An Irish Form of Giving


Identifying Trends in Philanthropy

By Patrick Sweeney

What is Philanthropy? It is a question we are often asked. There is no doubt it is a different form of giving. It is always strategic, often long-term and usually brave. It allows ground-breaking and pioneering projects to proceed, which otherwise may not happen.

At Community Foundation Ireland we know philanthropy. We draw on 23-years as a philanthropic hub as well as experience, knowledge and skills developed by working not only with donors but also a network of 5,000 voluntary, community and charitable organisations.

Our work is guided and driven by our mission, Equality for All In Thriving Communities, as well as our strategy which commits us to grow and promote Philanthropy in Ireland.

As a philanthropic hub we often see trends in giving and donations as they emerge. It allow us not only to respond to the needs of donors but also provided the evidence and the research which informed the development of the first ever National Policy on Philanthropy, launched by the Government in December.

Emerging Trends

We are seeing a number of trends emerging, notably a growing interest in longer term giving options.

This is being done in a number of ways:

A greater focus on legacy giving and planning – donors are now considering how their resources can continue to benefit society when they’re no longer able to actively manage their philanthropy. Often they want to “pass the baton” to the next generation in their family or network.

Endowed giving – a key part of any sustainable philanthropic portfolio is an invested, or what we call an ‘endowed fund’. Over the past year we have seen a surge in pledges to such funds, ensuring support for communities, in perpetuity.

An appetite for innovation and sustainability –  philanthropy is now seen as a key element of  investment portfolios and with that comes a keenness to steward and grow assets available for grant making. As a Foundation we are exploring new developments and innovations which can ensure that donors achieve their vision, while also responding to complex challenges such as climate.

Irish Philanthropy

Interestingly, based on recent research, we are seeing an Irish version of philanthropy emerging.

It has a number of defining features, namely privacy. Many who give shy away from being in the spotlight opting to be private, discreet and sometimes anonymous. A sense of place and belonging also comes across strongly with donors giving to a village, parish, town, city or county where they have strong personal or professional connectivity.

There is also a recognition that for many who give they see it as a journey. It evolves, responding to different needs as society changes.

Pivotal Moment

With levels of donations remaining high, more than €22M to the Foundation in 2023, plus the new National Policy it is clear we are at a pivotal moment. There is a wider and growing recognition of the power of private giving for public good and how it can help make our country a better and fairer place.

Interested in finding out more or starting your own philanthropic journey? Contact us at

Patrick is Snr Innovation and Development Advisor with Community Foundation Ireland