19 April, 2018

19th April 2018: Benefacts second sector analysis report published, incorporating new data from 9,000 local nonprofits and 63 international philanthropies.

When we started building the Database of Irish Nonprofits in 2015, we relied on all of the open data then available, and we were able to find almost 20,000 nonprofits on the registers of about half a dozen national public bodies. We reported on these in April 2017. This year, the number of nonprofits in the database has grown to 29,000, and two important new sources of data have informed our report.

The first is the registers of smaller local nonprofits that are now being compiled by Public Participation Networks in 31 local authority areas around the country, under the 2014 Local Government Act. With the benefit of information newly published on PPN websites, we have added 9,000 additional local clubs, societies and associations to the database, classified them, added a unique identifier and included the data in our 2018 Nonprofit Sector Analysis report – Understanding Ireland’s third sector. In another few months, these local nonprofits will be incorporated in the new version of benefacts.ie and added to the datasets that we provide to the Central Statistics Office and publish on the Government’s Open Data portal.

The second new source of data informing this year’s report is the Foundation Center in New York, whose President Brad Smith spoke at our launch in Dublin today 19th April 2018. Thanks to data harvested by his organisation from public sources – not just in the US but elsewhere around the world – we have been able for the first time to quantify philanthropic giving into the Irish nonprofit sector on the part of 63 overseas philanthropies whose aggregate giving – excluding the contributions from the Atlantic Philanthropies and the Ireland Funds – amounted to nearly €10m in the latest year for which we have a full set of data. Read more about the data in our 2018 report here.

Speaking at the launch, Brad commented on a number of the aspects of transparency served by providing nonprofits and their stakeholders with a data infrastructure:

  1. He pointed out that public goods are no longer the sole province of the public sector, given resource constraints, the growing complexity of the societies in which we live and the challenges we face. The Third Sector in all its diversity is playing an ever important part in promoting the public good. We have good data on government and the private sector….we need to have just as good data on the nonprofit sector
  2. He said that the very diversity of the Third Sector makes collecting data on it a challenge. Different parts of it are regulated by different national and local government agencies, parts of it can be informal, and largely unregulated, and its organisational forms are evolving.
  3. When it comes to compiling data on the Third Sector, data beggars can’t be choosers, and we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The market and political pressures that drive data quality and data standards in the private and public sectors are only beginning to emerge in the “social sector.” The partnership between the Foundation Center in New York and Benefacts in Dublin accelerates the pace at which data is being collected, increases rigour and precision, shares techniques and technology for its cleaning and coding, and greatly enhances its comparability across national boundaries.
  4. Taken in a global context, Brad said that the new Benefacts Sector Analysis report – and the comprehensive view it gives us of Ireland’s Third Sector – stands out as something few countries have been able to achieve, outside of the Anglophone world. He painted a fascinating picture of the one prominent exception - China. There, state and provincial reporting requirements supplemented by a strong, independent organization which essentially cloned his organisation, the Foundation Center (with their cooperation) to produce searchable data, trend analysis, and solid research on the fast growing foundation and NPO sector. The combination of public reporting requirements and a strong, independent data and research organization like Benefacts have proven to be the essential ingredients, he said.
  5. Civil Society is where the values of compassion, empathy, sharing, and solidarity that hold societies together are practiced on a daily basis. The issues on which nonprofits work –human rights, anti-discrimination, homelessness, violence against women, or the arts –are essential to our wellbeing. Only by understanding the entire sector--how it works, what it does, and the financial flows that support it—can we learn what succeeds, what doesn’t, how to leverage each other’s efforts, and to work at scale.