The state of the charity sector
Over the course of the summer, a number of reports have been issued providing an indication of the state of the charity sector in 2023, after the difficulties of the last few years caused by the pandemic and subsequent cost of living crisis.
In July, CCEW published two reports based on research carried out earlier this year. The first addressed public trust in charities, and concluded that this had marginally increased at a time when other institutions have not fared so well. This stability is to be welcomed, but levels of trust still remain well below the levels seen before 2015 when a number of scandals rocked the public’s perception of the sector. It is notable that trust levels are highest with smaller, local, volunteer-run charities than for many of the larger household names, often as those smaller charities are easier to identify with and can demonstrate a clearer link between donations and impact. It is clear that a charity that demonstrates transparency, whose work is more readily understood and supported, is one that is more likely to be trusted. Based on this research, key issues for the sector for charities to consider include the need to manage funds responsibly, avoid unnecessary risks and to demonstrate how they make a difference.
CCEW’s second report was based on research carried out with trustees and showed that most are of the opinion that they understand public expectations around finances, impact and values. There is work to be done though by smaller charities in promoting greater inclusivity at board level, with recruitment and retention policies needing to adapt and reflect modern expectations as to how charities should be governed. Both the public and trustees had broadly similar views on the role of CCEW and the need to balance providing support for the sector and dealing with wrongdoing.
In the same month NCVO published a report entitled Time Well Spent, looking at what volunteer participation and experience currently looks like. It noted a fall in formal volunteer participation in recent years including in connection with fundraising activities, something the pandemic is likely to be the cause of. It was noted though that there was a growing trend in volunteering remotely. For charities seeking to recruit more volunteers knowing what motivates them will be beneficial, with the need to feel that they are making a difference noted as the most important aspect of volunteering, followed closely by not being made to feel pressured to give time. The report goes on to provide a wealth of data on volunteer experience and impact, barriers to volunteering and retention issues that may provide insights for charities on how to best manage their volunteers on which many charities rely.