There are nearly 5,000 organisations on the Register of Charities. Over 8,000 organisations receive charitable tax exemption (CHY) from Revenue. Irish charities range from tiny, volunteer-run community groups to major international relief agencies.
In such a big sector there is undoubtedly some overlap from time to time, but the diversity of the charity sector is a key strength, not a weakness. It means that complex issues are being tackled in many different ways (different target groups, geographical levels, focuses, approaches, etc.).
For the same reason that we value diversity in our media, retail sector and political parties, Irish charities work hard to ensure that they reflect the broad range of opinions in our society.
However, it is simply not possible for every charity to be run by people in their spare time. Many modern charities are busy, complex organisations that need to employ skilled and experienced staff. Just like any other sector in our society, these people need to be paid appropriately for the work that they do.
What then, is an overhead or an administration cost? Is it administrative staff, fundraising costs, electricity, stationery, computers or bank charges? These and other costs are all likely to be key to the organisation’s ability to do its work, and do it well. There is no standard approach to defining overhead, so when one charity claims to spend 2% on administration costs and another states it spends 20%, they are not necessarily talking about the same thing.
Even if a charity seems to be more efficient because it has low overheads, this tells you nothing about its effectiveness. You may find that organisations with higher overheads also produce better results. We therefore urge you to ignore these meaningless statistics and focus on the impact of the charity.
If in doubt, contact the charity’s representatives and ask them why they have chosen to spend their money in this manner, whether the return on investment is good, and what they have achieved as a result.
- It does not have a valid CHY number or Registered Charity Number.
- It does not share its registered business address on promotional and fundraising materials.
- It does not have a landline number.
- It does not have a website.
- It makes vague statements as to its purpose (for example: “for Africa”, “helping orphans” or “for cancer”).
Do not part with your donation if you have any doubts.
Charities have to comply with many other laws and regulations. Depending on their legal structure and activities, they have to meet specific requirements set down by Revenue, the Companies Registration Office, the Data Protection Commissioner, the Standards in Public Office Commission, the Health and Safety Authority, local authorities and others.
Many charities are set up to provide a united voice for those who may otherwise find it difficult to have their voice heard, such as patients, people with disabilities, people who find themselves homeless, victims of abuse or other crimes, etc. Or they may be formed to advocate for causes, such as animals or the environment, where there is no voice.
If a charity does engage in lobbying it must adhere to strict regulations set out by government.