Irish charities and community groups have joined forces this week to launch We Act, a national campaign that intends to build on the huge upswell of community activity during the COVID-19 pandemic and help drive the post-pandemic recovery across the nation.
Highlighting the diversity of Ireland’s charity and community sector, We Act spokesperson Sarah Monaghan said:
“The COVID-19 crisis brought a renewed public focus on the work of our sector. From support lines for older people to laptops for children in emergency accommodation, when we saw a need in our communities, we responded to it. The pandemic demonstrated that – in times of real need – charities and community groups are at the forefront of our national response.
“We saw a shift in values towards equality, justice and supports for the most vulnerable in our communities and across the globe. Now, there needs to be a concentrated effort to ensure the innovation, goodwill and community cohesion continues as we recover from the pandemic.”
Public recognition of vital role of charities
Although people in Ireland recognise the vital role of charities on lives in their community, few recall interacting with a charity or community group in recent times. A survey of 1,000 people in Ireland*, conducted by nfpSynergy on behalf of the We Act campaign, found that 7 in 10 people believe that the lives of people in their communities would be impacted if charities disappeared overnight. And yet, fewer than 1 in 10 (8%) believe they interacted with a charity or community group in the past year.
Almost two thirds (63%) of people have given to a charity or community group in the last three months. The majority (62%) think charities are more likely to be responsive in their services than the public sector, but little over half (54%) think staff in the charity sector should be paid similarly to those in the public sector.Despite the fact that board members in both large and small charities are unpaid volunteers, over 4 in 10 people believe those who serve on charity boards are paid a salary.
The survey also reveals a lack of understanding about the breadth of the sector. While 7 in 10 people understand that a homelessness organisation is a charity, only 1 in 10 think an arts organisation is a charity.
Commenting on the findings, Ms. Monaghan adds:
“We know from the incredible support during the pandemic that people in Ireland have a huge affinity for good causes and we can see from the research that they understand the role some charities have in providing vital services. However, a majority of the public feel that charity is for someone else – and this campaign wants to celebrate the wide breadth of groups who have an impact on our lives every single day – even if we don’t realise it.
“We hope that a better understanding of the benefits of charitable work and volunteering will drive community and voluntary action in communities across Ireland, which will help drive the post-pandemic recovery.”
Next Steps for We Act
The We Act campaign will run over the next three years across Ireland with a view to addressing the challenges uncovered in the research. It aims to support the growth of vibrant and sustainable community life, strengthen the charity and community sector and encourage more people to engage and participate in the sector by volunteering, working, and donating. The campaign is managed by a coalition of charities and community groups, led by Boardmatch, Charities Institute Ireland, the Disability Federation of Ireland, Dóchas, The Wheel and Volunteer Ireland.
The campaign is funded through a grant from RTÉ Does Comic Relief, which is distributed by The Community Foundation for Ireland.
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