The Irish public and charity: tracking changes through crises

Samuel Beckett Bridge, Dublin

The Irish public and charity: tracking changes through crises

In this week's blog, Eva reflects on data from the past several years of crises, and asks the question of how these turbulent times have affected Irish sentiment towards charities.

Eva Spencer

In the past few years, I’ve often felt that there’s been very little respite between times of crisis. While this has been true for us all experiencing/witnessing the pandemic, then the invasion of Ukraine, and now the rising cost of living, it’s been interesting to witness the different impact that these events have had on the Irish public. Our data has allowed me to explore Irish sentiment towards the charity sector following these events and amidst more local issues – even just this week, Ireland’s housing crisis has been in the news, as well as a strange meteor spotted in the skies (concern over which depends on your sci-fi consumption). This week, however, my aim is to explore which large-scale events of recent years have most affected the Irish people and their relationship with charity. 

The war in Ukraine has clearly had an impact on the Irish public. Our research shows a significant increase in the public’s concern about war and political instability, with 60% saying that the issue of the refugee crisis in Ukraine is important to them. There is clearly an appetite to help, and a large amount of the Irish public have acted on their concerns. Over a third say they donated to a charity working in Ukraine or with refugees, most commonly Irish Red Cross, UNICEF and the Society of St Vincent de Paul. A further third have opted for disintermediated methods, instead choosing to donate goods directly to Ukrainian refugees. 

This time last year, Covid-19 was the crisis occupying minds around the world. However, cases are low and we seem to have emerged from this crisis. Public attitude reflects this. 50% of the Irish public called Covid-19 a top concern in Dec 2020, while only 20% said the same in May 2022. Unfortunately, we seem to be moving from crisis to crisis. Even despite the importance of the war in Ukraine, it continues to be domestic issues that resonate most with people. In Ireland, people are most concerned about the cost-of-living crisis, their financial security, homelessness and problems in the Irish health service.  

The threat of recession and soaring inflation are already pushing charities to their limits, with the Society of St Vincent de Paul recently reporting a record number of calls over food price inflation. The public is feeling the pinch and plans to cut back on spending in many essential areas. 61% expect to cut back on heating and hot water, compared to 39% in Dec 2021. Plus, 56% expect to cut back on weekly food shopping compared to only 39% in Dec 2021. Against this economic backdrop, charities seeking to tackle and alleviate the consequences of this crisis will also be hit. Over half of the Irish people (54%) are anticipating cutting back on giving to charity, compared to 34% in Dec 2021. 

As Peter wrote in a recent blog, emphasising alternative and affordable ways in which supporters can engage with charities will be key at a time like this. One of the more obvious ways of doing this is to focus on engagement through volunteering - asking people to give some time where they no longer have the means to give financially. Our research shows that the public is most likely to be encouraged to volunteer if someone directly asks them to volunteer with/for them (26%) and many would prefer to seek volunteer roles that don’t require a specific time commitment (24%). A lot of people’s realities have changed due to the upheaval of the last few years, so it’s important for organisations to embrace redesigning roles; create flexible, and perhaps virtual, volunteering opportunities; and capitalise on those willing to engage under more accessible circumstances.  

Even despite the many months since the government lifted final Covid-19 restrictions, in many ways we’ve only just settled back into normality. Many donation methods that took a hit in Ireland during the pandemic are generally returning to near pre-pandemic levels. For instance, over two thirds (67%) of the public once again say that they’ve donated clothing/ products to a charity shop. Other traditional methods, including on-street cash collections, have unfortunately been a casualty of the pandemic. Social distancing and an increasingly cashless society have paved the way for convenient and cashless alternatives. Half (49%) of the public say that they have given through add-on donations at the till and the number giving through contactless payment has increased in the last few years, from 12% in 2019 to 28% in 2022. Considering cashless alternatives and taking steps to make it easier for givers to donate to your cause may be vital moving forward.  

Our data reveals that the Irish people’s charitable habits respond quickly and fervently to world events, meaning that adaptability should be the name of the game. If you’d like to understand more about the charity landscape in Ireland or your charity brand, please contact for more information. 

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