Almost two thirds (64%) believe there are too many charities, and 68% think those with a similar intent should consider merging.
The research, commissioned by Charities Institute Ireland, found that almost two thirds (61%) believe that charities have an essential role in society.
However, seven out of 10 (70%) consider that the State relies too heavily on them to provide services.
The findings are contained in Charities 2037, which will be used as a baseline from which to go forward over the next 20 years.
The study, conducted by Amárach Research, used feedback from 1,000 members of the public, 364 charity staff members, and 101 charity volunteers.
Charities Institute Ireland was formed almost a year ago, and represents 180 of around 8,500 registered charity. A typical view that emerged from the research is that organisations which have served their purpose or lost their momentum have to change or merge.
There is also a fear that the sector will face the continuing challenge of declining public trust unless things change.
Just one in six (16%) of staff foresee charities having more influence in 2037 than they do now.
A mismatch also emerged as to what people think is feasible and what staff and volunteers can deliver. Six out of 10 (60%) people believe wages in the charity sector are too high, but a similar number think charities should get the best professionals, and 41% said they should pay competitive wages.
CEO of Charities Institute Ireland, Lucy Masterson, said from the cradle to the grave charities are a crucial pillar of society. They made a €5bn contribution annually to the sector and employed 148,000 people: “While the charitable and voluntary sector has always formed a key part of Irish society, much of it went unregulated and unaccountable.
“We wanted to have a baseline so 20 years from now we will have a vibrant, positive, healthy and trusted charity sector.”
What charities provide and what the State and its people expect needs to be reviewed and, if charities are to merge, they need to know how that is going to be achieved.
“In effect, we are seeking to write a manifesto for the charity sector for 2037 — outlining its promise and purpose; its responsibilities; its shape and structure and its future direction.”