Ireland: Creating A Culture Of Corporate Philanthropy in Ireland

Last Updated: 25 February 2015
Article by Turlough Galvin

Turlough Galvin discusses the opportunities for creating a culture of corporate philanthropy in Ireland.

Giving away money is the easiest thing in the world. Giving it away effectively is altogether more difficult – particularly if you want it to make a real and lasting difference. Ireland is one of the most generous countries in the world in terms of individual charitable giving. However, as soon as we step into the workplace, something changes.

Corporate philanthropy is lamentably underdeveloped in Ireland. Often, Irish companies tend to embrace the catch-all idea of 'corporate social responsibility' or CSR. The vague concept of CSR enables companies to position everyday activities like turning off the lights at night and recycling paper as evidence of their social responsibility.

Long-term engagement

Much of what passes for CSR are just common sense everyday activities. Sending a modest once-off cheque to a charity, though laudable, doesn't represent the long-term engagement that helps charities grow sustainability and make a lasting difference.

Although there is some evidence that corporate Ireland does give to charities, little of this is done in a strategic and effective way.

Philanthropy should not be confused with CSR. CSR is often centred around the axiom: 'it is in giving that we receive', except not in the traditional sense. The implication can often be that 'it is in giving that we receive good media coverage and plaudits'.

CSR donations often form part of a company's marketing budget, and the return on investment is often measured not in terms of the real benefit to the charity, but in terms of advertising and other kudos for the company.

While there's nothing wrong with companies taking credit for their social engagement, true corporate philanthropy should expect little or nothing in return.

Targets and results

Philanthropy should be about acting thoughtfully and carefully, with a long-term focus on tangible results. Companies should engage strategically with charities to make a real difference over many years. Companies should not just give their money, but also their people's time and commercial acumen, to assist the charity in achieving the long-term objectives of the charity – not the company.

It is also vital to measure the ultimate effectiveness of donations to ensure that the right strategies are in place. If you define measurable objectives, you can follow up and see how well things are working. If needs be, you can alter strategies to improve effectiveness.

Laying strong foundations

The Matheson Foundation has deliberately chosen to avoid the common approach of just writing a once-off cheque and walking away. We have two strategic aims: to help Irish children fulfill their potential and to encourage corporate philanthropy in Ireland.

We want to encourage corporate Ireland to adopt a policy of long-term engagement with charities. A good example of how this can work is our partnership with the Centre for Talented Youth in Ireland (CTYI). CTYI works with Dublin City University (DCU) to support high ability children achieve their potential. Too often these students are not catered for within the normal education system.

CTYI helps them by providing university style programmes at weekends and during school holidays. Courses on offer include medicine, app design, novel writing and psychology. We've supported CTYI since 2010, with a focus on identifying high ability students from disadvantaged backgrounds and giving them opportunities on CTYI summer programmes. Since then, we've helped over 400 students get involved in the CTYI's Talent Search and its summer programmes. Our hope is that by exposing children to a university environment early in life, it becomes natural for them to progress to third level, even if their friends, family and neighbours might have little history of third level education.

Some of the children who were involved in CTYI at primary school level are now in secondary school. We want to track these students all the way to third-level age, to see if these programmes really do result in increased rates of university attendance.

To that end, we've supported a doctoral student at DCU to evaluate the impact of these courses on these students and see how effective these programmes really are at getting these kids into university. It is our intention to then share this knowledge in the hope of a multiplier effect: If we can prove that this programme really works, other Irish companies should be encouraged to support similar programmes. Such programmes might then become widespread across Ireland, creating lasting social benefits long into the future.

Philanthropic culture

Ireland has a long way to go in terms of creating the kind of culture of philanthropy that exists elsewhere. There are 101,000 foundations in the US and over 9,000 in the UK. Strikingly, there are only 26 foundations in Ireland, according to The Ireland Funds, which works to bring best overseas philanthropic practice to Ireland.

Nowadays, the increasingly dominant philosophy of giving in Ireland is the State-led approach. Tax incentives for charitable giving were closed down over the past couple of years. These incentives meant that individuals were empowered to give to charities of their choosing, and the State would forgo a certain amount of tax to enhance the donation.

Such tax incentives are commonplace across the developed world. But the absence of such tax incentives here greatly hampers individual charitable giving and helps centralise decisions over charitable giving with the State – instead of with the people that generated those taxes in the first place.

The US, by contrast, has the idea of philanthropic activity built into its culture. It has a long tradition of families, communities, companies and individuals making extraordinary philanthropic efforts to build charities, hospitals and schools. Ireland could really benefit from the philanthropic expertise of US companies, if they diverted more philanthropic activity here.

Corporate giving

Many leading Irish charities could now be accurately described as semi-state entities, such is their level of government funding. An over-reliance on state funding can create undesirable consequences, as we have seen with the recent scandals surrounding state-funded charities like the CRC.

State funding reduces the independence of charities. For example, if an Irish homeless charity receives most of its funding from the State, will it really speak out fearlessly against state policies? Will it risk biting the hand that feeds it?

If individual philanthropy can be revived, it will undoubtedly encourage philanthropy at the corporate level. More corporate philanthropy can help ensure that charities are independent, efficient and better placed to both assist – and constructively criticise – the State.


Diverse entities can innovate and collaborate to create novel projects. For example, we worked with the RDS, Dublin City Council and the Science Foundation Ireland to launch the annual Festival of Curiosity in 2013. Now in its third year, the festival has proven a great success with family-focused science and technology events turning Dublin into a hub of curiosity and education for over 50,000 people over four days each summer.

This collaborative approach by otherwise unrelated companies is only in its infancy in Ireland, but there is no reason why the model should not be adopted by others.

Initiatives like The Funding Network Ireland, launched last year, have shown that there is a wealth of worthwhile Irish charitable initiatives just waiting for the right backers.

I would encourage Irish business leaders to critically review their CSR programmes and ask: how much of this is truly fully-engaged thought-out philanthropy? Do we need a separate philanthropy programme? Are we really working strategically to make a long-term difference? Are we measuring results? Could we partner with others to create something new? Could our philanthropy be more innovative?

The task of creating a culture of corporate philanthropy in Ireland cannot be outsourced. Only the leaders of corporate Ireland can make it happen.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions