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European Research Network on Philanthropy

Introduction on Giving Research in Ireland

Maria Gallo[1] and Gemma Donnely-Cox[2]

In this report on the state of giving research in Ireland, we provide a qualitative picture of the philanthropic landscape that reflects the paucity of data and published giving research for the period 2010-2015. Rather ironically, in spite of the limited information available, the profile of philanthropy in Ireland in the public sphere has increased substantially over the past five to seven years.  A number of researchers have published papers and chapters concerned with the ‘philanthropic infrastructure’ of the country[3].  Topics have included the impact of the financial crisis on philanthropy, fundraising, corporate philanthropy, community philanthropy and giving circles, and the foundation sector.  None of these, however, have conducted giving research, and at present the data sources for systematic research on giving are limited.

In the same period, there has been a concerted effort to raise the profile of philanthropic giving. Two bodies, the Forum on Fundraising and Philanthropy (a state-appointed committee) and Philanthropy Ireland (a nonprofit membership association for philanthropic entities) have worked to raise public understanding of and commitment to philanthropic giving. In 2013, the One Percent Difference Campaign was launched jointly by the Forum and Philanthropy Ireland. This national, year-long campaign to raise awareness of philanthropy—including volunteering and giving—challenged Irish citizens to give 1 per cent of their time or money to the wider Irish community. While this campaign was successful in attracting high profile celebrity spokespeople, there has been no formal assessment of the campaign’s effectiveness/impact. In 2015, there was limited publicly-accessible research on giving in Ireland. The research on giving that does emerge on giving in Ireland tends to be from various private sources, in ad hoc studies and lacks the potential for long-term comparability or reliability.

The Forum on Philanthropy and Fundraising with Philanthropy Ireland presented a report to the Irish government in 2012 outlining an ambitious action plan to increase philanthropy, in particular giving, in Ireland. One of the key recommendations from this report includes investing in the research data on giving, including the improvement and centralisation of data collection on philanthropy giving through the Central Statistics Office (CSO) quarterly household survey. Moreover, it recommended that the State bodies, such as the CSO and Revenue also ‘…be mandated to provide an annual report on vital statistics for the charity sector in Ireland, including trends in charitable giving, employment, economics contribution etc., using data from all relevant sources’ (Forum on Philanthropy and Fundraising 2012, p. 17). At the time of print, in 2015, the collation and dissemination of such central statistics and the potential for longitudinal comparisons had not yet come to fruition.

The Charities Act 2009 provides a regulatory framework for charities in Ireland, and with the establishment of the Charities Regulatory Authority in 2014 still in its infancy, it is anticipated that an aspect of this role will also include the gathering of statistical information from registered charitable organisations on their donations, fundraising and philanthropic activity. As an all-encompassing role on charity regulation, the Charities Regulatory Authority will monitor the compliance of charitable organisations in Ireland and the functions of the Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests transfer to this Authority from the end of 2014. While this is a promising development, it will improve access to data on the income of charitable organisations, but is less likely to elaborate on the sources of those funds.

Overall, the research related to Irish philanthropy remains disparate and includes a few key researchers examining the concept in terms of its potential economic value and its relationship to non-profit management and public goods, such as in higher education. The new state infrastructure in place for charities, the interest emerging at a postgraduate level study and the political will to keep philanthropy on the national agenda will hopefully enable further development of philanthropic research over the next decade. Since Prizeman and O’Regan (2009) presented the latest edition of this publication, some positive developments related to philanthropy and promoting giving in Ireland have emerged, although the context and the challenges in conducting research due to the limited data available remain half a decade later.


In 2014, Ireland ranked 4th in the World Giving Index (CAF 2014) leading to several media headlines purporting Irish generosity. In addition, the Irish government has recognised the importance of the development of the philanthropic sector and fundraising, stating a target of increasing philanthropic giving by 60 per cent by 2016, from € 500 million to € 800 million (Forum on Philanthropy and Fundraising, 2012, p. 9). To achieve this ambitious target, there is recognition of the importance of changing the Irish culture on philanthropy and giving, from informal giving practices to more sustainable, long-term investment. Moreover, the need for tax simplification to reform the complicated and cumbersome tax system is also noted. Most importantly for the purposes of this research is the recognition of the importance of creating and maintaining data and data sets on giving in Ireland. There is an appetite to explore and expand the State statistics on charitable giving, such as collecting more data on charitable giving through the Household Budget Survey (Forum on Philanthropy and Fundraising, 2012).

There are some limited data sets on fundraising in an organisational context and on various giving groups, including individuals and corporations. The data on philanthropy, fundraising and giving remain disparate and uncoordinated. There is great interest in building giving data sets in Ireland to contribute to understanding and enhancing philanthropic giving in Ireland. A promising development to improve the data on philanthropy in Ireland was launched in June 2015. Benefacts, reports to be ‘Ireland’s Nonprofit Data Portal’ (Benefacts Web site, 2015) and aimed to bring together data from multiple public sources in an accessible format. Funded through a multiple of private philanthropic sources along with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Benefacts may prove to offer a clear and comparable picture of philanthropy in the Irish nonprofit sector.


[1] St Angela’s College, Sligo

[2] Trinity College Dublin

[3] See, for example, Donoghue et al., 2007 (fundraising); Daly, 2008 (nonprofit landscape); Prizeman and McGee, 2009 (fundraising); Donnelly-Cox and Cannon, 2010 (impact of financial crisis on philanthropy); Donnelly-Cox, O’Regan and McHugh, 2012 (corporate philanthropy); INKEx, 2012 (analysis of nonprofit annual reports); Eikenberry and Breeze, 2014 (giving circles); Kelleher and Millar, 2013 (fundraising); The Wheel, 2014 (Irish nonprofits landscape); Russell Brennan Keane, 2012 (analysis of Irish nonprofits survey on challenges facing the sector).


Gallo, M. & Donnely-Cox, G. (2017) Research on Giving in Ireland. In: Hoolwerf, L.K. & Schuyt, Th.N.M. (eds) Giving in Europe. The state of research on giving in 20 European countries. Amsterdam: Lenthe Publishers.

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