Report Shows High Importance of Nonprofits to Ireland Inc

Valuable “pre-Covid” Snapshot of Sector Essential to Fabric of Irish Society

The nonprofit sector has never been more sizeable or more central to Irish society, according to a new report published today by Benefacts. The impact of the coronavirus, however, has created an unprecedented situation with significant challenges and major questions around the continued delivery of services, fundraising, employment and even the sustainability of some nonprofits.

Key findings from the report include:

  • At least 32,841 nonprofits in Ireland – including charities, trusts, non-governmental organisations, professional bodies, sports and cultural organisations
  • Government funding to the sector – which includes fees for the provision of services, as well as grants – grew by 13% from €5.3 billion to €5.9 billion year-on-year
  • Reported fundraising and donations across the sector increased by 6% from €900m to €955m
  • Total employment in the sector rose to 165,075
  • Aggregate turnover grew by 9.5% from €13 billion to €14.2 billion year-on-year, mainly within a handful of larger organisations
  • A sector of extremes - 150 big organisations (turnover in excess of €12 million), 10,000 small and 20,000 local clubs or societies
  • Nonprofit start-ups outnumbered wind-ups nearly 2:1, with 540 new nonprofit start-ups
  • More than 86,500 people from all walks of life serving as board members.

The report, which is based on an analysis of the publicly available returns of more than 10,000 Irish nonprofits, was launched today by video seminar with contributions from Stephen Kinsella, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Limerick, Patricia Quinn, Managing Director and Founder of Benefacts, and Tom Boland, Chair of Benefacts and former Chief Executive at the Higher Education Authority of Ireland.

According to Patricia Quinn, Ireland takes the first tentative steps this week to reopen society at a time when the importance and value of the non-profit sector has never been clearer.

“Like the rest of society, the nonprofit sector has been thrown into chaos by the coronavirus pandemic. Health and social care providers in residential settings are on the frontlines, but the impacts are not limited to them. Thousands of nonprofits involved in homelessness relief, sheltered and social housing, services for children, families and older people are deeply concerned about their capacity to deliver for vulnerable communities.

“The economic impact is potentially catastrophic, with sector leaders reporting a dramatic fall-off in donations and for some - for example in the performing arts - a total collapse in their revenues.

”The €14.2 billion social economy makes an incalculable contribution to our wellbeing, which goes far beyond what can be measured by the numbers – 165,000 in employment, nearly €6bn in public funding and a quarter of the adult population involved as volunteers. Yet the numbers matter – what gets measured gets managed.

“Our data offers a highly detailed view of these organisations before the pandemic hit, based on the financial statements and other filings they published to their various regulators,” said Ms Quinn.

Associate Professor of Economics Stephen Kinsella said that Benefacts was a rare thing in Ireland’s political and economic life.

“Benefacts offers us a database of behaviour at the level of the organisation itself, with everything from turnover to full-time employees to governance structure, searchable and freely available to all. In the 21st Century we require policy to be made using rigorous evidence informing politicians and civil servants. Benefacts is that evidence for a vital part of our economy. A comparable database of private sector firms, or even just the banking sector, would be worth its weight in gold. And imagine if we had one for non-commercial semi-states,” said Professor Kinsella.

Ms Quinn said that while the nonprofit sector was facing unprecedented challenges, it had a track record of resilience. The recent emergency €40 million funding package provided by Government would buy some much-needed breathing space, and was an important signal that the sector is valued.

“The public service has rightly been applauded for the exceptional agility with which it has responded to COVID-19 and its unprecedented economic impacts. More of this creativity will be needed in working with the sector to tackle the challenges of rebuilding the social economy. Government is not just the biggest source of funding for the nonprofit sector - as policy-maker and regulator it sets the framework in which about 10,000 professionalised nonprofits do their work.

“The Government’s Covid-19 Stability Fund funding package is welcome and will give some nonprofits time to review, regroup and renew their operations. Hard decisions may need to be taken, but these are resilient organisations, many of which have been around for decades and have weathered many storms. They are evidence of a mindful society. Our political leaders would do well to tap their wisdom as it plots the recovery of our economy,” concluded Ms Quinn.

Download the Full Report

Additional Findings from the Sector Analysis include:

  • Just 60 large organisations (defined as turning over more than €40 million per annum) had a combined turnover of €8.2 billion and employed 74,457 people. This includes 22 higher education institutions, 14 hospitals or hospices, several large international development aid charities, as well as some sports bodies, major providers of social care and disability services and one Catholic diocese.
  • There are 85 medium-sized organisations (turning over between €12 - €40 million pa) with a combined turnover of €1.7 billion and which employed a total of 15,836 people. This sub-sector includes social care providers, religious congregations and dioceses, healthcare providers, higher education institutions, professional associations, international development aid and social housing providers.
  • There are 1,275 small-sized organisations (turning over between €700,000 - €12 million pa) with a combined turnover of €3.1 billion and which employed a total of 44,985 people. This sub-sector includes larger arts, sports and heritage venues and companies, health, homelessness, local development, social care and overseas development aid NGOs. It also includes Leader/Partnership companies, private schools, sports governing bodies, social housing providers, larger professional institutes, hospital and university fundraising foundations, dioceses, religious orders and political parties.
  • There are 8,937 micro organisations (turning over between €0 and 700,000 pa) with a combined turnover of €1.2 billion and which employed a total of 29,707 people. This sub-sector includes a diverse range of organisations, encompassing social enterprise, advocacy and campaigning organisations, local development associations, local cultural and sporting organisations, fundraising charities and small foundations.
  • There are another 22,484 nonprofits from whom there is no publicly available accounts, turnover or employment data. This sub-sector mostly includes schools, parishes, associations and clubs
  • Fewer than 1% of the more than 98,000 people working in independent nonprofits enjoy the benefit of higher pay (more than €70k)
  • More than 86,500 people serving on the boards of nonprofits - 57% male and 43% female
  • The average age of all nonprofit directors/charity trustees is 57.

About Benefacts: Founded in 2014, Benefacts provides Ireland’s only comprehensive and publicly-available database of civil society, nonprofit and voluntary organisations in Ireland. Benefacts promotes the transparency of Irish nonprofits, by giving free online access to regulatory, financial and governance data about the sector in Ireland.

Who funds Benefacts: Benefacts is a registered nonprofit, which receives funding from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, The Ireland Funds, other government agencies and philanthropists.

Where the data comes from: Benefacts has created the Database of Irish Nonprofits from the publicly available regulatory filings of Ireland’s entire population of nonprofit companies including registered charities. This year’s report utilises the 2018 financial statements of 10,357 nonprofits filed during 2019.

Who uses the data: Benefacts’ information is used by sector leaders, policymakers, public bodies, statisticians and analysts, the media and the general public to enable informed decisions and views on Ireland’s nonprofit sector.

General Info

Date Entered/Updated
29th May, 2020
Expiry Date
27th Jul, 2020