mr Pope also highlighted the lack of available quantitative data as a major shortcoming of the sector: “Lack of data hinders effectiveness and efficiency by making it difficult for organisations to benchmark themselves against the rest of the sector to identify best practise or to develop appropriate fundraising target” he said.

Amongst other key findings, the report also found that 46% of the charities total expenditure is staff salaries. In 2011, the estimated size of the sector was €4.9 billion.

Click Here for the full report.