Article from The Straits Times Forum, 18 April 2017

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Make it attractive to be the director of a charity

The Straits Times
Forum Page, Apr 18 2017

The Charity Council’s release of a revised code of governance for charities and institutions of a public character could not be more timely (Making charities more transparent; April 14).

Recent media reports suggest that Singaporeans are more active in giving back to the community.

We must sustain this momentum as Singapore continues its journey as a developed country.

All it takes is another scandal to put a rude stop to our efforts.

In addition to enhancing transparency and credibility, it is time that we make a mindset shift towards charity directorship - to put it bluntly, it is not something that is attractive, as it does not pay.

Directors typically encourage and even cajole their friends and contacts to join boards.

This results in three less-than-ideal outcomes for boards: They end up with directors who may not have the desired level of passion and commitment, directors doing it to enhance their resumes, and "buddies" coming together to commit mischief.

Interested parties who are passionate and committed, but do not belong to the "old boys/girls" network, may not get a chance to be considered.

Many corporate leaders possess skills that can be transferred to the not-for-profit sector, and some of them would want to be involved in the sector, as it is meaningful and fulfilling.

We must encourage this, and make it administratively easier for such individuals. This can create a healthy pool of qualified candidates that could be tapped for such roles.

The ideal situation is for charity board directorship to be coveted, and not be seen as "I am doing it because no one else wants to".

A longer-term outcome is that we will have a more robust and transparent process of board succession planning, with the necessary level of quality and quantity of directors.

Paul Heng




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