A new website aiming to bring transparency to the finances of more than 18,600 civil society organisations in Ireland goes live today.
The free-to-access Benefacts website, which carries information on a range of bodies including charities, schools, sports clubs, museums and religious groups, has been developed over the course of three years at a cost of €4 million.
Designed to make Irish civil society more transparent, it aims to provide a one-stop-shop for those seeking core data on the sector.
The data comprises information already published by bodies such as the Companies Registration Office, which is then aggregated to make it searchable.
Each organisation is put into a sector using an internationally recognised classification system, and each sector can be analysed in terms of finance, employment and location.
Data on political parties and trade unions is in the process of being added.
Ireland’s non-profit sector employs more than 100,000 people, has an annual turnover of approximately €7 billion, and receives more than half its funding from the public purse.
The Benefacts project was funded by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in conjunction with Atlantic Philanthropies and The Ireland Funds, with the State providing half the funding.
The website will be launched today by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe.
In future years, new accounting rules will mean the financial data on the website will include the number of employees in each organisation that have an income of more than €60,000, with the numbers being organised into thresholds of €10,000. This feature will only apply to those organisations that file financial accounts.
Statements of the activities carried out by the organisations, to be prepared by non-profit organisations, will also be carried on the website.
The largest sector in terms of non-profit organisations is education and research (5,033, including individual schools), followed by recreation and sports (3,451), and housing/local development (2,943, including community groups).
The organisations that filed financial accounts declared the receipt of €3.4 billion in State funding in 2014. They received €136 million in philanthropic donations in 2014, down from €141 million in 2013.
There was a sharp drop in legacies, to €12.1 million from €20.4 million. Charity shops brought in €136 million, down from €141 million the previous year.
Dublin had the biggest number of non-profit organisations at 5,245, followed by Cork (1,988) and Galway (1,101). Longford had the smallest, at 201.
Non-profit organisations often have to file multiple reports to their various funders and regulatory bodies.
One of the suggestions from the Benefacts group is that a “tell us once” structure should be introduced to save organisations from the administrative cost and burden of supplying similar information to multiple parties.
Benefacts also says the existence of its database will allow for the tracking over time of changes in the non-profit sector to enable comparisons with other jurisdictions.