Irish overseas volunteering remains strong despite recession

Economic value of volunteer activities abroad equates to €10 million in 2012, study shows

Ireland’s philanthropic spirit is continuing to thrive despite its economic difficulties, with the majority of Irish volunteer sending agencies reporting a rise in applications for overseas placements in the last five years.

An estimated 4,500 people participated in voluntary programmes in 2012, according to a survey to be published today by Comhlámh, an organisation for development workers.

Based on the length of the placement and the number of hours contributed, the economic value of the activities of overseas volunteers is estimated at about €10 million, or 0.01 per cent of Irish GDP last year.

“It is heartening to see that the level of support and concern about global poverty and inequality, and the desire to do something to contribute towards addressing these, are still strong in Ireland, in spite of our own current economic challenges,” the authors of the report conclude.


Financial support for the agencies also remains strong. Donations from the public and businesses, as well as fundraising events such as dinners and golf meetings, are the most common sources of funding reported by the organisations surveyed. Some 95 per cent operate on a not-for-profit basis.

State funding through Irish Aid is the third most common funding source, followed by philanthropic donations.

The sector is continuing to grow, with almost two-thirds of agencies surveyed established since 2000.

Ciara Kenny

Ciara Kenny

Ciara Kenny, founding editor of Irish Times Abroad, a section for Irish-connected people around the world, is Editor of the Irish Times Magazine