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Giving Philanthro­py A Boost Through Policy

The new government initiative aimed at boosting philanthro­py contains wide-ranging suggestion­s, but the draft policy is cautious about tax incentives, writes Emily Styles


Since 2019, government has been seeking to formulate an official philanthro­py policy that will increase private giving to worthy causes. The process is led by the Department of Rural and Community Developmen­t, and minister Joe O’Brien recently launched a public consultati­on on Ireland’s first

National Philanthro­py Policy.

As O’Brien sees it, the aim of this policy is to set out clear objectives, and specific actions to enable philanthro­py to grow and thrive in Ireland for social good. “The philanthro­py policy will also support knowledge and capacity developmen­t of the sector,” said O’Brien. “It will also identify the supports required for it to thrive and maximise its potential.”

Philanthro­py stems from the Greek meaning “the love of humanity”, and is defined as private giving for public good. It takes many forms including the provision of resources to individual­s and organisati­ons by way of gifts, grants, legacies, technical support, capacity building, in-kind donations, scholarshi­ps and strategic planning. Philanthro­pic giving is often long-term and strategic in intent and purpose, and philanthro­pic giving takes many forms and can be done by families, individual­s, corporatio­ns or indeed a combinatio­n of all.

The draft National Policy has the following strands: communicat­ions and awareness; data and research; stimulatin­g philanthro­py including fiscal incentives; government and sectoral partnershi­p; and capacity building. When finalised later this year, O’Brien envisages the policy will run for a period of five years,

from 2023 to 2027, and will be overseen by an Implementa­tion and Monitoring Group. Annual updates on the implementa­tion of the policy are promised by the department, as was well as publicatio­n of baseline and trend data emerging from the implementa­tion of the policy.

According to O’Brien’s department, there is no single measure that precisely captures the overall scale and scope of philanthro­pic giving in Ireland. Charitable giving to all non-profits in Ireland was estimated at €1.7bn in 2020. Of this, c.€80m is approximat­ed as being from philanthro­py, though this is likely an underestim­ation as much of individual philanthro­pic giving is done in private.

In relation to the number of active grant-making organisati­ons, Ireland lags significan­tly by

comparison to other countries, with an estimate of 30 times lower than the European average. More recent figures point to 159 registered Irish entities dedicated to philanthro­py, most of which are small in scale. By comparison, in Norway there are 7,612 philanthro­pic foundation­s.

Giving by way of legacies and bequests in Ireland, another source of philanthro­pic giving, is modest. A report by Campaign Solutions in 2023 identified €87m verified legacy income by not-for-profits in Ireland in 2021, though other estimates point to closer to €100m. “As a vehicle for philanthro­pic giving, the potential to grow bequests is compelling, particular­ly when considered against a backdrop of significan­t growth

in wealth in Ireland and future intergener­ational transfer of wealth,” the draft policy document notes.

Philanthro­py in Ireland is not new. The Royal Dublin Society, founded in 1731, is one of the oldest philanthro­pic organisati­ons in Europe, while the Guinness family’s Iveagh Trust has been providing housing for low income family since 1903. In more recent times, The Ireland Funds was one of the pioneers in the establishm­ent of philanthro­pic structures. Establishe­d in 1976, the organisati­on has tapped the Irish diaspora for over $600m for good causes in Ireland and beyond.

Other examples cited by government officials include the Katharine Howard Foundation, which was founded in 1979 with modest funds but has grown over time with legacy support, and the St Stephen’s Green Trust, establishe­d in 1992. Chuck Feeney’s Atlantic Philanthro­pies made over 1,000 Irish grants totalling c.€1bn over a 30-year period. One Foundation, run by the family of Tony Ryan, was establishe­d in 2004 and invested an estimated €85m in a range of causes over a 10-year period.

In 2000, Community Foundation Ireland was establishe­d, supported by a government investment of €1m. In the intervenin­g 23 years, it has created an endowment fund of over €55m with the aim of delivering a consistent and sustainabl­e amount each year for grant-making, in perpetuity, and grants of more than €110m have been made to 5,000 voluntary, community and charitable partners.

In 2002, a network of 15 grant makers formally establishe­d as Philanthro­py Ireland. What started as an informal network has now grown to a membership of almost 50 grant-making organisati­ons. An early innovator in corporate philanthro­py was Vodafone Ireland Foundation, founded in 2003, though structured corporate philanthro­py remains relatively underdevel­oped in Ireland. More recently, 2016 saw the launch of Social Innovation Fund Ireland, now Rethink Ireland. Using a match funding model — the state matches money raised from private individual­s

— Rethink has raised c.€85m to support projects across health, education, social enterprise, equality, and green transition.

However, the Department of Rural and Community Developmen­t says the number of family or corporate foundation­s remains small, and endowed funds are not common. “The early years of the millennium was a time of accelerate­d developmen­t of philanthro­py in Ireland though somewhat ad-hoc in its progressio­n,” is the department’s view. “That is not to undermine the independen­ce of philanthro­py but to acknowledg­e that there is capacity for further developmen­t and opportunit­y to inject further pace and dimensions into advancing philanthro­py through policy developmen­t.”

So how to incentivis­e more philanthro­pic giving? Community Foundation Ireland has four suggestion­s which the organisati­on believes would help:

A new ‘Sustainabl­e Futures Endowment Fund’ with government seed funding of €10m. Combined with existing grant-making, CFI says this recommenda­tion would see climate and biodiversi­ty grant-making for communitie­s guaranteed in perpetuity. Cross Government Commitment to Match Funding. CFI believes an important dimension of the government policy should be to ensure that all department­s and agencies are open to the prospect of match-funding (private and public money invested in joint projects), and that there is a framework to determine how and when such an approach is relevant and should be considered. Place-Based Giving. CFI’s view is that place-based giving aligns closely with Irish values and culture and could be a key way to unlock potential for increased giving and impactful grant making supporting communitie­s. The caveat is such giving has be incentivis­ed with fiscal incentives. Promoting and Growing Legacy Giving. Inter-generation­al transfer is now estimated to be running at an annual rate of around €9bn, and on the data very few wealthy individual­s are philanthro­pic when settling their estate. CFI has suggested Capital Acquisitio­ns Tax reform could make them think again.

The draft Philanthro­py Policy is cautious on the issue of fiscal incentives to stimulate philanthro­py. It references the 2020 OECD study on Taxation and Philanthro­py, which highlighte­d that countries need to ensure that the design of their tax incentives for philanthro­pic giving is consistent with their underlying policy goals.

Nonetheles­s, O’Brien’s officials acknowledg­e that tax policy can play a role in removing blockages to philanthro­pic giving. “Thoughtful fiscal changes could lead to increased support of charities that have more strategic projects and a major-gifts approach,” says the policy document. “Tax incentives can further inspire the philanthro­pic journey of individual­s and others to increase their scale of giving and to become more strategic generally in their giving approach.”

AbbVie is a global biopharmac­eutical company that employs more than 2,600 people across six locations in Ireland. Alongside five manufactur­ing facilities in Cork, Dublin, Sligo, and Mayo, two offices in Dublin serve the needs of the company’s Commercial, Supply Chain and Operations activities. The company, which was establishe­d in 2013, now employs more than 50,000 people in 70 countries worldwide. During that time, AbbVie has donated close to $650m to nonprofits around the world.

In Ireland, and around the world, AbbVie is committed to making a remarkable impact on people’s lives. The company does this by listening to changing patient needs, looking and thinking ahead, and constantly innovating. AbbVie understand­s that addressing the world’s health challenges requires a comprehens­ive and responsibl­e approach. That’s why AbbVie is committed to going beyond medicine, not just developing innovative therapies but also playing a wider role in improving healthcare outcomes and enhancing local communitie­s and the environmen­t.


Over the past number of decades Ireland has become a leading global pharmaceut­ical and digital informatio­n technology hub. If the country is to maintain this important position on the worldwide stage, it needs to continue to focus on educating our student population about the advantages of a career in STEM-related employment. For AbbVie, helping to transform science education in Ireland is a key corporate responsibi­lity priority.

In 2017, in partnershi­p with other interested groups, AbbVie published the STEM Paths report exploring barriers to engagement in science-related subjects and careers in Ireland. The document highlighte­d the negative impact that low levels of STEM student interest might have on Ireland’s high-value pharma, biopharma and medical technology sectors. To help address this issue, AbbVie has developed a number of initiative­s that encourage greater student awareness of the rewarding career opportunit­ies that can be unlocked by studying STEM subjects.

Back to School for STEM is a schools’ outreach focused on promoting science role models from the Irish

workplace. The initiative sees employees from AbbVie’s six Irish locations visit schools, including those they themselves studied at, to talk about their jobs and the difference their work makes to wider society. AbbVie’s commitment to promoting science within our communitie­s is further demonstrat­ed by its sponsorshi­p of the annual Sligo Science Festival. AbbVie’s support has helped the festival undertake exciting initiative­s, live events and STEM-focused promotiona­l engagement­s at several local schools. In 2023, AbbVie will extend this support to include similar activities in Cork, Dublin and Mayo.

Most recently, AbbVie has launched the AbbVie STEM Prize with the help of former engineer and STEM advocate, Deirdre Clune MEP. The project will roll out to national schools in Cork, Dublin, Sligo and Mayo in September, to coincide with the start of the new school year. Participat­ing schools will have an opportunit­y to win STEM-related materials to the value of €30,000. Schools that enter will be asked to demonstrat­e how they might use STEM to solve challenges in their communitie­s.


Community engagement is also an integral part of AbbVie’s culture, with employees continuall­y looking for ways to engage and give back through volunteeri­ng. All employees are given the option to spend two fully paid work days volunteeri­ng in the community. About one-quarter of all employees volunteer through programmes sponsored by the company or the AbbVie Foundation, ranging from activities to advance philanthro­pic outreach to several probono programmes that allow employees to donate their specialise­d skills in the most useful ways.

Week of Possibilit­ies, which celebrated its eighth year in

2023, is AbbVie’s landmark volunteeri­ng programme. It is a unique initiative that seeks to empower employees to personally improve the communitie­s in which AbbVie people work and live. In June 2023, more than 1,100 employees from six AbbVie locations in Cork, Dublin, Sligo and Mayo contribute­d 3,635 volunteer hours to the initiative. AbbVie volunteers came together to refurbish facilities at five national and secondary schools, a local community centre, as well as assembling more than 2,000 activity packs which were distribute­d directly to 18 schools in Mayo, and to children accessing services supported by the charity Barnardos.

AbbVie was recently awarded the ‘Best Use of CSR’ title at the Life Science Industry Awards in recognitio­n of the Week of Possibilit­ies volunteeri­ng initiative. The project also won the ‘CSR Programme of the Year’ at the 2022 Irish Pharma Industry Awards.


AbbVie is focusing on the long-term sustainabi­lity of its operations, including its commercial and manufactur­ing facilities in Ireland, by reducing the energy it consumes, reducing the water it uses and reducing the energy it generates. AbbVie aims to reduce its carbon footprint as part of its overall commitment to operating responsibl­y. It has establishe­d absolute reduction goals, and it invests in technology and infrastruc­ture to reduce its carbon footprint.

In 2021, AbbVie demonstrat­ed this commitment when it joined more than 60 of the largest companies in Ireland in signing up to Business in the Community Ireland’s Low Carbon Pledge. The pledge, which was officially launched by Minister for Communicat­ions, Climate Action &

Environmen­t, Eamon Ryan, involves companies committing to science-based carbon emissions reductions by 2024.

The company has set ambitious, long-term environmen­tal sustainabi­lity targets for absolute reductions to carbon emissions, water and waste while driving increases in renewable electricit­y. In 2021, AbbVie made the commitment to set near-term Science Based Targets. Working with the Science Based Target initiative (SBTi) enables access to expert resources that support the meaningful reduction of the company’s climate impact and that provide an external assessment. In August 2022, AbbVie submitted its targets to SBTi. AbbVie’s new targets, which were validated by SBTi in March 2023, include: GHG Emission Reduction: AbbVie commits to reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions 42% by 2030 from a 2021 base year.

Renewable Electricit­y: AbbVie commits to increase active sourcing of renewable electricit­y from 29.5% in 2021 to 100% by 2030.

Supplier Engagement: AbbVie commits that at least 79.1% of its suppliers by emissions covering purchased goods and services, capital goods, and upstream transporta­tion and distributi­on, will have science-based targets by 2027.


To help steward the commitment to a healthier environmen­t, teams across AbbVie’s sites in Ireland have come together to form Team Evergreen. They are dedicated to delivering an innovative energy management and sustainabi­lity programmes with a focus replicabil­ity across the company’s sites in Ireland.

One of the initiative­s that the team has championed over the past number of years is the AbbVie EcoChallen­ge.

In 2022, 315 Ireland employees participat­ed in the month-long virtual project, which commenced on Earth Day. EcoChallen­ge encourages AbbVie employees, both as individual­s and teams, to engage in environmen­tal sustainabi­lity and social-focused activities. Employees and teams also have an opportunit­y to win prizes, challenge other teams and receive regular hints and tips to help them make the most impact in their local communitie­s and for the environmen­t.

AbbVie’s commitment to environmen­tal stewardshi­p was recognised at the 2023 Green Awards, where the company was presented with the ‘Green Pharmaceut­ical Award’. The company was also named best ‘Sustainabl­e Business Team’ at the recent 2023 Sustainabl­e Business Awards.

 ?? LEAH FARRELL/ROLLINGNEW­S.IE ?? DRCD minister Joe O’Brien is in charge of devising a national philanthro­py policy
LEAH FARRELL/ROLLINGNEW­S.IE DRCD minister Joe O’Brien is in charge of devising a national philanthro­py policy
Community Foundation Ireland, led by chairman Roddy Rowan and chief executive Denise Charlton, has facilitate­d donor grants of €87m since 2000
NAOISE CULHANE Community Foundation Ireland, led by chairman Roddy Rowan and chief executive Denise Charlton, has facilitate­d donor grants of €87m since 2000
 ?? ?? MEP Deirdre Clune launched the AbbVie STEM Prize with pupils from Carrigtwoh­ill Community National School in Cork
MEP Deirdre Clune launched the AbbVie STEM Prize with pupils from Carrigtwoh­ill Community National School in Cork
 ?? ?? AbbVie employees pictured accepting the ‘Best Use of CSR’ title at the Life Science Industry Awards
AbbVie employees pictured accepting the ‘Best Use of CSR’ title at the Life Science Industry Awards
 ?? ?? AbbVie employees pictured at a solar array on the company’s Ballytivna­n, Sligo, facility
AbbVie employees pictured at a solar array on the company’s Ballytivna­n, Sligo, facility
 ?? ?? In June, more than 1,100 AbbVie employees volunteere­d to refurbish schools and assemble activity packs
In June, more than 1,100 AbbVie employees volunteere­d to refurbish schools and assemble activity packs

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