Non-profit organisations play a crucial role in Ireland’s social and economic life. They are extremely diverse – ranging from small community groups like retirement associations and sports clubs to large national organisations working in areas such as healthcare, education, social housing and poverty relief. In the middle is a vast array of small-and medium-sized groups – radical and conservative, single-issue and all-encompassing.
The unifying tie that binds these groups together is that they all exist to change peoples’ lives for the better. Collectively, these organisations are often referred to as the community and voluntary sector, or the non-profit sector. Yet, for all their significance in providing essential services and supporting communities, we know relatively little about the day-to-day challenges faced by these organisations. Whilst the work of the former Irish Non-profit Knowledge Exchange (INKEx) considerably increased our knowledge of the scale and extent of non-profit activity in Ireland, there were still substantial gaps in our knowledge of this vital and diverse sector.
Thanks to the INKEx project we know that in 2009 there were at least 11,700 organisations employing over 100,000 people, involving over 560,000 volunteers in their work, and managing turnover of €5.75bn. If we bear in mind
that Irish GNP in 2010 was about €130bn, then the community and voluntary sector accounts for over 3.25% of national income (see Appendix A). Yet the dearth of more detailed information on the nature of activity in the non-profit sector and the challenges faced by organisations in sustaining their missions in the economic downturn mean that to date, policymakers and other decision-makers have had to base crucial decisions on conjecture.
To bridge this gap, The Wheel commissioned the research on which this report is based. The findings tell us a great deal more about the sector and will aid decision makers to design policies and strategies that will help the non-profit sector to thrive and fulfil its role in Ireland’s social and economic recovery.
The purpose of this report is to ensure that the information gathered in the research is made available and interpretable by policy makers, academics, funders, non-profits and other interested stakeholders, including the public and the media. We are confident that this report will come to play its part in ensuring that community and voluntary organisations are appreciated and valued for the contribution they are making to national life, and that they have available to them the services and supports necessary to fulfil their missions.
The Wheel would like to thank Crowe Horwath Ireland for supporting the publication of this report. We are also grateful to the 500 people in non-profit organisations who gave generously of their time in completing the research questionnaire and in taking part in interviews. The Wheel would also like to extend our gratitude to RSM McLure Watters, NICVA and Whitbarn Consulting who undertook the ambitious research. And lastly, we would also like to thank Patricia Quinn of INKEx who generously gave permission for the INKEx data to be included in this report, an inclusion which has enriched the report considerably.
This report is drawn from the research report compiled by RSM McClure Watters. The extended report entitled Ireland's Nonprofit Sector: The Big Picture
can be dowloaded here
This publication is sponsored by:
The research on which this report is based was part-funded by:
The research was conducted between October 2011 and March 2012.
4,500 independent nonprofit organisations (drawn from The Wheel's database of over 10,000 organisations) were targeted. Over five hundred completed surveys were received, representing a response rate of over 11%.
The key strands of the research included the following complimentary work streams:
Online survey of nonprofit organisations
Organisations that are both independently governed and not-for-profit were eligible to take part in the survey. A comprehensive questionnaire was designed by RSM McClure Watters in conjunction with The Wheel, including piloting with a focus group of community and voluntary sector organisations. The total number of completed surveys which were analysed was 506.
Interviews with Stakeholders
A stakeholder consultation map was developed in conjunction with The Wheel; this included key government departments, umbrella bodies, funders, professional associations and others. Stakeholders’ views presented in the report are concerned with key challenges at three levels (societal, sectoral and organisational), resultant support areas, and potential means of delivering that support.
Thesurvey design was underpinned by desk review of relevant policy and strategic context information. The report also draws some comparisons between this research and previous research into the sector in Ireland as well as comparisons with studies in other jurisdictions. This report represents an overview of the findings of the above research, and is thus a small sample of a larger body of research.
Crowe Horwath Ireland provided additional analyisis of the data.