• Estimated 648,000 people volunteer with an Irish charity
  • Number of those volunteering with Irish charities has more than doubled since 2018
  • Almost one in eight workers are employed within the charity sector

Volunteers contributed an estimated €1 billion worth of their time at least to Irish charities in 2022, according to a new report published today on the social and economic impact of registered charities in Ireland.

The Report on the Social and Economic Impact of Registered Charities in Ireland, which was compiled by the Charities Regulator and Amárach, shows that the total number of volunteering hours in Irish charities has increased by an estimated 38% between 2018 and 2022 and now stands at 94 million hours per year.

The report uses information from the Register of Charities taken from 6,067 annual reports* (excluding schools and the Health Service Executive)** relating to 2021 that were completed and submitted to the Regulator by charities, as well as market research data and economic estimates for the 2022 position.

The economic value of this volunteering is highly significant. If Irish charities paid their volunteers for the time worked, the cost in 2022 would have been €0.96 billion based on the minimum wage, and almost €2.5 billion if volunteers were paid the average hourly wage.

Just under 648,000 people said they did some voluntary work for charities according to research by Amárach included in the report, which is equivalent to almost one in five of the total adult population. There are over 11,500 registered Irish charities, including approximately 3,700 schools.

“Irish people are hugely generous with their time when it comes to supporting charities, and this report highlights a substantial increase in volunteering over the past few years,” said Helen Martin, Chief Executive of the Charities Regulator. “It seems that the societal impact of Covid-19 spurred a large surge in volunteering, as the numbers volunteering for charity work more than doubled over the past five years.”

Ms Martin added that the huge role of volunteers underscores the importance of public trust and confidence for charities.

“Our data shows that eight out of 10 Irish people believe that having trust and confidence in a charity was very important when deciding to donate. Volunteering is a donation of time, and people will not volunteer for a charity unless they trust them. We would always urge the public to check the Register of Charities on our website before deciding to donate their time or their money to any Irish charity. The Register has details of every charity in Ireland, including information on their finances and activities taken from their annual reports to the Charities Regulator.”

The report found that even though the average number of hours that each person volunteered has declined from 226 in 2018, when a similar report was published by the Regulator, to 145 last year, the overall impact of volunteering has still increased dramatically, given the substantial growth in the total number of volunteers.

Aside from the societal impact that charities have, there is also a significant financial impact on the Irish economy, according to the report. An estimated 281,250 people are employed within the charity sector, which is equivalent to almost one in eight workers.

The total direct expenditure by Irish charities is estimated as being worth €18.6 billion in 2022, which was a 28% increase compared to 2018. The overall financial impact of the charity sector was estimated at €32.1 billion in 2021, when the indirect and induced effects of activity are also included.

The total income declared by the 6,067 charities was €19.7 billion***. Based on this figure, the estimated gross income of registered charities in Ireland could be in excess of €25 billion.

The Chairperson of the Charities Regulator, Patrick Hopkins, said the report highlighted the huge diversity of the organisations that are registered as charities and the vital role that these charities play across every facet of society.

“Volunteering is the life blood of the charity sector in Ireland, and it is truly inspiring to see the positive impact that at least €1 billion worth of volunteer hours has on society. Without volunteers and the vital work that they perform, many Irish charities would simply have to close their doors.”

Volunteers most commonly (35%) work for their chosen charity several times a month, while almost a quarter (23%) volunteer several times a week. Women are 33% more likely to be a charity volunteer than men, and the most likely age group to volunteer with a charity is the over 55s. Adults aged under 35 were least likely to volunteer with a charity.  

About 76,000 people who volunteer with charities are also charity trustees, also known as board or committee members, who are directly responsible for overseeing the operation and governance of the charity in question.

While a relatively small number of very large public service type charities account for most of the economic impact of registered charities in terms of income and employment, it is clear from the report that the overall social impact of the wider sector continues to be significant. Gerard O’Neill, chairman of Amárach Research, who analysed the overall economic and social impact of charities for the report, said the positive impact of volunteering was felt by the charities that benefitted from the generosity of the donor, and also by volunteers themselves.

“A recent report found that volunteering increases life satisfaction, happiness, and sense of purpose, and also reduces the symptoms of depression. So, by volunteering with charities, people are giving back to Irish society, and also significantly boosting their own wellbeing.”

The majority of Irish charities analysed in the report (62%), which excludes schools and the HSE, are relatively small from a financial perspective, with an annual income of less than €250,000. Almost 16% of Irish charities have an annual income of more than €1 million.

The Irish State is the largest funder of the charitable sector through either government or local authority support for charities. It provided €10.8 billion to almost 3,400 charities in 2021, which was just under 55% of the total income for the sector.  Three in ten charities (31%) did not receive any state funding in 2021.  Over half of these charities had annual income of less than €50,000 and 72% were volunteer-only, meaning they had no paid staff. 


* Under the Charities Act 2009, charities are required to submit an annual report to the Charities Regulator within 10 months of the end of their financial year. The report, an online form available through the Charities Regulator’s website, describes a charity’s activities and financial affairs for the preceding twelve months. The contents of the report are published in the online Public Register of Charities and help to inform the donors and the general public of:

  • What a charity has done over the last 12 months to further each of its charitable purposes
  • Who a charity has helped
  • How a charity raised and spent funds  
  • Where the benefits of a charity’s work were felt

** While primary, special, and post-primary schools represent a third of all registered charities, as their financing and governance arrangements are not reflective of the wider charity sector, they do not form part of the analysis set out in this report.  The Health Service Executive (“HSE”) is by far the largest registered charity in the State, reporting an annual income in excess of €22.4 billion for 2021, with close to 150,000 employees and more than 5,000 volunteers. As the inclusion of the HSE would detract from the overall analysis and its usefulness in terms of understanding the wider charity sector, its annual report does not form part of the analysis. HSE payments/grants received by other registered charities have been included.

*** Although overdue, 1,639 charities had not submitted an annual report form for 2021 to the Charities Regulator when the data was extracted for analysis. Based on the 6,067 annual reports that were submitted it is estimated that the gross income of registered charities in Ireland could be in excess of €25 billion. If the HSE is included, the estimated gross income of registered charities would be over €47.4 billion. The Regulator is currently engaged in a targeted compliance and enforcement initiative to increase compliance with annual reporting obligations and bring non-compliant charities into compliance where possible. Charities that fail to file their annual reports on time that is within 10 months of their charity’s financial year end, risk prosecution and/or removal from the Register.