Money & Business

With Transparency Push, Ireland Gets a New Nonprofit Database

By / May 19, 2016 (Benefacts screenshot)

The Benefacts database, formally unveiled this week, will make information about Ireland’s nonprofits available to the public. The strategy, modeled after GuideStar, was partly funded by the Irish government.

Ireland’s sizable nonprofit sector, a $7.8 billion dollar industry that employs roughly 108,000 people, is getting more transparent than ever.

This week, a new Irish NGO launched the Benefacts database, offering the public an easy way to see how money is spent by more than 18,000 nonprofit organizations, including charities, trade and professional groups, arts organizations, and even sports teams.

Such databases are well established in other parts of the world—GuideStar in the United States, for example. But this is the first time an all-encompassing database that specifically covers Irish organizations has been made available. (The Benefacts database was modeled f GuideStar’s work.)

“We set out to build something which will transform the accessibility and transparency of a sector that has, until now, been hidden in plain view,” Benefacts founder and managing director Patricia Quinn said during a launch event on Wednesday. “We present the maximum amount of available data in a neutral and impartial way, to support better-informed decisions, to help build public trust, and reduce the cost of doing business with government.”

In an op-ed for the Irish Times, Quinn added that questions about nonprofits’ roles in Irish society had repeatedly come up for debate, but a lack of hard data led commentators to lean on conjecture rather than facts. The data was available, but it had been distributed in a variety of places, including the Companies Registration Office, the Charities Regulatory Authority, and the country’s Revenue office. Benefacts brings that data together in a single place, one that’s accessible through both a website and an application programming interface that developers can take advantage of.

“An often-repeated view that there are too many charities in Ireland can now become the subject of informed public debate,” Quinn wrote in the Times. “Which is as it should be, because when it comes to the work of nonprofits we are all decision-makers. We support them with our time, with our money and with our taxes.”

The website will also come in handy during debates over nonprofit wages and whether they are too high. According to an Irish Times news story, government accounting rules will soon require Irish charities that file financial records to report the number of employees receiving more than €60,000 ($67,239) per year.

The group’s launch was helped along by a mix of public and private funds. The Irish government’s Department of Public Expenditure and Reform teamed with Atlantic Philanthropies and The Ireland Funds to get the effort off the ground.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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