Describe the company – the elevator pitch …
Benefacts is a new Irish social enterprise that has created the Database of Irish Nonprofits – a unique and authoritative source of regulatory, financial and governance data on all nonprofits in Ireland.
Benefacts harvests data from many public sources, curates it and publishes current extracts on benefacts.ie for easy access.
Working with partners in the public and nonprofit sectors, Benefacts has developed a number of online and bespoke data solutions for the benefit of the sector and its stakeholders.
— Benefacts (@benefacts_ie) March 28, 2017
How are you different?
We have catalogued all of Ireland’s civil society organisations for the first time, drawing on public information from a dozen sources and using an internationally-recognised definition – i.e. every organisation that’s not part of the private sector or part of the government is in our scope.
This includes about 5,000 charities but also another 15,000 or so that are not regulated as charities, including sports and recreational bodies, group water schemes, trades unions and many more. You can find them all on our free searchable public website benefacts.ie.
We are ourselves constituted as a non-for-profit organisation but we don’t advocate for, or represent any sectoral interests. Instead we set out to be recognised as a neutral, impartial provider of reliable up-to-date information in a highly accessible way. Nobody else provides this.
— Benefacts (@benefacts_ie) April 20, 2017
Why will the company/product do well?
Without a data infrastructure, it’s very hard for people working in nonprofits, and their Boards of voluntary Directors, to undertake strategic planning – the nonprofit sector needs business analysis tools just like any other sector.
Benefacts is developing information supports targeted on the sector and its stakeholders in government and philanthropy. So far, the feedback we’re getting is very positive, this is not least because the administrative overhead for nonprofits – the cost of accountability – is high: a medium-sized non-profit can find itself making annual returns to up to six government regulators or registers, and the same again to government funders. Benefacts can take a lot of duplication out of these transactions.
When was the company launched? / What have been your biggest wins to date?
We launched Benefacts.ie in June 2015 and the free public website went live less than a year later on the 18th May 2016. Our statistics are very strong compared to other non-commercial/public utility sites, in particular on engagement and bounce rates.
Traffic is growing steadily. In the eight months between launch and the year-end, there have been more than 40,266 visits to Benefacts.ie, made by 27,475 users. Individual nonprofit organisation profiles were viewed more than 71,000 times, and people have downloaded nonprofits’ own reports or documents were downloaded more than 13,000 times.
Half of our funding comes from government, and they have encouraged us to publish our curated lists on data.gov.ie – they went live in November and we update the open dataset every day. Likewise, various other Benefacts projects in development tick all of the boxes in the Government’s ICT strategy – build to share, digital first, data as an enabler, improving governance, and . See our 2016 Annual Report for more information on these.
Tell us about your team?
We’ve been lucky to attract a highly creative team of developers, data specialists and financial analysts – most with a background in the private sector but with a real interest in bringing high quality data to the service of decision-makers in the non-profit sector. Some younger team members are bringing fresh insights from academic research interests, reflecting the high motivation of young people to put their skills to work in projects that deliver social goods.
Our Board of voluntary Directors is drawn from the IT, nonprofit, philanthropy, public sector and professional services sectors.
What are you long term plans for your product/company?
There are so many ways in which data can be put to work for nonprofits. In the short term, we are focussed on building relevant data services for users in the sector, and within the professional firms that provide services to nonprofits – consultants and analysts, accountants, asset managers and so forth. Given employment numbers of >130,000, accumulated assets of more than €3bn and an annual sectoral turnover of almost €10bn, there’s clearly a lot of work to be done.
We’ve partnered with institutional funders and regulators to develop Benefacts Analytics – a governance, compliance and risk analysis service, which we hope to roll out more widely later this year.
We’d love to see young programmers using our data to develop further services and apps targeted on particular segments – as we become better known we’re starting to hear from young social innovators, which is very exciting.
For the future, there are undoubtedly wider applications of the data and information, not just in Ireland but further afield.
What are your favourite tech gadgets? / What tech gadgets do you wish you could use to help you?
Based on user analysis, we’ve built most of our services for desk-bound users but like everyone, we are noticing a steady trend towards mobile devices, and we do love our phones and tablets!
How do people get in touch with you?