News about philanthropy in Ireland focuses too much on individual philanthropists and controversies around charities, and does not pay enough attention to impact.
This is according to a new study by Philanthropy Ireland, which argues that the philanthropy sector needs to do more to engage journalists, and to increase the amount of research, data and information it provides them with on the topic.
The report, titled What Made the News, analysed 100 major articles on philanthropy between 2013 and 2023. Of these, 28 were primarily focused on profiling or honouring philanthropists.
There was significantly more focus on corporate donations and wealthy individuals, as opposed to other forms of giving such as grassroots philanthropy, the report says. In addition, articles generally lacked “analysis of the impact of philanthropic activities on Irish society”, as well as transparency around how donations are used.
What Made the News also says that while philanthropy in Ireland continues to grow, there is a “lack of public awareness and understanding” of philanthropy and its impact, as well as of data around this topic.
“Given these challenges, there is a growing need for greater attention to be paid to the role and impact of philanthropy in Ireland. One way to do this is through media reporting, which can help to raise awareness of philanthropic initiatives, develop an understanding around philanthropy, and highlight the impact of philanthropy on society.”
The report ends with recommendations for the charity sector. These include engaging more with journalists and providing them with more data and information on philanthropy’s impact, and trends in the sector. It also calls for more transparency around causes and organisations supported, as well as doing more to highlight diverse voices and perspectives.
Mirroring those recommendations, it also gives suggestions for journalists, such as “emphasise the positive impact it [philanthropy] is having on society”; highlight the contributions of minority groups and under-represented communities; and “create more opportunities for philanthropists and nonprofit leaders to speak directly to the media about their work, challenges, and successes”.
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