The Philanthropy Research Landscape in Ireland: Navigating towards a national direction and global destination


Research on philanthropy in Ireland is limited.
The ERNOP (European Research Network on Philanthropy) Giving in Europe factsheet rates the Irish research as a little more encouraging, with Ireland populating the middle ‘representative’ band of participating countries. Any new insights into philanthropy in Ireland is welcome by the wider sector.

On Thursday 19th of January 2017, Philanthropy Ireland invited a group of philanthropic foundations and researchers to Dublin to present the first insights into the recent survey on philanthropy.
Dr. Gemma Donnelly-Cox of the Centre for Nonprofit Management at Trinity College Dublin presented her research findings based on the survey of Irish foundations as part of the pilot Global Philanthropy Report (GPR), coordinated by the Kennedy School at Harvard University. The response rate to the survey was very small, even as the number of foundations in Ireland is proportionally smaller than other countries of its size. However, the research still offers wealth of information on the organisation, governance, financial resources, operational strategies and scope of philanthropic foundations and giving in Ireland.

Some of the interesting findings from the first analysis of the research data include:

  • Two-thirds of the foundations that responded to the survey were established since 1990, demonstrating both the growth of the sector in Ireland in the past generation along with the interest these newer foundations show by participating in this research
  • The total assets held by the respondent foundations is approximately €326 million, with almost half of this (46% or €153 million) by independent foundations, the remaining with community (€74 million), corporate (€55 million) and family (€44 million) foundations.
  • Grants and scholarships are largely the way in which respondents distribute funding and the beneficiaries span a wide range of functional areas and key demographics.

This is the first time in a decade that Ireland has had any research of this kind on philanthropy.

It was clear from the discussion following the presentation, including the comments by invited discussant Deirdre Mortell (Social Innovation Fund), that there is an interest from the wider sector to set a strong research agenda.
It is hoped that any new evidence could contribute to informing the next direction for State policy in the area of philanthropy. This is especially important as the mandate for the State supported Forum on Philanthropy and Fundraising expired at the end of 2016.
In addition, this survey was conducted following the exit of two significant foundations in Ireland: Atlantic Philanthropies and the One Foundation, thus, this survey demonstrates the continued vibrancy of the sector.

By Philanthropy Ireland with Trinity College Dublin deciding to participate in the GPR offers an impetus to collecting this detailed data on foundations, and will allow for international comparisons with other participating countries worldwide.


A short review by Dr Maria Gallo- St Angela’s College, Sligo – NUI Galway.