Charities Regulator study also finds:

  • 80% say having trust and confidence in a charity is key before deciding to donate
  • Strong public support for greater enforcement and checks by Regulator
  • The number of financial donors has declined, but the average annual donation is up by 9% over past two years to €169 

Nine out of ten adults in Ireland donated to a charity over the last year, according to new research from the Charities Regulator. 

The research also found that eight out of ten adults (80%) believed that having trust and confidence in a charity was very important when deciding to donate – which is up from 65% since 2020, when a similar study was undertaken. 

The survey, which was conducted for the Charities Regulator by Amárach Research, showed strong public support for greater enforcement, tighter controls on charities by the Regulator, and more checks on charities’ activities. 

While 89% of adults donated to a charity during the past year, the nature of those donations has changed quite significantly over the past two years, the survey found. The number of people who made financial contributions to charities declined from 74% to 59%, while the numbers donating goods increased from 43% to 57%. Dublin was the most generous location for those who donated money, followed by Connacht/Ulster, the rest of Leinster and Munster. 

“The results of this survey underscore the huge generosity of the Irish public when it comes to charitable giving,” said Helen Martin, Chief Executive of the Charities Regulator. 

“But the survey also shows the vital role that trust, and transparency play in the charitable sector. The general public want to know how their donations are used, and to see evidence of what has been achieved by the particular charity that they have donated to. Providing clear details on these two areas would create improved levels of trust and confidence amongst 90% of the population, the survey found. 

“We would urge the public to always check the Register of Charities on our website before making a donation to any Irish charity. The Register has a record of every charity in Ireland with information on their finances and activities taken from their annual reports to the Charities Regulator.” 

There are currently over 11,500 registered charities in the State, ranging from very small, local volunteer-only charities to large, national or international organisations that employ thousands of people. 

The types of charities that were most strongly supported during the past 12 months include medical or health related (44%), homeless or refuge services (43%), local community organisations (41%), children or youth services (29%) and animal rescue or welfare (29%).More than 8 out of 10 people (84%) feel that charities and the work they do in Irish society is important, while three-quarters of respondents believe that the impact of charities is significant. The importance of charities and their impact was felt most strongly among women aged 55 and over, the study showed. 

A personal interest or a connection to a charity/issue remains the single largest influence (58%) for deciding which charity to support, while news and media reports about a charity (13%) is the second largest influencer. 

The survey found that a potential donor checking the bona fides of a charity before deciding to donate, would look at the charity’s website (38%), online media reports relating to the charity (33%) and check whether the organisation is on the Register of Charities on the Charities Regulator website (33%). The percentage of donors who do not check out a charity has declined from 23% to 17% over the past two years. 

Almost a quarter of respondents (24%) said the reason they supported a specific charity was because they “know it is well run”. 

Eight out of 10 adults believe that the Charities Regulator should play a role in ensuring that Irish charities operate legally, transparently, and ethically and also make relevant financial information available to members of the public. Helen Martin states that the online Register of Charities provides such information to the public. “A charity’s annual report to the Charities Regulator is an important means for registered charities to provide basic information to the Regulator and the public on their finances and activities in the previous year. We would strongly encourage all registered charities to ensure that they submit their annual reports on time to ensure that they play their part in further enhancing the amount and quality of data available on the Register.” 

In the interests of transparency and fairness to those charities that do file their annual reports on time, the Charities Regulator is adopting a stricter approach to enforcing compliance with the obligation to file an annual report within 10 months of their financial year end and is currently implementing a targeted compliance programme to increase levels of compliance. 

More than half (56%) of those who donate money to charity gave at least six times in the past year, with the purchase of raffle/lottery tickets being the most common form of financial donation. Those who donate money to charity gave a higher average contribution last year - €169 compared to €155 in 2020, but charities seem to be becoming more dependent on over the over 55s, as this group donated the largest sums of money.

The survey showed that the charity shop sector is benefitting from both an increase in donations – up 13 percentage points to 57% - and from higher customer numbers, with an 8% increase in the number of people purchasing goods from charity shops. 

Additionally, the survey found that there was a hierarchy of trust within the charity sector among the Irish public, as small local charities tend to generate the highest level of trust, while there are more neutral attitudes to larger national and international charities. 

More than half (55% of adults) claimed they had direct involvement with a charity, which was driven largely by volunteering. 

Typically, charity supporters remain loyal to their chosen charities, with only one in five people changing the type of charity they supported over the past two years. The reasons for changing charities were largely based on emerging needs or specific causes that required additional support such as the war in Ukraine and homelessness. 

The survey was conducted online among a sample of 2,000 adults. A combination of quotas and weighting ensured that the sample used was representative of the national population in terms of gender, age, social class, and region.

The questionnaire for the survey was based on a similar study conducted by Amárach in 2020, with some changes to reflect post-pandemic circumstances and to explore emerging topics of interest to the Charities Regulator.

Full report available on the Charities Regulator website.