For the first time, the Benefacts Nonprofit Sector Analysis provides us with reliable data derived from available published sources on the status of philanthropic giving in Ireland. This is very welcome because it serves to highlight the role philanthropy plays in supporting civil society and the range of causes therein.
The published figure of €83.4m for 2015 is acknowledged to be an underestimation of the real level of philanthropic giving in Ireland, restricted as it is to the contributions from incorporated institutional philanthropies. Benefacts’ report notes that the figure does not include the giving of unincorporated philanthropic organisations which are registered as charities, but whose financial statements are not yet publicly available from the Regulator. Similarly, this figure does not reflect individual philanthropy or corporate giving. When these additional elements and sources of giving are included, they will contribute to painting a somewhat different picture of the sum of philanthropic giving in Ireland.
What is critically important, however, is that we now have a baseline of information.
The full picture can be developed and analysed further over time. This is essential not just for the nonprofit sector, but also for funders and donors, enabling them to better understand the profile of the sector they are operating within, and supporting them in making informed decisions.
Until now, a key challenge in the development of philanthropy in Ireland has been the limited amount of quality data to help people understand the value of the sector’s contribution to civil society so the Benefacts report is a wonderful starting point. If augmented and further developed to include all strata of philanthropic giving, it will serve to build a substantively informed and rounded picture of the role and value of philanthropy to civil society in Ireland.