Multiple charities in Ireland have banded together to launch a new campaign to “celebrate the impact of Ireland’s charities and community groups.” The campaign, called We Act, is funded by the Community Foundation for Ireland through the RTE Does Comic Relief Fund.
It would seem fair to question if those who donated to RTE Does Comic Relief, on the basis it would raise “much-needed funds for the Irish charity sector,” could have predicted that some of the money donated would be used to fund a campaign designed to provide positive PR to the Irish charity industry rather than actual charitable activities.
As the government matched private donations during RTE Does Comic Relief, up to the value of €3 million, there is also a question of how much public funding has found itself attached to this campaign. The campaign doesn’t mention receiving any direct funding from their government, but the logo of the Irish government is on the campaign’s promotional material, right beside the logos of the other funders of the campaign.
Whilst We Act says its work has seen “hundreds of Irish charities join forces to drive post-pandemic community recovery,” day to day management of the campaign will fall to a “steering group” of six organisations; Volunteer Ireland; the Wheel; Charities Institute Ireland; Boardmatch; Dóchas; and the Disability Federation of Ireland.
It’s unclear how We Act will seek to fight against two of the most common criticisms of the charitable sector within Ireland – that there is perceived to be large levels of duplication between charities and that the sector is nearly entirely dependent on state funding and support. Those criticisms have been made more pressing in recent years following a series of scandals involving financial fraud and misappropriation within major Irish charities.
A short look at the members of the steering group of We Act provides some insight into both concerns. The Wheel, for instance, is Ireland’s “national association of community and voluntary organisations, charities and social enterprises.” They say part of their charitable work is designed to “build public support and to secure the optimum legislative, policy and regulatory enviroment for community and voluntary action.” In 2020 they received €1,781,804 in public funding, 76% of their total funding.
The Charities Institute Ireland says that their vision is “an Ireland that trusts and values charities for the positive contribution they make to solving challenges in our society.” In 2019 they received €220,000 from the Department of Rural and Community Affairs.
Dóchas, is “the Irish association of non-governmental development organisations.” In 2020 Dóchas received €455,000 in funding from Irish Aid, Ireland’s international development aid programme, which is unsurprisingly publicly funded, roughly 70% of their total budget.
We Act say they expect the campaign to run for three to five years.