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News

2017: the year in numbers

More people are using benefacts.ie to learn about Irish nonprofits

It’s been a busy year for Benefacts.

Visitors to benefacts.ie grew 33% from 37,000 to more than 50,000 unique users, and user sessions grew from 40,000 to 72,000, with visitors to benefacts.ie typically spending nearly four minutes on the website. There were more than 11,600 downloads of documents published on the website – mostly nonprofits financial statements. This is up 50% on the number downloaded in 2016.

On average, people look at four separate webpages, and more than half used the search function, suggesting that people are actively interested in learning more about the purposes, governance and funding of specific nonprofits in Ireland. The most popular searches are still health, social services and the arts.

More than 1,000 new followers joined us on Twitter this year – thank you! – and there were nearly 4,000 readers of our blog series. The largest number of readers are interested in our 2017 sector analysis report, government funding disclosures, and trends in financial reporting by charities.

We’re engaging with users

Every month, about a dozen of the nonprofits listed on benefacts.ie contact us to offer more information, or to offer a correction or an update to their listing. Since everything we publish comes from what nonprofits themselves have filed with one or more of their regulators, we usually end up encouraging them to update the public record, which fairly quickly translates into an update on benefacts.ie.

Benefacts never scrapes the websites of nonprofits for any of their data but there are a few cases where we have agreed with charities that we will publish financial statements which they provide to us directly, because these are not yet released to the public by the Charities Regulator.  Contact us if you’d like to explore this option.

#checktheregister

We were very pleased to be asked to share the benefit of our search and design solutions to provide an enhanced online register of charities for the Charities Regulator’s own website. We built this for the Regulator in Q3 and it went live in October with significant enhancements to the functionality of charitiesregister.ie.

We have big plans for 2018

In Q1, watch out for some interesting new additions to the list of nonprofits in scope. We’ll publish our Annual Report for 2017, and we plan on undertaking a user survey in January – if you’d like to participate please contact us.

In Q2 , we’ll publish the second Benefacts Nonprofit Sector Analysis report, and we plan to launch it with a seminar for sector leaders, policy-makers and analysts.

In Q3, with the benefit of user feedback, we’ll release the next version of benefacts.ie, with enhanced functionality, data insights and other services.

And we’re delighted to have ongoing support from Government

We have made a funding agreement with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for three further years of financial support for our free public services and our developmental work to promote the evidence base for better policy and decision making by, for and with the nonprofit sector in Ireland.

2017 Round-up: the highs and lows of charity disclosure so far

Benefacts warmly welcomed the report of the Carmichael Centre’s annual Good Governance Awards, announced on 16th November during the Charities Regulator’s Trustees Week.

The awards celebrate high standards in published disclosures by charities, and make a direct connection between good governance and clear, transparent public information.

Use Benefacts to review the annual reports of the short-listed and winning charities in each category:

Category 1 – Organisations with an annual turnover of less than €250,000

Category 2 – Organisations with an annual turnover of between €250,000 and €1million

Category 3 – Organisations with an annual turnover of between €1million and €5million

Category 4 – Organisations with an annual turnover of over €5million

 

Trend in abridgement continues

At the same time as welcoming best practice at one end of the spectrum, we are disappointed to report that the number of incorporated charities that have prepared audited financial statements, but elected to publish these in an abridged form, now exceeds 34%. (We are still keying 2016 accounts so it possible this total percentage could change. Right now, the level of abridgement for all incorporated nonprofits – whether charities or non-charities – stands at 40%).

The filing of abridged accounts by companies limited by guarantee is now permitted under the Companies Act 2014. The choice to file accounts in this limited form represents a decision on the part of the members of these companies to withhold a significant body of financial transaction information from the public.

Given the findings of the recent Amárach survey – published at the recent CII conference – showing that public trust in charities is still very low, it seems that charities are not acting in a way that promotes their self-interest. How can you expect people to trust you more when you tell them less?

 

List of charities publishing abridged accounts

For a list of those charities that have filed abridged accounts for 2016, click here.

To see the 2015 list, click here.

And for the small number of charities that are bucking the trend, by reverting to full published financial statements in 2016 – having previously published abridged ones – see here.

SORP adoption in Ireland

SORP or SORP-ish?

Most people in the nonprofit sector are by now aware of Charities SORP.  This is a standard for financial reporting specifically devised to make the financial transactions of charities more transparent especially in terms of how and where charities have raised their funds and how the funds have been used.

Adoption of charities SORP is promoted as best practice by sector leaders and it forms one piece of the “Triple Lock” standard.  This is seen by the Charities Institute of Ireland as fundamental to restoring trust in charities (the other two elements of the triple lock are the Governance Code and the Statement of Guiding Principles for Fundraising).

Benefacts is the only source of information about which charities use the SORP standard in Ireland, where its adoption is still voluntary.  The Charities Regulator will be coming out soon with a mandatory financial reporting standard for Irish charities, generally expected to follow the FRS 102 Charities SORP quite closely.

By reviewing what all charities actually report in their annual published financial statements, Benefacts is able to provide a detailed picture about the emergence of higher reporting standards, which has never been available before now.

Currently, 488 organisations in the Benefacts database of Irish nonprofits say that they follow the charities SORP reporting standard. But on closer inspection, 87 of these have chosen to adopt some of the features of SORP and only 401 can in fact be seen to be fully in compliance in terms of the accounting policies as specificied by the SORP-making body authorised by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC).  Benefacts has used this compliance standard as verified by the entity’s auditors as the benchmark for reporting Charities SORP compliance in the future.

Interestingly, a handful (17) of nonprofits that have adopted Charities SORP are not yet publicly registered as charities in Ireland.

In 2015, the total number of SORP reporters whose accounts are publicly accessible represented 9% of all registered charities. Here’s the list.  We’ll report on trends in SORP adoption again in our 2018 Sector Analysis Report.

Benefacts.ie is the only source of up to date analysis of all nonprofits (charities or otherwise) adopting the three standards (SORP, Governance Code and Statement of Guiding Principles for Fundraising). Use the facets on the left-hand side of the Benefacts search results screen to select which reporting standard you’re interested in – see image for example.

Benefacts nonprofit sector annual analysis 2017. (LtoR) Ian Brady, Head of Davy Charities and Not-for-Profit Group, Niamh Gallagher CEO Drinkaware and Diarmaid O'Corrbui, CEO Carmichael Centre

Ian Brady comments on how essential it is to measure the impact of this sector

‘It’s a huge quantum of the sector that no one has been covering’

Ian Brady, Head of Davy Charities and Not-for-Profit Group, Davy Ireland, commented on how refreshing it was to have access to the most up to date information on the sector, and how he thinks this report will gain momentum in the years to come as a measurement of the impact of this sector on society. Listen to what he had to say here.

(LtoR) Adrienne Regan (Davy), Ian Duffy (former chairman of the board at Benefacts), Éilis Murray (Philanthropy Ireland) and Kingsley Aikins (Diaspora Matters) pictured at the launch of the inaugural annual Benefacts Nonprofit Sector Analysis in the Royal Irish Academy on Friday, 28th April 2017. This benchmark report by Benefacts is the most comprehensive analysis ever undertaken of nonprofit organisations in Ireland, including registered charities. View the report at www.Benefacts.ie/analysis.

Éilis Murray welcomes benchmark information on Philanthropic giving

“Philanthropic giving accounts for at least €83.4m annually.” #BeneFACTS17

Philanthropy in Ireland is in its infancy. It is a small, young yet extremely productive sector. The majority of funds and organisations have only been set up in the last 25 years.

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.

Éilis Murray is CEO of Philanthropy Ireland, a member and knowledge-based organisation for the philanthropic sector. She has over 25 years’ experience in the Not-for-Profit Sector working with and for several small teams. A Director of Oakfield Trust, Éilis is currently completing a Masters in Philanthropic Studies.

 

Read the Benefacts Nonprofit Sector Analysis 2017 here.