The future of Benefacts is uncertain. Find out more

9 June, 2020

On 21st May Benefacts launched its fourth annual non-profit sector report with a webinar involving 145 sector leaders, public officials, researchers, analysts and professional service providers to nonprofits.

 

To everyone who joined us on 21st May, thank you for being there. If you couldn’t make it, see the video. The report was accompanied by a long read about the sector – the first of a number we plan to publish this year.

Lots of questions got asked and answered on the day, here are some we didn’t get to. Keep the questions coming – we cherish this annual opportunity to sit down with our peers in the sector and we have plans to launch further long reads in an interactive way.

 

How can Benefacts get more value from the data available?

Benefacts data model is the re-use of public administrative data. A surprising amount of useful information can be harvested from structured and unstructured documents, but only if they are made available by a public authority under Open Data regulations.

Benefacts works mainly with governance and financial compliance data because it’s produced according to certain standards, which bring consistency and comparability. Narrative data is harder to use, because by its nature it is non-standard. We have made a start on harvesting and analysing it, and will make direct contact with the sector leaders – in disability care, social housing and international development aid – who have raised these questions to show them what we have in mind.

  

What is the level of available reserves in the sector?

The short answer is, it’s hard to say. The best-in-class financial reporting standard (Charities SORP) was used on a voluntary basis by 712 Irish charities in 2018, and provides a detailed insight into their financial health. We’ll do some further analysis and return to the question of reserves within this group – so long as there is consistency in how they report restricted and unrestricted income from different sources – in a future blog.

At the other end of the spectrum what we can say for sure is that in 2018 – when times were better than they are today – there were 642 nonprofit companies with negative reserves (where liabilities exceed the value of assets).

 

What are the main gaps in the data?

There are two.  The non-availability of the financial statements of charities (excluding private charitable trusts) that are not companies creates the biggest gap in our analysis. It means we are missing detailed financial, governance and employment data on 2,065 charities. The largest 100 of these alone – mostly religious and philanthropic bodies – have an aggregate turnover at €1bn.

The second gap arises from the abridgement of financial statements by nonprofit companies – charities and non-charities alike. Every small company prepares detailed financial statements and – if the entity is in receipt of State funds – this is the form in which they must be provided to State funders. These are not public documents even though they are accounting for the receipt of public money. At the same time, small nonprofit companies, even charities, are free to file an abridged set of the same accounts to the Companies Registration Office, which is where members of the public – including Benefacts – are able to access them. This is accountability without transparency.

 

What are the trends in the gender profile of people working in the sector?

A gender analysis of nonprofit directors is published here in our sector report – analysed by sector and sub-sector. Benefacts has no data on nonprofit executives but the Community Foundation and The Wheel have an update to their regular employment survey report forthcoming on the gender pay gap.

 

If you’d like to see Benefacts data on your own nonprofit organisation, learn more about our new free business intelligence reports.

If you have more questions or ideas, or would like to receive a copy of the launch presentation, feel free to contact us.

Benefacts future is uncertain

At the end of July the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) wrote to say that they would provide no further funding for Benefacts after our current funding agreement expires on 31st December.

According to Minister Michael McGrath’s officials, the project “has met its initial policy rationale of assisting the development of a market for data on the nonprofit sector by stimulating demand from public bodies for such data”.

Despite our strenuous representations, DPER officials reconfirmed earlier this week that “this Department will not be providing further grants to Benefacts in 2021 following the expiration of the current Funding Agreement”. Accordingly the Board had no choice but to commence arrangements for winding up the company and terminating contracts including those with our 20 staff (15 full-time equivalents).