In some ways it’s getting harder than ever in 2020 to figure out what the best Irish charities to donate to are. Especially if you’re looking to make a charity donation online quickly. Sure there are a couple of newspaper articles about charity spending and even an online post or two. There’s even a pretty exhaustive (and exhausting) check list published by some charities themselves. But unfortunately these resources often aren’t that up to date or useful in practice.
There isn’t really any definitive list of what the best Irish charities to donate to in 2020 are. Or for any other year for that matter. And many charities are actually technically nonprofits which can confuse things.
So in this blog post I’m going to give you a quick step-by-step guide about how to pick the best Irish charity to donate to based on your own interests and values.
Using this guide you’ll quickly be able to come up with your own customised list of the top 100 charities to donate to in Ireland. Or even just your own top 10 list of Irish charities if you use the search filters cleverly.
Why isn’t there a definitive list of the best Irish charities to donate to?
The reason there isn’t any definitive list of the best Irish charities to donate to is because what defines the best charity list is always going to be very subjective. The cause that matters most to one person might not be important at all to someone else.
Then throw into the mix the unsettling news reports over things like charity CEO salary scandals that have beset some of what were thought of as the best Irish charities in recent years and it’s easy to see why people have lost trust in the charity sector.
It can quickly become very difficult to figure out what the best Irish charity to donate to is.
Searchable lists of the best Irish charities to donate to
The good news is that there are more sources of good, reliable data about Irish charities coming on stream. They might not be exactly a list of the best Irish charities to donate to. But they are searchable and can be filtered down to manageable lists quickly.
By using the right filters you can whittle the list of the thousands of organisations in Ireland down to a more manageable list of the top 10 or top 100 charities based on your own criteria.
From children’s charities to animal rescue charities to homeless charities there’s no shortage of worthy causes to support in Ireland. And there are lots of ways to support them.
You could donate online, you could volunteer in a charity shop, or you could even organise a fundraising charity cycle.
But the best Irish charities to donate to in your eyes will depend on things like:
- your interests
- your own values
- your own (and your family’s) life experiences
- and also where you live (if you want your donation spent locally).
Any blog post or article that tries to give a definitive list of the best Irish charities for 2018 or any other year will always be out of date. But an online searchable database will always be current as long as the source data itself is kept up to date.
In this blog post, I’m going to show you how to use some of Ireland’s largest online charity and nonprofit databases to find the best Irish charities to donate to for you.
I’ll cover off the main “official register” first – that’s the one run by the Charities Regulator.
Then I’ll cover off another very useful list maintained by the organisation Benefacts because it covers even more organisations.
If you’re in a hurry, you might just want to check out Charities Institute Ireland’s “triple lock” list.
It’s a useful A-Z of many charities with better than average governance procedures.
It’s also possible to download the data from some of these sites too if you fancy some number crunching.
So let’s get started…
1. How to Search for the Best Irish Charities to Donate to 2020
First up, let’s take a detailed look at the the most official of all lists of Irish charities, the register compiled by the Charities Regulator…
Charities Regulator list of charities in Ireland
The Charities Regulator describes itself as Ireland’s “national statutory regulator for charitable organisations.” So it’s about as official as you can get in terms of being a definitive list of Irish charities. But that comes with its own challenges because what technically constitutes a charity is not always the type of organisation we usually think of as a charity. So, for example, the regulator lists the HSE on its books. As you can imagine, this kind of organisation being included with its most recent stated turnover of €14,993,579,000 does tend to distort its reporting dramatically. That’s something they’ll probably need to address in the future. But in the meantime, the good news is that the Charities Regulator provides a useful search tool so that you can quickly find a charity that could be worthy of your donation among its list of over 9,500 charities and filter out other, not so relevant organisations.
What is the difference between a charity and a nonprofit?
It’s easy to confuse charities vs nonprofits. But it’s only official charities that will show up when you search the Charities Regulator’s list. As the Charities Regulator themselves have been in touch with me to say, it’s worth pointing out that some organisations that people might think are charities actually aren’t on the register because, under the Charities Act 2009, they cannot be registered as charities. These “include sporting organisations and a range of organisations such as political parties, trade unions and chambers of commerce.”
So here’s how to use the Charities Regulator website’s search functionality to find a list of the best Irish charities for you:
- Head on over to the Charities Regulator homepage. Ignore the “Search this website…” box at the top of the screen if it appears. It usually shows up on desktop browsers (not mobile) and only searches the website itself – not the actual register of charities which is what we want.
- Scroll down and click on the Search the Charities Register “Search here” link in the middle of the homepage instead.
- On the next screen, leave the “Search the Charities Register” text box blank for now. (Try to ignore the stock photo of the worried looking man and his female companion that shows up on desktop on this screen. She looks so much more in control, doesn’t she? That’s probably because she read this blog post.)
- Click on the Advanced search options link beside the down arrow instead.
- This brings up a set of useful drop down menus…
- Charity Types: Leave this set to “All Charity Types” because it’s unlikely to be important to you whether your charity is technically a trust, a company or unincorporated.
- Charity Purpose: Click on “All Charitable Purposes” so that the full list of options appears. Then pick the purpose of the type of charity you’re most interested in supporting from the drop down menu that appears. Options include everything from “Prevention or relief of suffering of animals” to “Advancement of religion.”
- Location: You can leave this set as “All Locations” or pick the county that matters most to you. Bear in mind that some national or international charities might have their headquarters in the county you pick – so the money you donate won’t necessarily stay local to that county.
- Next click on the Search the Register button and you’ll soon see a list of Irish charities pop up below the search box. The first line of the results will tell you how many charities matching your criteria have been found. If it’s less than about 25-50 then happy days, you’ve got yourself a workable list you can quickly go through. But if it’s more, you might want to consider changing the filters to narrow down your search.
Refining your list of the best Irish charities to donate to
Using this list you’ve generated, you can quickly click through on each charity’s name to find out more about them if their name appeals to you. Once you click through on a charity’s name, you’ll be presented with a range of information about them including:
- Their other registered name(s), their official physical address, the type of legal organisation they are and their official web address (handy for later on – see below).
- In the Overview section, there’s a handy bullet-pointed list of their purpose and a short summary of their objectives. Have a read to see if it’s something you think is worthwhile.
- If you like what you see in the Overview section, then it’s a good idea to also have a quick look at their Finance & Activities section. Even if you aren’t a financial whizz this will give you a good sense of how transparent they are (no info could potentially be a bad sign) and how big they are in terms of turnover and spend, as well as rough guides to how many employees and volunteers they have. You might want to support a small local charity or maybe you’d prefer a big national or international one.
- If you have the time click through to the Documents section to try to download their most recent annual report if it’s there. Again you don’t have to be an accountant to get useful information out of this. Instead, have a quick read of the introductory “message from the CEO” preamble which will always put a positive spin on things but does give some useful context. But spend more time looking at any risks or concerns that have the auditors themselves worried and that they’ve flagged as noteworthy. Things like mentions of massive pension overhangs or insufficient documentation of cash fundraising usually ring alarm bells for me. Footnotes are often a great place to find this kind of stuff.
- The People tab is also often particularly interesting to tell you about the personalities behind the charity and how long they’ve been there. Maybe you’d like to support a charity that’s been newly set up with a recently installed team, or perhaps you’d prefer a charity with a more established team to benefit from your support.
By way of example, here’s what the entry for Dogs Trust looks like:
Making a shortlist of your best Irish charities to donate to
After you’ve had a quick browse through this info on the Charities Regulator website itself, make a shortlist of 3 to 5 charities that appeal to you most and also seem legit. Then for each of them go back and click on the web link in their Web Address section to bring you straight to the official site of the charity to find out more about it.
2. How to Search for the Best Irish Nonprofits
It might turn out that the cause you want to support is actually best done by supporting a nonprofit organisation because they’re not technically a charity. There are over 29,000 nonprofits (also spelled non-profits and sometimes called not-for-profits) in Ireland and they can include everything from sporting organisations to trade unions. Even some organisations and government bodies that should really not be run as nonprofits at all according to some fall into this category. That’s where the Benefacts list comes into play.
Benefacts list of nonprofits in Ireland
Benefacts describe themselves as “a non-governmental organisation that provides free public access to extensive information about the entire nonprofit sector in Ireland.” They’re a nonprofit themselves so they should know what they’re talking about.
Benefacts maintains a public database of civil society organisations in Ireland. They say this is the first time in Ireland that so much information about these organisations has been available. They pull in and scrape their data from lots of sources before cleaning it up and publishing it in their searchable online database.
Step-by-step Benefacts search guide
So here’s how to use the Benefacts list to find a list of the best Irish charities and nonprofits for you:
- Go to the Benefacts website home page and click on “Start searching…”
- Skip the Simple Search option and click on Advanced Search to reveal lots of search filters.
- Go through the option/filter selection boxes to pick the mix that works for you:
- Locations: If location is important to you, tick the boxes next to the county or counties that you want to narrow your search down to.
- Organisation Types: This is where you can narrow your search down to the type of organisation you want to support from “Sports Body” to “Trade Union.” You could even pick a Primary or Secondary School.
- Classifications: You can pick one or more classifications here. They’re divided into categories like Advocacy, Law, Politics. They’re then further subdivided into subcategories like the ones under Social Services, for example, which include Homelessness services and Youth services.
- Charitable Purpose: These match the list on the Charities Regulator site because they come from the Charities Act too. Pick one if it applies to your search.
- Financial Statements: If you’re only looking for nonprofits who file specific types of accounts then you can pick an option here. Some organisations will have filed no accounts, some will have filed full accounts and some will be in between with very minimal abridged accounts (which is a bit of an anomaly/loop hole at the moment unfortunately).
- Income Bands: This option is greyed out by default. But if you picked Full Accounts under Financial Statements then you can optionally filter by the income of the organisation here.
- Regulatory: This is where you can pick Tax Relief (CHY) vs Tax Efficient Gifts vs Registered Charity (CRA).
- Standards Compliance: Interested in the standards an organisation is sticking to? Then you can tick the relevant box here. The options here are Charity SORP (also known as a Statement of Recommended Practice) or Standards in Public Office Commission.
- Finally there’s a tick box to include (or not) search results for organisations without financial and/or governance data.
- Once you’ve chosen your filters, click on the Search button to reveal the list of nonprofits that match your criteria. At the top of the results page, you’ll see a useful overview of the mix of organisations under the headings of the filtering options. Below that you’ll see a list of the nonprofits themselves. If the list is too long to go through manually, you might want to use the overview information to give you pointers on narrowing down your filters and do another search. Clicking into any of the organisations will reveal background info such as their purpose and financial information if it’s available.
Making a short list of your best Irish nonprofits to donate to
Have a look through the list you’re presented with to make a shortlist of 3 to 5 nonprofits that appeal to you. Then check out their own websites to find out a bit more about them before making your final decision on which one to donate to or to support.
Picking the best Irish charity or nonprofit to donate to
By doing these searches and clicking through to research a few charities and nonprofits you’ll quickly get a feel for the ones that you like and don’t like. There will often be one strong candidate that stands out for you on your shortlist as one of the best Irish charities to donate to (or best Irish nonprofits for that matter). If that’s the case then you can simply head back over to their website to see how you can donate to them online or if you’re feeling energetic even volunteer your time and expertise. If it’s still proving difficult to choose, make a quick list of the pros and cons of each one to help make choosing easier.
With so many charities and nonprofits in Ireland, it can be hard to make a confident decision about the best Irish charities to donate to. But searchable databases like the ones run by the Charities Regulator and Benefacts can help make the job of choosing which organisation to support a little bit easier by taking a data-driven approach.
Update 30/8/2018: Added links to two US-based charity ratings services after a reader comment. Also clarified the distinction between non profits and charities at the suggestion of the Charities Regulator themselves.
Update 8/9/2018: Revised formatting and tweaked copy to improve readability.
Update 11/9/2018: Added more detail on how to do a search of the Benefacts database.
Update 25/9/2018: Added greater emphasis on nonprofits.
Update 24/2/2019: Revised to bring up to date for 2019.
Update 27/2/2019: Downloadable infographic added.
Update 31/12/2019: Updated to focus on 2020.
Let me know If you’ve any other tips for how to figure out what the best charities to donate to in Ireland are for you (or nonprofits as well). Just post a comment below or send me an e-mail.