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NEWS > Charity Sector News > The Impactful Chair - Bringing Out the Best in Others

The Impactful Chair - Bringing Out the Best in Others

Good governance is essential but visionary thinking, a collaborative work ethic and an ability to bring out the best in others, are also crucially important attributes for a truly impactful Chair.

Words that spring to mind when we think of the attributives of an effective Chair are leadership, experience, expertise, credibility and inspiration. These can sound a little daunting and there’s no question that great responsibility comes with the role when leading the way on matters of good governance and the smooth running of the organisation, to which you volunteer at this senior level.

However, there is also so much in the role that is rewarding, impactful, and satisfying on both a personal and professional level. There are many people who are well qualified and suitable for a volunteer leadership role, but have not yet considered it. For example, why do people of a younger age profile rarely consider Board positions; or why are there not more people from diverse social, economic, cultural and ethnic backgrounds putting themselves forward for these positions?

Most not-for-profit organisations that CCI have worked with embrace visionary thinking and innovative ways to provide services and develop income streams. There are plenty of people with these same skills, who could contribute as a Chair or initially as a member of a not-for-profit Board.

Good governance is essential but visionary thinking, a collaborative work ethic and an ability to bring out the best in others, are also crucially important attributes for a truly impactful Chair. Ireland has an abundance of people who would excel but have not yet considered taking this leap into what can be both a personally rewarding role and a transformative one, enhancing and contributing to the lives of the organisation’s beneficiaries.

If you have good emotional intelligence and can garner the trust and respect of your fellow Board peers by encouraging a culture of collaboration and finding the skills, strength and motivation in fellow Board members and your CEO, the role of Chair could be for you!

CCI Executive Search (CCI) wants to connect great organisations with great Chairs and Board members. Mary O’ Kennedy, Director of CCI and OKC, and an experienced fundraising and philanthropy consultant, says there 3 main ways to make a real impact as Chair.

Lead with Integrity

Build relationships with your fellow Board members, adopt a learning mindset, and set the tone for a collaborative board culture.

Build a Relationship with the CEO

A good and open relationship between you and the CEO is a fundamental synergy for success.  In a recent interview Nick Coleridge, Chairman of the Victoria and Albert Museum, said:

“The Chair is not meant to be making all the decisions, but can be a useful sounding board – especially if you understand the organisation as well as I think you should. The Director of the V&A and I have an informal/formal breakfast once a month. We each arrive with a list of about eight points, pose questions and share our perspectives on different issues raised. It works well because we’re incredibly open with each other. It’s a very fine balance that you have to get right.” 

Embrace Innovation, New Partnerships and Fundraising Development

A brilliant Chair will embrace innovation and fundraising with enthusiasm and vigour and strive to embed philanthropy as a fundamental part of the work of the Board. If an organisation has philanthropic and non-statutory income as a key budget line, the Chair should make it a priority on the Agenda of each Board meeting.

Examples of ways that a Board Chair might involve themselves in fundraising:

  • Expanding the organisation’s potential donor network by introducing staff members to business and personal contacts.
  • Making a personal donation at a level within your capacity and encourage others on the Board to do the same.
  • Keeping up to date on the organisation’s fundraising strategy and donor cultivation plans.
  • Spreading the word about the importance and impact of the organisation.

Find the Right Board Member or Join a Board

Becoming a Chair will require an in- depth understanding of the organisation. Your first step might be to join the Board as an ordinary member.  If you are an individual interested in joining a not-for-profit Board or your organisation wishes to recruit a new Board member or Chair, contact us at or call 01 542 2807

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