The Wheel's response to the challenges facing charities

Recent controversies have placed Ireland’s community, voluntary and charity sector under intense scrutiny. The Wheel has been working in the public domain as well as behind the scenes on numerous fronts to mitigate the negative impact of these very particular events on the sector’s work.

This page has been developed as an information resource for community, voluntary and charitable organisations. The aim is to provide our stakeholders with up-to-date information and practical advice on the challenges facing the sector. The page will be updated on a regular basis, so be sure to bookmark the link, and remember to check back regularly. 

Click on a heading to read further:

Updated on 15 July 2016

The Wheel has been working in the public domain as well as ‘behind the scenes’ on numerous fronts to mitigate the negative impact of these very particular events on the sector’s work. Our priority has been to ensure that no generalisations are made about the sector as a whole from developments involving a handful of organisations in one part of the sector. We have been doing this by providing balanced inputs in the media, correcting misconceptions whenever possible, and working with the Charity Regulator, relevant Government departments and other key actors to develop a way forward for the sector.

The Programme for Government commits to produce a strategy for the development of the community and voluntary sector, and we are working to encourage Government to expedite the production of this badly-needed strategy now. We need a clear framework for charities to operate in – one that recognises and values the role of community, voluntary and charitable organisations in Ireland today; one that resources their work adequately (and recognises the huge financial contribution they make to our health, social and community infrastructure) and one that regulates the sector sensitively. We call it delivering the ‘Three Rs for Charities’ and believe that it needs to find form in a coherent national strategy for the community, voluntary and charitable sector.

There is however much that we can do as individual community and voluntary organisations to contribute to sustaining public support for the sector, and we are calling on all organisations to:


  • Be transparent by publishing good quality information on the impact of their work, their finances, and their trustees on their websites.
  • Check that they have fully completed their organisation’s entry in the CRA’s Register of Charities, and that they have submitted their Annual Report to the Charity Regulator (all charities should have submitted their annual reports by this stage).
  • Adopt the Governance Code for Community, Voluntary and Charitable Organisations (or similar quality Code). Comply with the Statement of Guiding Principles for Fundraising (if they fundraise from the public).
  • Large charities should adopt the Statement of Recommended Practice for Financial Reporting by Charities (SORP).

We are also calling on the Charity Regulator to prioritise the development of activity and financial reporting standards for charities to ensure consistency in reporting about the finances, the impact, the governance and the fundraising work of all charities.

We believe that these actions by charities - alongside the full powers that the Charity Regulator is now getting - will underpin high levels of public trust and confidence in the sector.

Community, voluntary and charitable organisations are the very social fabric of our country. We know from the work of INKEx that over 50,000 volunteers give their unpaid time as trustees and board members to direct the work of our ca. 12,500 charities (a subset of Ireland’s 18,000 non-profit organisations). And, according to the latest data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the sector benefits from the support of over 1 million volunteers every year. Applying the relevant national minimum wage the value of this unpaid work would be over €2 billion.

This positive effort in many ways characterises our country – a country where people have always seen the importance of getting actively involved in shaping the future of our communities. We want to make sure that this great national asset is protected and celebrated into the future, and not maligned or undermined by knee-jerk reactions to unacceptable practice in a small number of individual organisations.


This section addresses some of the claims that have been made in the media in recent weeks. It will be updated on a regular basis.

Click on a heading to see our response:

A number of media outlets have reported that there are 232 suicide charities in Ireland. This figure is based on a search of the Register of Charities. However, figure is incorrect. A glitch in the search function on the Register led to the inclusion of organisations whose charitable purpose is not directlyrelated to suicide. found that there are 49 nonprofits in Ireland whose main purpose is concerned with some aspect of suicide: prevention, counselling, research, public education or information. You can view the list here.

CLAIM: There are over 20,000 charities in Ireland 

There are 18,520 Irish non-profits or civil society organisations according to However, this number includes sports clubs, schools and other institutions that are not considered to be “charities”.  The Charities Regularity Authority (CRA) estimates that up 12,500 or these organisations may fall under the legal definition of “charities”. Revenue lists over 8,000 organisations with Charitable Tax Exemption. The exact number of charities based in Ireland will only be known once all relevant organisations have completed their registration with the CRA.

While these numbers may appear high, it is important to note that Ireland has fewer charities per capita than many of our neighbours:

  • In the Repulic of Ireland, there are between 1.9 and 2.7 charities for every 1,000 people[1].
  •  In Northern Ireland there are between 2.3 and 2.9 charities for every 1,000 people[2].
  • In England there a 2.46 charities for every 1,000 people[3]
  • In Wales there are 2.9 charities for every 1,000 people[4].
  • In Scotland there are 4.5 charities for every 1,000 people[5]
  • In Norway there are 15.7 charities for every 1,000 people[6].
  • In the US there are 3.14 ‘public charities’ for every 1,000 people[7].

[1]The minimum figure comes from base of 8.800 charities imported from Revenue Commissioners CHY list at the time of Charity Regulator establishment in October 2014. The max figure is based on the estimate of 12,500 charities (at May 2016 from CRA releases, which build on the 8,800 charities imported onto CRA website in Oct 2014. This is an oft-quoted figure but is still only an approximate. The population figure of 4.6m (2014 CSO stats).

[2]The lower figure of 4,100 comes from those marked as ‘registered’ by the Northern Ireland (N Irl Charity Commission July 2016). The larger figure comes from the additional 1,100 ‘deemed charities’ on the same list. The population of 1.8 million (

[3]The number of charities in England is 132,433 (

[6]“More than 80,000 voluntary organisations with 10 million memberships” (Stian Slotterøy Johnsen

Frivillighet Norge, (Norwegian Association of Voluntary organisations, Wheel conference 2013) and 5.1 million of population (

[7]There are ca 1m ‘public charities (Tim Delaney stats from Wheel conference slide 2013, taken from a total of 2.3m total nonprofits in 501 type) and population of 319m ( (If the churches, private charities etc are included, then the statistic comes to 7.21 nonprofits per 1,000 people)