• Ann Swift

Ireland's largest registered charities - who are they & what do they do?

Updated: Sep 6

The Benefacts project collated and disseminated publicly accessible data about Ireland's €14bn nonprofit sector. Sadly, when support from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform was withdrawn in March 2022, the organisation was forced to close. However, Benefacts has bequeathed us a wonderful legacy - 9 years of data manually harvested from the financial and narrative contents of the financial statements of more than 11,240 nonprofit entities - companies, friendly societies, trade unions, cooperatives, political parties and Statutory bodies, where available. About half of these were registered charities. The data is available on the Benefacts legacy site.

Even a topline analysis of the data yields useful insights. The chart below groups Ireland's largest registered charities from the database (income > €1m in 2020, n=614) by charity sub-sector (note that for all these analyses, charities in receipt of Section 38 funding (c.23 organisations), and acute voluntary hospitals have been excluded). All but 2 of these organisations are companies limited by guarantee. For comparison, the Charities Regulator lists 1,063 registered charities with >€1m income in 2019. The chart shows how the 'health' and 'social services' sub-sectors dominate in terms of the total income of larger charities (the wider bars), whereas the 'health' and 'local development / housing' sub-sectors contain the most organisations (narrower bars). (Click into the image to enlarge).

Bar chart of Ireland's largest charities by total sector income and number of charities in each sector.

The jitter plot below reveals more about the characteristics of each individual charity sub-sector. The most variance on income falls within the 'international' sub-sector, while the 'advocacy/law/politics' and 'arts/culture/media' sub-sectors are the most homogenous. Once Section 38 organisations and acute voluntary hospitals are removed from the data, it is individual 'international' charities which had the largest income in 2020, followed by those in the 'social services' sector. (The largest charities in each sub-sector are annotated in the chart).

The combined total income in 2020 for the largest registered charities in each sub-sector is shown beneath the chart. By this measure, the 'social services' sub-sector is the largest at almost €1.3bn, while 'recreation/sports' is the smallest at €18.4m. (Click into the image to enlarge).

Notes: the sectoral breakdown follows Benefacts' own scheme. Benefacts Legacy is the copyright owner of the data. The data file is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY Licence.