Tag: nonprofits

Patricia Quinn hosts a masterclass on good governance at The Wheel Conference 2017

This morning MD of Benefacts, Patricia Quinn hosted a masterclass on governance at The Wheel’s Annual Conference 2017. Entitled ‘Transparency in Action -Disclosure Practices in Irish Charities Today’, Patricia talked about the latest regulations and best practice in governance for the nonprofit and charity sector in Ireland. View full presentation here

Mary Sutton on why detailed data is essential for informed discussions about nonprofits

‘It’s importance will grow year-on-year-it’s a really important input into an informed conversation about where we want to go’

Mary Sutton, Country Director for the Republic of Ireland at The Atlantic Philanthropies, attended the Sector Analysis launch and commented on the timeliness of this information, and how the detailed trend data will help inform discussion about nonprofits, charities and philanthropies in Ireland.

Benefacts nonprofit sector annual analysis 2017. (LtoR) Caitriona Fottrell (The Ireland Funds), Kevin Daly (Dept of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation) and Mary Sutton (Atlantic Philanthropies) pictured at the launch of the inaugural annual Benefacts nonprofit sector analysis 2017 in the Royal Irish Academy on Friday, 28th April. 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.

Benefacts Nonprofit Sector Analysis 2017: a perspective from Caitriona Fottrell


“Really ground-breaking”

Caitriona Fottrell is Vice President and Director (Ireland) of The Ireland Funds, one of Benefacts’ funders and long-time supporters.  She felt that the report revealed important information and would prove ground-breaking for the sector. 


Read Benefacts Nonprofit Sector Analysis 2017

Benefacts releases the most comprehensive ever analysis of Irish nonprofits

A major new report on Irish nonprofits was launched today by Mr Paschal Donohoe TD, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. Using public data derived from more than 8,000 nonprofit company reports for 2013, 2014 and 2015 in Ireland, Benefacts has identified some key trends in the sector which today employs almost 150,000 people, turns over nearly €11bn annually and accounts for 8% of all current Exchequer expenditure.

Also speaking at the event was the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly and Patricia Quinn, Benefacts MD.

Among the key findings of the report:

* 310 charities and other nonprofits delivering public services as quasi-public bodies receive more than 70% of the €5.3bn which the Government commits in funding annually to the sector (these are the higher education bodies, voluntary hospitals and local service providers and are listed on benefacts.ie/news)

* In this sector, just over 1% of people receive more than €70,000 in annual remuneration compared to 12.8% in the workforce at large, and most of the higher-paid people are working in quasi-public bodies where their salaries are linked to public sector pay scales

* Disclosure standards in 2015 have fallen, with 23% of all charities opting to file abridged financial statements, which provide no information about the sources of their income

Speaking at the launch, Mr Paschal Donohoe TD, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform said:

“It gives me great pleasure to have been invited here today to officially launch the Benefacts Analysis of Irish nonprofits 2017. The sector turns over nearly €11bn annually, half of which comes from State funding, with the sector employing close to 150,000 people. The work undertaken by Benefacts significantly enhances the effectiveness of Government’s – and wider society’s – interaction with the nonprofit sector. This delivers major benefits to us all in terms of transparency, governance, regulation and, importantly, policy making.”

Benefacts founder and MD Patricia Quinn commented:

“When you consider that nonprofits constitute at least 10% of all of the organisations in Ireland, it’s remarkable that it has taken so long to give them the recognition they deserve. Thanks to new charity regulation, new company reporting standards and consistent government commitment to Open Data principles, we are now able to bring some transparency to a sector that has languished in the shade for too long. We have committed to making this an annual report, disclosing key trends and helping to restore trust in Ireland’s civil society organisations.”

Explore Benefacts Analysis now.

Download a PDF of the report.

What do we mean by ‘Civil Society’ and ‘Nonprofit’?

We often get asked what is meant by the terms ‘Civil Society’ and ‘Nonprofit’ so let’s take a closer look at both the origin and meaning of these terms.

Civil society refers to the collective body of organisations that belong neither to government (the public sector) or the market (the private sector).

Nonprofit refers to individual organisations set up on a not-for-profit basis. This is a very wide definition that includes charities, community and voluntary organisations, non-governmental organisations, but also political, professional and membership bodies.

As many are not incorporated, we don’t describe them as companies.  Likewise, we don’t call them charities if they haven’t yet registered as such with the Charities Regulator. All charities by definition are nonprofits, but not all nonprofits are charities because the law actually excludes certain categories of nonprofit including sports bodies, trades unions and political parties.

So where did these terms come from?

In the 1990s, at Johns Hopkins University in the US, the Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project (CNP) built a framework to carry out comparative analysis of the scope, structure, financing and impact of nonprofit activity by civil society organisations globally.  This framework was subsequently adopted by the United Nations (UN).

The CNP produced two really important outputs:

  1. A definitive way to identify a nonprofit and
  2. A classification system grouping nonprofits according to their purpose.

How to identify a nonprofit: 5 core attributes

Organised: means organised or institutionalised to some extent. What is important is not that the organisation be registered or legally recognised, but that it have some institutional reality with a legal charter of incorporation. This excludes ad hoc or temporary gatherings of people with no real structure or organisational identity.

Private: means institutionally separate from government.This does not mean that nonprofit organisations may not receive significant government support or that government officials cannot sit on their boards. Rather, they must be “nongovernmental” in the sense of being structurally separate from the instrumentalities of government and they not exercise governmental authority.

Non-profit distributing: means not returning any surpluses generated to members or owners. Nonprofit organisations may accumulate a surplus in a given year, but this must be reinvested into the basic mission of the agency and not distributed to the organisation’s owners, members, founders or governing board.

Self-governing: means equipped to control their own activities. Some organisations that are private and nongovernmental may nevertheless be so tightly controlled either by governmental agencies or private businesses that they essentially function as parts of these other institutions even though they are structurally separate.  To meet this criterion, organisations must control their activities to a significant extent, have their own internal governance procedures, and enjoy a meaningful degree of autonomy.

Voluntary: means involving some meaningful degree of voluntary participation. This involves two different, but related conditions: (1) the organisation must engage volunteers in its operations and management either on its board or through the use of volunteer staff and voluntary contributions; and (2) “voluntary” also carries the meaning of “non-compulsory”. Organisations in which membership is required or otherwise stipulated by law are excluded from the nonprofit sector. These include some professional associations that require membership in order to be license to practice a trade or profession.

A classification system for nonprofits: 12 subsectors

Although the classification framework has divided nonprofits into 12 subsectors, it is still a very broad classification as it covers organisations of all kinds – local and national, small and large, religious and secular, professional and amateur, incorporated and unincorporated.

In order to fit the Irish context, we have adapted this classification system, dividing our database into 12 sub-sectors, as outlined below.


The following provides examples from each subsector:

Subsector Example entity
1.  Arts, Culture, Media Adare Heritage Trust
2.  Recreation, Sports North Mayo Show
3.  Education, Research Clare Music Academy
4.  Health Muscular Dystrophy Society of Ireland
5.  Social Services Glenamaddy Community Care Limited
6.  Development, Housing Enfield CE Limited
7.  Environment Bat Conservation Ireland
8.  Advocacy, Law, Politics Women for Election Limited
9.  Philanthropy, Voluntarism NRH Foundation
10.  International Zikomo Limited
11.  Religion Patrician Brothers Irish Province
12.  Professional, Vocational Waterford Chamber of Commerce

We are continually updating our database, and periodically we add new groups of organisations read here for more information on how we collect data.  Likewise, we are always trying to improve the search and explore experience for users of our website – please submit your feedback here.