Database of Irish Non Profits

This is a guest blog from Benefacts.ie’s MD Patricia Quinn.

There’s no tag on the Irish Economy for “nonprofit” or even “charity” – maybe a symptom of the almost total lack of data until now on the organisations that make up this sector in Ireland. Hopefully, this is about to change.

Since 2015, Benefacts has been drawing on a variety of open data sources to create a dataset of unprecedented currency, granularity and reach. The Database of Irish Nonprofits is derived from all of the files placed in the public domain by ~20,000 organisations that would be classified by by statisticians as “NPISH” – nonprofit institutions serving households. According to Eurostat:

“Non-profit institutions serving households, abbreviated as NPISH, make up an institutional sector in the context of national accounts consisting of non-profit institutions which are not mainly financed and controlled by government and which provide goods or services to households for free or at prices that are not economically significant. Examples include churches and religious societies, sports and other clubs, trade unions and political parties.

NPISH are private, non-market producers which are separate legal entities. Their main resources, apart from those derived from occasional sales, are derived from voluntary contributions in cash or in kind from households in their capacity as consumers, from payments made by general governments, and from property income.”

http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Glossary:Non-profit_institutions_serving_households_(NPISH) consulted on 08/08/2017

A simpler way to think of this set of organisations is: all those that are neither part of the private sector, nor part of government.

Database scope

Some are charities, some are not – either because they are explicitly excluded from the definition in law by the Charities Act, 2009, or because they haven’t got around to registering yet.

About half are incorporated, mostly under the Companies Act (as CLGs), although there are also hundreds of industrial, friendly or provident societies including trade unions, and a handful that were incorporated by statute, some of them – like some major voluntary hospitals – prior to the foundation of the State. There are also thousands of church or faith bodies, as well as sports, cultural and recreational clubs, societies and associations.

The number of ~20,000 includes all of those nonprofits that are registered with and required to return information to at least one national public authority – the Companies Registration Office, Revenue (for tax relief as charities, schools or sports bodies), the Charities Regulator, the Library of the Houses of the Oireachtas. Many thousands more are not included on national registers but are governed by national bodies (for religion, sport etc) – hopefully for future inclusion in the Database.

Having identified its scope, Benefacts harvests data every day from multiple public sources, sometimes availing of open data files and – for financial and governance data – extracting it manually from financial statements and other regulatory filings. Benefacts doesn’t ‘scrape’ other peoples’ websites, but we do add some additional information including a classification (following Eurostat norms), the URL of each nonprofit, and information about compliance with some voluntary codes. This model, which is co-funded by government and philanthropies, means that there’s no effort required of any nonprofit to be included.

Accessing the Database of Irish Nonprofits

To see who’s in the Database, have a look at the open datasets generated by Benefacts from the data derived from these public sources.  This is updated every day on data.gov.ie. The list is sortable by

  • Registered name(s)
  • Benefacts classification
  • Address
  • Eircode
  • County
  • Name(s) of authorities by which the nonprofit is regulated
  • Regulatory number(s)
  • Link to each nonprofit’s listing on Benefacts.ie

A free public website – benefacts.ie – provides user-friendly access to extracts from the currently available data and public files on each listed nonprofit, there’s a public API that allows users to download the same information as a data feed, and a new customised service for institutional users to support governance, risk and compliance analysis (Benefacts Analytics). Users in government like the CSO, the Charities Regulator, IGEES analysts and internal auditors have had bespoke reports with more granular data extracted from financial statements (balance sheet, I&E, notes to the accounts), reflecting their particular requirements.

What does the data tell us?

Earlier in 2017, using the full population of available data, we published the first in an annual series of reports analysing the nonprofit sector in Ireland. We intended this as a billboard, drawing public attention to some of the main features of the sector, and starting to explode some myths.

The Irish nonprofit sector is hidden in plain view. It employs 150,000 people, and has an aggregate turnover of €11bn, only 18% of which is derived from government grants. Service fees from Government account for 31% of the sector’s revenues – mostly in the health and social services sub-sectors – but only 2,700 nonprofits rely on government funding of any kind. Remuneration data available for the first time in 2015 under FRS102 indicates that only 0.5% of people working in independent nonprofits – excluding those where salaries are pegged to governmental paygrades – receive annual remuneration of more than €70,000: this compares to 12.8% of people in the population at large.

This is all very interesting, but it is only scratching the surface. Since 2015, Benefacts has been harvesting extensive financial and governance data from the financial and constitutional documents of thousands of nonprofits, and socialising the data on various platforms.

The nonprofit sector will continue to be the Cindarella of the Irish economy until such time as the Database of Irish Nonprofits starts being used by economists who will put our dataset in the wider context. Where is Prince Charming?

Author: Stephen Kinsella

Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Limerick.