Chief Executive, The Community Foundation for Ireland
Philanthropy is best summarised as transforming generosity into lasting impact, but at its best, can be a catalyst for positive social change. Our culture of philanthropy in Ireland is still underdeveloped compared to our neighbours in the UK and US and only accounts for 0.3% of our GDP, yet there are over 78,000 millionaires in Ireland today.
In Ireland, while we have a rich tradition and culture of giving, our levels of giving are much lower than our counterparts. The wealthiest 400 earners in Ireland account for around 10% of tax deducted giving while, in the UK or Germany, the comparative figure is closer to 30%.
Similarly, Irish people give an average of €233 annually compared to €395 in the UK, €386 in New Zealand and €1,122 in the US. There are only an estimated 50-100 active grant making foundation and charitable trusts in Ireland, compared to 8,000 in the UK.
Philanthropy in the present
The most recent data from 2016 indicates €103 million given by Irish and international philanthropic institutions to Irish nonprofits, however this represents a tiny fraction of the sector’s €12.1b turnover. The pool of philanthropic funding has gotten smaller with the closure of Atlantic Philanthropies and One Foundation leaving The Community Foundation for Ireland as one of Ireland’s largest grant making foundations.
The Community Foundation for Ireland was started in 2000 with a €1 million challenge grant from Government to grow a community foundation in Ireland. In 2019, we surpassed €50 million in grant making. In 2011 alone we gave out €1.5 million, yet this year we will give out almost €8 million. Currently, we have 73 active donor advised funds and manage a €43 million endowment fund, which we make grants from in our own right.
Within The Community Foundation for Ireland there has been growth in the number of donors moving to larger, more strategic donations along with other trends such as an increase in family philanthropy and female-led funds. However our culture of philanthropy in Ireland is still underdeveloped and only accounts for 0.3% of our GDP, yet there are over 78,000 millionaires in Ireland today.
Potential for philanthropy
There is a real need to provide specific incentives to support existing trusts and foundations and to encourage the growth of new ones. Effective policy to promote philanthropy does not exist. The opportunity to gather income, other than that taken in tax for good causes, is being lost. Ireland’s Charitable Tax Incentive Policy needs to change to better align with international best practice in encouraging higher levels of philanthropic and charitable giving. This measure will help to create a culture of giving larger donations and encourage the establishment and development of donor advised funds to invest in causes for public good.
There is great opportunity ahead for the growth and development of philanthropy in Ireland and there is good reason to be optimistic for the future. We are, once again, in a period of economic growth and Ireland is moving into an era we have not seen before: second generation wealth. It is estimated that the total intergenerational wealth transfer at death is currently running at an annual rate of €5.5-6bn, indicating a great potential for philanthropy in Ireland.
Over the next few years The Community Foundation for Ireland would love to see philanthropy flourishing in Ireland and to encourage more individuals, families, corporates and trusts and foundations to set up a fund and join with us in our mission to create a fair, caring and vibrant Ireland.