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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s been a while since we published any news about ourselves, so here’s an update!
We are delighted to have completed the negotiation of new three-year funding agreements with the Ireland Funds and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for our contribution to making the work of all Irish nonprofits more accessible and more transparent.
We’ve been working on our second annual sector analysis report, for publication mid-April. This year’s report will contain more analysis of Ireland’s philanthropy sector – watch this space.
We’ve welcomed some new staff to the executive team at Benefacts. Declan Burke has joined as principal data architect – he’ll be managing the transition to a data warehouse that is better adapted to the volume of data we’re processing, and the growing demands for data-related services. Myles Dolan is our new software design engineer – he’s working with Declan and with principal software engineer Jeff Eldridge to improve the quality and effectiveness of our data processes. Kate McCarthy has joined us as data analyst, bringing her extensive experience in data mining and interpretation to our growing ticket of analysis projects. And Paula Nyland has stepped up to a more senior management role, overseeing Benefacts operations as well as leading all of our financial analysis processes. See the full list of Benefacts people here.
We’ve initiated an overhaul of our website with many functional enhancements as well as significant volumes of additional data. We’ve had a lot of feedback since the site was originally launched nearly two years ago – if you’d like to offer any insights into how benefacts.ie could work better for you, please take our survey and look out for Benefacts.2 in the summer.
Finally, we have produced our own directors’ report and financial statements, completed the audit, held our Annual General Meeting and filed our 2017 return to the CRO. Download Benefacts latest annual report here.
Lots of people are interested to learn more about nonprofits working in the area of suicide prevention or support.
The Benefacts Database of Irish Nonprofits lists 48 nonprofits in Ireland whose main purpose is concerned with some aspect of suicide: prevention, counselling, research, public education or information. You can see the list here, and you can download their financial accounts and constitutions.
The public Register of Charities lists just 13 charities with “suicide” in their name, but there are 235 where the word is included among their charitable activities or beneficiaries. However, these include animal rescue charities, citizens and money advice centres, drugs task forces, faith bodies, family and youth centres, mountain and marine rescue bodies, volunteering centres and others whose primary purpose is not related to suicide prevention.
31 of the organisations listed on Benefacts are registered charities. Go to benefacts.ie to learn more about their purposes, their regulation, governance and financial profile, and to access their constitutional and financial reports.
What do we know?
Benefacts has aggregated the data that these 48 nonprofits have filed with various regulators or registers, and can provide some analysis:
1) Governance and operations
Of the 30 nonprofits for which detailed governance data is available, they report that:
they employed 153 full-time equivalent people in aggregate during 2014
Almost 50% of all suicide nonprofits are based in Dublin (20%), Cork (16%) or Kerry (10%). Here’s a graph showing the geographic distribution, or filter search results by location on benefacts.ie to learn more.
This post by Anna Visser is based on a talk on the same topic from Anna given at the Benefacts launch which you can listen to below.
I have been a member of the Benefacts stakeholder group over the past year or so. I joined the group not long after The Advocacy Initiative finished. The Advocacy Initiative was a civil society project (that I was lucky enough to run) that spent three years exploring the future of social justice advocacy and campaigning in Ireland.
There are similarities between what the Advocacy Initiative was trying to achieve and the ambitions of Benefacts. Both are about enabling the sector to respond to some of the challenges it faces; both have the potential to allow the sector to reimagine its role; and both seek to enhance understanding about the sector and its work.
Since going live this morning, Benefacts has received some queries about nonprofits’ listings on the website. Common concerns are to do with the names of company/charity directors or trustees, and the availability and interpretation of financial data.
Read answers to these frequently-asked questions below.
Names of directors/trustees can sometimes be out of date
Benefacts acquires the names of the directors of nonprofit companies from the Companies Registration Office. At present, there’s a backlog in the CRO’s registration of this data which means that newly-appointed directors are not yet listed on Benefacts, or recently-retired ones are still reported as being members of their respective Boards. The CRO are aware of the problem. Until it’s resolved, Benefacts redacts the name of the Director on the nonprofit’s listing on benefacts.ie on the written request of the organisation.
Exceptionally, the date of appointment of a director may have been mis-keyed at source, which results in false information appearing on Benefacts. Where a non-profit company gets in touch to point this out, or where Benefacts can see a clear anomaly, it redacts the data pending clarification with the CRO.