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Why do charities deliver public services?

This is one of seven fact sheets in a series about reporting on charity issues. It provides context for accurate reporting and details of where to get more information.

Other topics in the series are:

  1. How can I tell how effective a charity is?
  2. Why do charities have paid staff?
  3. How much money goes on running costs?
  4. Why do charities fundraise?
  5. Why do charities campaign?
  6. Are there too many charities?

Download this fact sheet as a PDF (50KB)


Voluntary organisations can be useful partners in not only delivering services but reducing demand for them in the first place.

Charities are uniquely placed to shape and deliver more effective services. Often developing in response to local needs, many involve service users as volunteers, staff or on their boards. 

And they are well-used to operating within financial constraints. Their insight can result in quality, cost-efficient solutions including many early intervention options that prevent expensive crises later on. 

The sector is already a significant player in delivering public services. It receives more than £12bn a year from delivering Government contracts. That’s more than a quarter of the sector’s total income. 

Charities also have to pay attention to Charity Commission guidance, known as CC37, when considering whether they should get involved in public service delivery[1]. Essentially it should be clear how any activity supports the charity’s mission and charitable objects.

Current barriers for charities delivering public services include:

  • increasing contract sizes – smaller charities with expert local knowledge cannot deliver the scale sometimes required. Payment by results – can create perverse incentives for providers andsmaller organisations, including charities, cannot sustain costs until payment is received
  • focus on price – commissioners often focus exclusively on price rather than quality or social value
  • too much bureaucracy – bidding process and reporting requirements are often disproportionate to the contract size, disadvantaging smaller organisations.

Useful press contacts

National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)

  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Telephone 020 7520 2413
  • Out of hours 07714 243 942
  • @NCVO

Charity Finance Group

  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Telephone 020 7871 5477
  • Out of hours 07889 129 971
  • @CFGtweets


1. CC37 

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