Thursday 19th January 2017: Participants representing a number of philanthropic organisations in Ireland met in the Irish Architectural Archive to discuss the top line findings of research which was undertaken in November 2016, focusing on the philanthropy in Ireland.
The survey undertaken in Ireland, is part of the international research being led by the Harvard Kennedy School at Harvard University.
Dr Gemma Donnelly Cox (TCD) walked participants through her findings before painting a picture of the landscape of philanthropy in Ireland. Deirdre Mortell (Social Innovation Fund) then gave her initial response to the research, before the floor was opened for general comments.

The event was an opportunity to discuss the results of the recent survey, although part of an overall global project, with a wholly Irish emphasis.


The last time research of this calibre was undertaken in Ireland was in 2007. Hence, we have had a vacuum of understanding of the wider philanthropy sector in Ireland for a decade. During this time, practitioners have been working on countless projects, and developing philanthropy without any collective understanding of the philanthropic space in the country.

Dr Donnelly Cox’s research has shed light on the field as a whole, providing aggregated data from the 26 respondents who provided details of their organisational information, governance and employment, financial resources, organisational focus, operation strategies, and evaluation and reporting. The results have provided a snapshot of the philanthropy sector in Ireland.

The top line results have painted the picture of a small, young, yet extremely productive sector. The majority of the organisations surveyed have been set up since 1990, and contribute to a number of focus areas, with the most significant value being added to education (post-secondary) and health in Ireland. Specifically, the total gifts for the year surveyed of 21 respondents who shared their financial information, equated to over €34 million. These funds are being allocated to a variety of focus areas within Ireland.


Points from the floor rightly recognised that there is a lot of work to be done, and cooperation needed, if we are to achieve the kind of understanding we want, and need, to develop philanthropy in Ireland. There is also a need to understand the source of donations being made (e.g. are donations primarily from within Ireland or are they being received from abroad).

The overarching conclusion from the event was that not only is this type of study extremely useful for those of us working in the philanthropy sector, but more research of this nature needs to take place, increasing the response rate, to allow us to better understand the environment we are working in.

Those in the space must now work to build on the knowledge allowed through this overview of philanthropy in Ireland. As the research has emphasised, philanthropy in Ireland is in its infancy. We work in a small sector, with the majority of funds and organisations having only been set up in the past 25 years.

It would not be constructive to wait another 10 years before we survey Ireland’s philanthropy landscape again. We must work together to build on our knowledge, so that we can develop our own work, and the sector as a whole.

Philanthropy Ireland envisages using this initial study as a starting point, to recognise key trends in the sector and identify a research agenda for the near future.

If you would like to discuss the results of this study or receive more information on it, please contact:

Blog by Thelma Harris, PI staff