Stjórnmál og Stjórnsýsla (Dec 2011)

Welfare non-profit organizations and foundations in Iceland

  • Ómar H. Kristmundsson,
  • Steinunn Hrafnsdóttir

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 7, no. 2
pp. 451 – 470


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Non-profit organizations and foundations, a part of the so-called third sector, have for a long period of time been an important part of the Icelandic welfare system. Despite this there is limited statistical and research data on their number and operations. The article includes findings from preliminary research on the subject. A theoretical models and international classification systems are used in the analysis to define their number, functions and operations and relations with the government. The data is derived from the authors’ database on the effects of recent economic crisis and historical data on individual non-profits and foundations. The findings confirm their extensive function in welfare services but a changing role through the 20th. century. Nonprofit-government relations have changed accordingly. Based on the authors’ definition 144 non-profit organizations and foundations were in operation in 2009, the former comprising 85% of the total number. A little less than 6 of every 10 were entities with the primary function of providing public service, approx. 2 of every 10 were member-oriented such as self-help societies and similar ratio campaigning organizations. Organizations providing public service have the largest operating activities and number of employees. Approx. 2/3 of the entities had one or two primary income bases. Most frequently the largest portion of the organizations’ income was provided by the central government. The importance of reliable official data and research on the third sector in Icelandic is emphasized.