Donoghue, Freda, Ruddle, Helen and Mulvihill, Ray
Warm Glow in a Cool Climate? Philanthropy in Ireland.
In: International Society for Third Sector Research Fourth Biennial Conference, 5th - 8th July 2000, Trinity College Dublin.
For some time now the Irish have prided themselves on being generous both as givers
to charitable causes and in their civic expression through volunteering. Evidence
from several national surveys, however, does not present as simple an image and so
far, a definitive picture of this generosity has not been painted (Ruddle and Mulvihill
1999, 1995, Ruddle and O’Connor 1993). While individual giving in Ireland
contributes a greater proportion of the third sector’s income than in many other
countries internationally (Donoghue, Anheier and Salamon 1999), average amounts
donated are not high and there is no history and little evidence of large donors as may
be the case in other countries.
In the past decade a number of tax incentives have been introduced. In comparison
with other countries internationally, however, these are limited and their effects may
only just be beginning to be felt. At the time of writing, tax relief is available on
individual donations to third world charities and on corporate donations to both
domestic and third world charities. The former was introduced in 1995, while the
latter was introduced two years later. Both tax incentives have been the work of a
powerful vocal lobby within the third sector. The state has tended to react to this
lobby rather than develop a proactive stance on the development of philanthropy in
Ireland. Individual and corporate donors also appear not to give proactively. Giving
through prompted means is far more popular than planned forms of giving for
individuals. Donations from the corporate sector, meanwhile, are modest and, as with
individuals, the adoption of a strategy of planned giving does not seem to have
occurred on any great scale.
The Irish economy has grown enormously during the 1990s yet levels of individual
giving have not risen with this growth. Furthermore, there is little sign that corporate
donations are keeping pace with our economic success. So, in spite of having one of
the largest third sectors internationally (Donoghue, Salamon and Anheier 1999),
philanthropic support of the sector is relatively under developed. Indeed, Ireland has
a small foundation field, which provides yet another indication that Irish philanthropy
appears to be characterised by a relative lack of strategy.
This paper draws together findings from recent studies on different forms of
philanthropy in Ireland (Donoghue 2000, Ruddle and Mulvihill 1999, 1995, Ruddle
and O’Connor 1993, Donoghue forthcoming) in order to present a comprehensive
picture of the current state of Irish philanthropy. Individual, corporate and foundation
support of the third sector in Ireland will be assessed in comparison with such support
in other countries. The perceived image of the Irish as generous donors will be
critically appraised, and the paper will argue that, despite this positive image,
philanthropy in Ireland needs greater development in order to harness better the
goodwill that supposedly exists.
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