23 January 2024

A monumental step forward for Irish philanthropy with a backdrop of a city in turmoil

Ireland is known for its rich cultural heritage and resilient spirit and has historically showcased the strength of its community bonds. In recent years a powerful movement is gaining momentum that aims to strengthen and invigorate these bonds. 

Ireland’s philanthropy movement has emerged as a dynamic force, with a vibrant philanthropy community determined to ignite positive social change and create a more equitable nation.

At the core of Ireland’s philanthropy movement is the recognition that individuals, families, corporates and organisations can and are playing an important role in shaping a brighter tomorrow for everyone. From supporting marginalised communities to championing environmental sustainability and social justice, the philanthropy movement reflects a diverse spectrum of causes that resonate with the values of Irish people.

A pivotal moment came for the philanthropy movement late last year with the launch of our first National Policy on Philanthropy. This policy could not come at a more important time considering the recent Dublin Riots that made the news only last November. 

Pivotal moment for philanthropy came in late 2023

On 13 December the first National Policy on Philanthropy was launched. This policy has long been advocated for by Philanthropy Ireland, the umbrella body for philanthropic organisations in Ireland.

This Policy is a signal that philanthropy matters to government, and it has an important role to play in civil society.

 Key Objectives of the policy: 

  • Promoting a culture of giving: this policy aims to cultivate a culture of philanthropy in Ireland. It seeks to inspire a sense of responsibility towards the well-being of the communities and create awareness around the achievements of philanthropy so far.  
  • Fostering collaboration: between government, businesses and the non-profit sector, the policy intends to create synergies that amplify the effectiveness of philanthropic initiatives.  
  • Data and research: conducting robust research into philanthropic giving in Ireland and collecting data over time to track trends and changes.
  • Creating an enabling environment for philanthropy: to further incentivise giving, the policy aims to look at different measures that can create an enabling environment.
  • Capacity building: to strengthen the sector and recognise the importance of the philanthropy sector.

This policy marks a historic moment in the nation’s commitment to fostering a culture of giving and social responsibility, representing a key milestone to shape philanthropy in Ireland for the next five years.

Why is growing Ireland’s philanthropy movement so important?

In November last year Ireland’s capital city Dublin hit the news for all the wrong reasons. A horrific attack sparked rioting on the city’s main street, some of the rioting was enacted by those in the far-right movement, others by opportunistic youths.

The rioting, while only lasting for a short amount of time saw the destruction of public property and, more importantly, a dampening of the spirit of Ireland that for so long has seen itself as a welcoming country to both immigrants and refugees.

The launch of the National Policy on Philanthropy highlights philanthropy’s role as a catalyst for social cohesion.  Collaboration between philanthropy organisations, non-profits and community leaders can provide a platform for open conversations, promoting understanding, tolerance and unity.

Philanthropy Ireland’s Members have long been championing several social issues areas, including tackling hate and extremism. They have responded in times of crises, both globally and nationally, and have long advocated for equality and justice. Our members are championing a diverse range of areas including climate change, youth mental health, and supporting social enterprises and non-profits to look at innovative ways to tackle the issues of our times.

Ireland’s philanthropy landscape

The evolving landscape of philanthropy in Ireland is characterised by a shift towards strategic giving, where donors are increasingly engaged in understanding the root causes of societal challenges and investing in long-term solutions. Many charitable foundations have emerged over the last number of years to support this donor journey and provide key research and insights into how philanthropy can truly make a difference in Irish society.

While there is no hard data on philanthropic giving in Ireland currently, which we hope the Policy will remedy, Philanthropy Ireland’s members give out over €100 million annually to over 1,000 non-profit organisations. However, with less than 100 charitable foundations in active operation in Ireland, there is huge opportunity for growth.

Wealth is a relatively new phenomena in Ireland, with most of the wealth in Ireland being self-made. As of 2022, the wealthiest 250 people in Ireland were worth €75 billion and 5% of adults in Ireland had a personal wealth of $1 million, this provides context to the potential to increase philanthropic giving in Ireland and why the policy is so important as a signal that philanthropy is an important facet of our society and should be cultivated and nurtured. We know there is capacity to give more, the opportunity is now to unlock the potential.

Implementation of the Policy

The drafting of the policy is an essential and significant step. The next phase of work, the implementation, is vital. The momentum built to bring it to this stage is a demonstration of collaboration from a cross section of sectors. That collaboration needs to continue to maintain the momentum and stay on a forward path of advancing philanthropy for public good. 

Philanthropy Ireland is currently advocating for a white paper to look at the fiscal measures that can create an enabling environment for philanthropy and is continuing to work with the relevant government departments to bring the policy objectives to a reality over the lifespan of the policy.

Advancing frameworks to work in collaboration with government can serve to maximise the use of resources for positive impact.  With as little as a 10% increase in philanthropic funding not-for-profits can be supported to be innovative, take risks and realise their collective vision of a more equitable Ireland. Resources, expertise, and innovative solutions are needed to tackle these challenges effectively.

We need to improve the environment and space to foster more responsive solutions. Philanthropy is a form of independent risk capital that is agile, innovative, and brave, being strategic in its intent and purpose. It can act more quickly and take greater risks than government funding. 

Empowering philanthropy for a better Ireland

Acts of philanthropy both large and small are woven into the tapestry of everyday life, embodying the spirit of communal solidarity that transcends geographic and cultural boundaries in Ireland.

The emphasis on collaboration and transparency in this Policy is anticipated to create a more cohesive and responsive philanthropic ecosystem, where stakeholders work together to address complex social issues. We hope with the focus of this new Policy that philanthropy will be empowered and unlocked in Ireland to support key social issues that will impact all our lives for now and future generations.


Hazel Hennessy
Head of Communications and Relationships, Philanthropy Ireland