Company assessing country’s non-profit sector shuts after funding withdrawal

Benefacts received yearly financing of about €1.3 million from public and private sources

File photograph of Paschal Donohoe at the launch of the annual Benefacts non-profit sector analysis in 2017. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

File photograph of Paschal Donohoe at the launch of the annual Benefacts non-profit sector analysis in 2017. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

 

Benefacts, the data analytics company that assesses Ireland’s non-profit sector, has been forced to shut down following the withdrawal of Government funding.

The organisation had received average yearly financing of about €1.3 million from public and private sources since it was established in 2015 to report on a sector containing more than 10,000 non-profits, including charities.

Indications first arose in 2020 that the bulk of its support, from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, would dry up and that alternative finance streams would be essential to its survival.

On Thursday, the board announced that “due to the termination of support from its lead Government funder . . . its seven-year project to transform the transparency and digital accessibility of Ireland’s €14 billion non-profit sector will cease in February”.

Although some other public and philanthropic funding remains available, it said the future would be unviable without another Government department adopting a lead role. “None is prepared to do this,” it said.

Since its establishment, Benefacts had built a database of financial and other information on civil society, non-profit and voluntary organisations in Ireland. It had received two three-year blocks of financing until the first signs of waning interest from the Department of Expenditure began to emerge in 2020. At that point it employed about 20 people.

Its publicly accessible website and archive material will come offline in mid-February but it is understood this will be archived and remain available for research purposes.

The Department did not immediately comment on its funding decision. However, last month, Minister for Expenditure Michael McGrath said the decision to terminate its relationship was taken following a review in 2020 “which found that the business case for its continued funding of Benefacts was no longer justified”.

Since its establishment Benefacts was run with almost €9 million in funding – €6.35 million of which was sourced from the State and €2.54 million in philanthropic and other income.

With this its staff produced and maintained a database of 34,000 civil society organisations, a quarterly report to the Central Statistics Office and a website with free access to regulatory, financial and governance information.

“Before Benefacts was established, there was no data on which to build a reliable picture of Ireland’s highly diverse €14 billion sector of more than 34,000 non-profit organisations and their 165,000 employees,” its chairman Tom Boland said, announcing its end.