What impact do children and young people’s charities have on Irish society?

Our recent report examines the vision, mission and impact of ten children and young people’s charities registered in Ireland and outlines how these charities are working towards achieving their stated missions. It identifies the key future challenges facing these children and young people’s charities and how the charities are innovating in the face of a dynamic environment.


All of the children and young people’s charities in our research sample share an overall common aim of making a positive difference to the lives of children and young people (and their families), however the charities can be differentiated by the age of the children and young people they support, the needs of the children and young people that they serve, the locations/areas they operate in and how they serve the children and families they exist to support.


  • In 2015 Barnardos worked with 8,467 children, 3,132 parents, 270 other carers, 1,305 community based preventions – a total of 13,174.
  • Barretstown has served 35,000 campers since opening in 1994 and 5,546 campers in 2015 alone.
  • In the past 30 years the Irish Youth Foundation has supported 1,700 projects reaching 50,000 young people directly.
  • The Make A Wish Foundation has granted wishes for more than 2,000 children since 1992.
  • Ronald McDonald House has provided 74,576 bed nights since November 2004.
  • LauraLynn has supported 152 families, with 58 families supported by LauraLynn@home and 2,300+ clinical support sessions and assessments.
  • In 2015 the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) worked with 439 children on an individual basis, engaged with 55 individuals in the mentoring programme, answered 421,672 calls to the phone service and answered 18,304 conversations to online service options.
  • The Jack & Jill Foundation had more than 300 children under its wing at any one time in 2015 providing nearly 70,000 home nursing care hours.


Would there be a void if any of these charities ceased to exist? In our opinion the evidence is that there would be a significant void if these charities no longer offered their supports and services to children, young people and their families.

There is clear evidence for the continuing need for the services provided by children and young people’s charities given the numbers of children, young people and families that have benefitted from the work they do and particularly given the increase in the demand for services reported by many of the charities in 2015.

The ISPCC Annual Report and Financial Statements (2015) identifies emerging themes and risks for children i.e. direct provision, early sexualisation and drugs and alcohol. Barretstown’s impact report (2015) indicates that there are higher rates of cancer diagnosis and improved survival rates for children and young people. Barnardo’s reported in their 2015 financial accounts that they had worked with more children and families than ever before in their history. Their report states; “That’s a reflection of need. Of injustice. Of inequality… No matter how rich or poor we have been as a nation, the number of children in consistent poverty stays much the same… the number of children in disadvantaged communities who leave school unable to read or write stays much the same.”

This information together with the preliminary census 2016 figures, which show the population of children continues to grow, with children (under 18 years of age) now making up 26% of the population, points to the on-going need for the services provided by all of these charities and the likelihood in the future of increased pressure on these services arising from increased demand.


Children and young people’s charities operating in Ireland face four key challenges:

  1. Uncertainty of the economic climate: Existing and likely increasing demand for their services will require increased funding to enable the charities to meet the needs of the children, young people and families they serve. Building a stable financial base remains a key challenge for charities. The uncertainty of the economic climate impacts on the ability of individual donors to contribute to charities and also the likelihood of corporate donors being able to continue to support charities.
  2. Fluctuating levels of public trust in charities: Another key challenge for charities is in ensuring public trust in charities and managing their reputations when scandals do arise. The appointment of a Charity Regulator, adopting the Governance Code for Community, Voluntary and Charitable organisations, implementing the Statement of Guiding Principles for Fundraising, the voluntary adoption of Charities SORP by many charities to enhance the transparency of their financial reports, and a commitment by charities to build and develop relationships with their supporter base through improved communications to their donors and a relationship based approach to fundraising, are some of the measures charities have taken to reassure their donors and the public that they are trustworthy.
  3. Availability of volunteers to match the needs of the charity: Charities are highly dependent on volunteers. A shortage of skilled volunteers across the whole country is a further risk to the charities ability to deliver their stated missions.
  4. Government policy and commitment: During 2015, the Children First Act became law, the Childcare Amendment Bill was passed, the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill was published and the Irish Constitution was amended to enact the changes of the Children’s Referendum. However, charities engaged with lobbying and advocacy on behalf of children will need to continue to fight to ensure that the things that a child needs are at the core of public policy.



To cope with increasing demand for their services and the challenges presented by the complex and dynamic environment in which they operate, children and young people’s charities have been innovating the way in which they raise funds, the services they offer and how they are structured.

  1. Diversifying the Fundraising Mix: All of the charities in the research sample reported an increase in total income for the financial year ended 2015 compared to the financial year ended 2014. Many of the charities reported a diversification in their sources of funding, for example the CMRF embraced new fundraising techniques during the year including the use of face to face fundraising which resulted in the charity engaging with 3,000 new donors. The Jack and Jill Foundation opened five new charity boutiques generating €104,000 and The Irish Youth Foundation released a CD to mark its 30th The CDs were sold through Starbucks cafes and Centra stores generating €35,000*.
  2. Developing new services: The Jack and Jill Foundation outlined plans to expand their services to 4 – 6 year olds by running a pilot programme in 2016 (funded by corporate donations). Barretstown’s outreach programme team expanded programmes in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin and introduced new programmes to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. LauraLynn launched the hospice at home pilot project – LauraLynn@home, with two teams of clinical and care staff providing care at home to the children and their families.
  3. Developing new partnerships: Barretstown partnered with Anam Cara, Irish Skin Foundation, Jack and Jill Foundation and CanTeen Ireland to deliver additional programmes to children and their families affected by serious illness. Developing new partnerships is identified as part of the ISPCC programme of change and modernisation. Barnardos is also committed to working with other organisations to lobby for positive change for children in different areas of legislation, policy and service delivery.
  4. Investing in Information Technology: Barretstown began the implementation of a new CRM system to improve efficiencies and ensure all camper, volunteer and donor information is securely and appropriately retained. It also launched a new mobile responsive website with new features including an interactive camp calendar and new camp tour. The ISPCC are focusing on improving their technology and infrastructure to operate successfully and in compliance with requirements for data protection and privacy. Barnardos has developed an IT strategy for 2015-2017 addressing key risks and organisational requirements
  5. Internal restructuring: In 2015, the ISPCC made significant changes to the organisations management and a newly formed senior management team was tasked with leading a programme of change and modernisation in the organisation. Following the voluntary redundancy of many long serving staff in CMRF, a full internal review and reorganisation took place. Departments were merged, efficiencies were sought for and teams were re-structured, with a clear focus on delivering a planned growth agenda. 
  6. Capital Investment Projects: Ronald McDonald House will construct new premises and move its operations to the new location of the National Children’s Hospital. This will see a 53 bedroom house being built – a significant increase in capacity from the 16 bedroom house and 4 bedroom house that the charity currently operates. Barretstown invested in building a new state of the art dining hall, its largest capital project since it opened in 1994.

*Funds generated to-date at the time of reporting.

To read the full report click here.This report is the first in an eight part series of reports on the impact of charities on Irish society.


John Sutton is Managing Director at Persuasion Republic. Persuasion Republic offers a full range of research and training, design, fundraising and advocacy services. For further information contact john@persuasionrepublic.ie or call John on 01 453 68 36.