Charitable Irish tighten their belts across 30 years

Average amount donated grew between 1987 and 2004 but sharp decline since, notes report

The poorest people are found to be significantly more generous than the richest when donations are considered relative to disposable income.

The poorest people are found to be significantly more generous than the richest when donations are considered relative to disposable income.

 

In 1985, the generosity of Irish people was praised when Bob Geldof announced the nation had handed over more money per capita to Live Aid than anywhere else.

But since then, something has changed. A new report examining the charity of the Irish has found that in the 30 years to 2015 donations as a proportion of household expenditure has been steadily declining.

In 1987, two years after Geldof’s famous television appeal for cash – “Don’t go to the pub tonight, stay in and give us the money” – 79 per cent of households were found to have made charitable donations. By 2015, that figure had dwindled to just 38 per cent.

The data, presented in one of two reports published on Monday by the Government funded non-profit Benefacts, is mined from annual Household Budget Surveys, produced by the Central Statistics Office.

Examining three decades of trends, it found the average amount donated grew between 1987 and 2004 but declined sharply since.

The average value of weekly household donations rose from €4.25 in 1987 to a high of €7.50 in 2004 – in line with high economic growth – but fell to about €3.75 by 2015.

The poorest are found to be significantly more generous than the richest when donations are considered relative to disposable income.

Older people and those with higher levels of education and disposable income are also more likely to put a hand in their pockets.

So too are those living in rural locations, married people and women; all more likely to give, and give considerably more.

Religious causes

Another social shift from the 1980s is that the level of giving to religious causes has also declined as a share of total donations.

“While this data is only available up until 2004, a declining trend is evident, with church donations representing 81 per cent of total donations in 1987 and 61 per cent in 2004,” noted the report.

Benefacts has also published a first listing of philanthropies in Ireland “to help inform the public about a sector that for too long has been served by little hard data”.

It gives detail of 164 philanthropic entities providing combined annual grants of €65 million. That number represents one entity per 30,108 Irish citizens.

According to Benefacts however, that ratio pales in comparison to other countries of a similar size. It offers Finland as an example, which has 537 registered foundations, or one per 10,316 citizens

Most Irish philanthropic institutions are small, with only 12 distributing funds in excess of €1 million per year.