In our 2024 Budget submission, Philanthropy Ireland placed data collection as a fundamental pillar for the operation, development, and growth of philanthropy in Ireland. The collection and provision of timely, accurate and in-depth data on philanthropy and the wider non-profit sector is an essential element of infrastructural support for government, donors, and the broader philanthropic community.  

Trusted data, research and analysis about philanthropy, the wider voluntary sector, and the individual organisations in it, is essential in supporting key decisions on allocation of philanthropic funds to ensure integrity in decision making.  

The work previously undertaken by Benefacts legacy and the ongoing research from the Centre of Philanthropy at the University of Kent, are examples of employing open data-driven approaches for measurable community impact. A positive culture of philanthropy is dependent on trust and transparency with access to reliable information. International evidence points to credible publicly available data being a key factor in building the confidence of philanthropists to allocate funding and to increase their strategic contributionsi

Both the United States and the Netherlands have set remarkable examples in data-driven philanthropy, each offering unique strengths and approaches. By drawing inspiration from both nations, we can start a conversation to drive positive change on a global scale. 

The United States: A Pioneer in Data Collection and Technology Utilisation 

The United States has long been at the forefront of philanthropic data collection.  

Giving USA publishes an annual report on philanthropy giving that has been providing information about charitable giving in the United States for over 60 years. It is widely relied upon by fundraisers, nonprofit leaders, donors, scholars, and others in the charitable sector. The report is known for its rigorous methodologies, incorporating the latest data and research techniques to estimate total charitable giving across the country. This includes contributions from households, corporations, estates, and foundations, which benefit a wide range of IRS-registered charities and religious organizations. Giving USA is produced through a collaboration between the Giving USA Foundation, a public service initiative of The Giving Institute, and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. It serves as a valuable resource for understanding trends and insights in philanthropy, and its data is essential for making informed decisions in the field of charitable giving in the United States. 

The figures involved are staggering, Giving USA calculate the total giving by approximately 53 million households across America, approximately 16 million corporations that claim charitable deductions, over a million estates, and about 82,000 foundations. Collectively these donations go to about 1.1 million IRS-registered charities, plus a conservative estimate of 300,000 American religious organisationsii

Leveraging technology and big data analytics, organisations like the Bloomberg Philanthropies – What Works Cities. Which has built behavioural insights and evaluation capacity from 35 cities, through working with city employees to design and test ideas inspired by behavioural science. Leading to the launch of over 95 trials in those cities, addressing challenges ranging from police recruitment diversity to uptake of health programsiii

Key Insight: The United States’ historical proficiency in data collection and its use of modern technology application offers a guiding blueprint for fostering a data-driven culture within the realm of philanthropy. 

The Netherlands: A Model for Collaboration and Impact Measurement 

The Netherlands stands as an example of collaborative efforts across academia and how it can offer a range of impact measurement for data-driven philanthropy, yet arriving at this point was not a smooth evolution.  

The Giving USA reports provided the initial inspiration for the inception of the Giving in the Netherlands study. This led to the creation of the first edition of the book Giving in the Netherlands in 1997, where the macroeconomic analysis of the charitable activities of households, corporations, and foundations in 1995 was conducted. Subsequently, a new edition of Giving in the Netherlands (GIN) has been released biennially, resulting in a total of fifteen editions published to dateiv

In parallel to this third level institutions have also served as a valued pillar to improve philanthropic data collection and education in the Netherlands. 
The Centre for Philanthropic Studies (CPS) at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam is a leading centre of expertise on philanthropy, known for its longitudinal survey on giving in the Netherlands. It provides valuable insights into charitable contributions by households, corporations, foundations, and charity lotteries. CPS also played a pivotal role in founding ERNOP, becoming a prominent research centre for philanthropy in Europev

Research at CPS spans multiple disciplines, including economics, psychology, sociology, public administration, organizational sciences, and law. It covers various aspects of philanthropy, such as charitable giving, volunteering, and bequest giving, examining sources of contributions from households, foundations, corporations, and lotteries. Additionally, CPS explores the behaviour of non-profit organizations, charities, and foundations, along with policy and legal aspects related to philanthropy. Their current research areas include crowdfunding, social enterprises, venture philanthropy, and social impact investmentsvi

Maastricht University houses a chair of philanthropy and social innovation, funded by the Elisabeth Strouven Foundation. This chair focuses on the philanthropic contributions of the elderly, who are expected to play a significant role in the “golden age of philanthropy” due to anticipated wealth transfers in the futurevii

University College Windesheim in Zwolle primarily focuses on teaching subjects related to fundraising, grant making, and sponsorshipviii

Overall, these institutions and research centres contribute significantly to the data collection and understanding development of philanthropy in the Netherlands, and their work has broader implications for the philanthropic sector in Europe. 

Key Insight: The Netherlands’ dedication to academic collaboration and impact measurement sets a precedent for data-driven philanthropy with tangible and sustainable outcomes. 

By combining the strengths of both nations, we can create a powerful synergy in data-driven philanthropy. Open data initiatives, like those in the Netherlands, can inspire similar efforts in Ireland, fostering transparency and data sharing among philanthropic organizations. A collaborative spirit will facilitate the exchange of best practices, methodologies, and insights, driving innovation and maximizing the impact of charitable efforts. 

Data-driven philanthropy has the potential to change the way we tackle social challenges and create a more equitable world. Drawing from the strengths of both the United States and the Netherlands, the potential exists to build a global network of data-driven philanthropy that promotes collaboration, transparency, and accountability. By prioritising ethical considerations and embracing technological innovation, we can ensure that data becomes a powerful tool in the hands of philanthropists. 

Embracing change requires individuals to acknowledge their knowledge gaps and exhibit the courage to broaden their perspectives. By making room for new ideas and embracing change, philanthropy can continue it relevancy and target its giving in an ever-evolving landscape.