Press releases

Open data project to track ten years of voluntary sector finances

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) are to create a data resource that will improve the evidence base for the voluntary sector, particularly in relation to its finances and resources over the past decade.

The data bank will be the culmination of three years’ worth of funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to collect data from a sample of 10,000 charities in England and Wales, building on the research NCVO and TSRC already carry out for the annual UK Civil Society Almanac. It will be used to estimate the resources of all charities and indicate how financially healthy charities are. The central aim of the initiative is to increase access to data by the voluntary sector, helping organisations to build their capacity to analyse and use data themselves.

A second grant from the ESRC will build data resources on a wider range of civil society organisations, such as community interest companies, and fund analysis of the voluntary sector through emerging data sources such as open data released by grant-makers and spending data released by government bodies.

In addition to carrying out research, NCVO and TSRC will offer a series of outreach events for voluntary organisations to show how the data can be used. Examples could include measures of the financial vulnerability of organisations and risk-based indicators such as exposure to particular funding streams. The data bank will be free to use, easy to search and will enable organisations and funders to view trends over time, as well as to search by region and work area.

The UK Civil Society Almanac has been publishing data from the accounts of 10,000 charities in England and Wales since 2006-7. The Economic and Social Research Council has awarded two sets of funding, the first of which will ensure that the research can continue for a further three years and have a broader scope, and the second to fund analysis of wider civil society organisations and open data. The next edition of the Almanac will be published in June.

Nick Ockenden, Head of Research at NCVO, said:

‘We’re delighted to have received funding to work with TSRC on these very important projects. The information we’ll collect will help to paint an accurate picture of the voluntary sector and help charities demonstrate the difference they make to society. Being able to access and use this data will help charities to become more effective and make an even bigger difference in the longer term.’

John Mohan, Director of the Third Sector Research Centre, said:

TSRC and NCVO have collaborated for several years to develop the evidence base on the third sector. These projects will provide a firm foundation for the future development and enhancement of that evidence base. They will also enable important pilot work on emerging data sources on public sector procurement and grant-making. We look forward to working with ESRC on future developments in this field.’


  • For more information contact Helen Raftery, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 020 7520 2424.
  • Data and analysis produced as part of this research will be published in NCVO’s UK Civil Society Almanac and will also be publicly available online.
  • Funding from the ESRC will focus on two areas, firstly to capture data using charity accounts and secondly to increase capacity building and knowledge sharing across the voluntary sector. The funding is worth approximately £386,000 in total.
  • The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government. In 2015 it celebrates its 50th anniversary.

NCVO: Charity volunteer ‘internships’ must be genuine development opportunities

Charities have been warned against inadvertently exploiting the precarious employment situation of young people by creating poor-quality 'intern' positions.

In new guidance published today, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, which represents charities, says that volunteer 'interns' can add a lot of value to charities' work. But NCVO warned charities they must ensure that volunteer roles described as 'internships' provide genuine scope for skill development. NCVO said it was concerned that some organisations have come to rely on volunteer interns to carry out tasks that do not offer them the development opportunities they were expecting.

Among a number of recommendations for charities, the guidance makes clear that volunteers must be allowed flexibility to study or work around their volunteering, and warned that stipulating 9-5, five-day-a-week hours may be incompatible with minimum wage law.

Commenting, Justin Davis Smith, director of volunteering at NCVO, said:

'It's clear that volunteers in all roles add a lot to charities' work, doing valuable and skilled jobs. Indeed many charities couldn't exist without the support and dedication of volunteers in all areas of their organisation.

'While many people who volunteer do so at least in part to gain new skills and experience, interns are often in a particularly vulnerable position at the start of their careers. In the current job market, many feel that gaining experience this way is the only route to the career they want.

'Charities need to ensure that they are not inadvertently taking advantage of this by ensuring that these volunteers get the genuine skills development that they are hoping for. We've seen very positive examples of charities who invest seriously in creating internship schemes that offer volunteers substantial support and development, and this is a standard all should be aspiring to.

'Charities have taken to using the term 'intern' because it attracts more people to volunteer positions. But it's important that these volunteers' expectations are met. Volunteering must always be a two-way relationship. There should be no such thing as an 'unpaid internship' in charities. The law here is quite clear. A role should either be a paid one, or a proper volunteer role.'

The guidance has been developed with input from Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie Cancer Care, The National Trust, and the RSPB.


'Volunteer internships in the voluntary sector - review and guidance' is published today.

NCVO to take on Mentoring and Befriending Foundation services

Sustainable future and greater reach for training and accreditation

Trustees of the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation (MBF) and the board of NCVO have today announced that MBF’s core services are to be transferred to NCVO.

MBF helps organisations to increase the effectiveness and quality of their mentoring and befriending services. MBF has worked hard to build up its core services in recent years, but last year its trustees decided to pursue a collaborative approach in order to ensure the sustainability of their services. They approached NCVO as a potential partner and the organisations have come to an agreement to secure the future of these important services.

The services to be transferred include the Approved Provider Standard for mentoring and befriending projects; the National Training Programme of short courses designed to help organisations develop good practice in mentoring and befriending; MBF resources; and relevant website content.

With most mentoring and befriending work undertaken by volunteers, NCVO believes that a mentoring and befriending specialism will enhance and strengthen the volunteering aspect of its work. In addition, the transfer will create opportunities to develop key aspects of MBF’s core service provision.

Staff whose job roles involve the delivery of MBF core services will be transferred into the employment of NCVO in accordance with TUPE regulations. The transfer of services is expected to take place on 31 March 2015. MBF will remain in existence for a short time in order to close down remaining activities and any reserves will be donated to NCVO.

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, said:

’We are very pleased to make sure that MBF’s services can continue into the future. Their accreditation scheme will complement our own highly regarded quality standards work, and further strengthen our offer to the sector. This transfer will preserve and develop the core services of MBF as a valuable resource for the voluntary sector.’

Steve Matthews, chief executive of MBF, said:

‘We are delighted that NCVO has agreed to take on the Approved Provider Standard, our highly rated National Training Programme of short courses, resources and website and to provide a secure future for them. Mentoring and befriending continue to be key areas for volunteering and NCVO will be able to ensure that these services become more sustainable and reach more organisations.’


MBF staff will join NCVO’s volunteering and development department. Under an arrangement between NCVO and GMCVO, the newly transferred staff will work from space in the GMCVO office, meaning they can continue to work in Manchester, where MBF is based.

NCVO is the umbrella body for the voluntary sector in England. With over 11,000 members, NCVO works to champion, connect and support voluntary organisations and volunteering.

MBF helps organisations to increase the effectiveness and quality of their mentoring and befriending services through training and resources, providing a national quality standard for projects, promoting good practice, evidence building, and working in partnership to encourage the take-up of mentoring and befriending.

For more information please contact:

  • Helen Raftery at NCVO, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 020 7520 2424
  • Steve Matthews at MBF, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 07814 039 738.

Joint Committee on the Draft Protection of Charities Bill – NCVO comment

 Responding to the committee’s report, Elizabeth Chamberlain, policy manager at NCVO, said:

‘The committee’s work is a testament to the value of proper pre-legislative scrutiny. We’ve had a process where the government has consulted on proposals, it has amended them based on consultation feedback, and now a committee has further scrutinised and improved them. This is how all legislation should be dealt with, and the forthcoming bill will be all the better for this work.

Read more: Joint Committee on the Draft Protection of Charities Bill – NCVO comment

NCVO responds to review of Social Value Act

Responding to the government’s review of the Social Value Act, Sir Stuart Etherington said:

‘This review rightly recognises the potential of the Social Value Act to improve public services and help public bodies tackle the dual pressures of reduced spending budgets and increased demand for the services they commission.

Read more: NCVO responds to review of Social Value Act

Tribute to Daniel Phelan

Stuart Etherington, CEO of NCVO, said:

“I’m deeply saddened to learn of the death of Daniel after a longstanding illness. Daniel was both a good friend and a valued colleague. Under his leadership as a publisher, Daniel made a large and lasting contribution to our sector, helping charities and those working in them to raise their game. I remember with great affection the many happy and thoughtful conversations we had together, both in London and in St. Ives.

Our thoughts are with Daniel’s wife, Cathy, and his family, at this sad time.”


NCVO devotes £100k to commission on future of the voluntary sector

Speaking at the launch of the Report from the Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector, Sir Stuart Etherington said:

'This report is an important contribution to the very real debates about independence that our members face each day.

Read more: NCVO devotes £100k to commission on future of the voluntary sector

Further investment in the future of infrastructure

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Big Lottery Fund have announced further plans to support infrastructure organisations under the Big Assist programme.

The announcement comes shortly after the publication of a report from the Independent Commission on the Future of Local Infrastructure, set up by NAVCA.

Read more: Further investment in the future of infrastructure

NAO follow-up report on the Charity Commission: NCVO response

Commenting on the NAO’s follow-up report into the Charity Commission, Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, said:

‘This review reflects significant progress for which the Commission and its staff deserve much credit. The NAO identify a number of outstanding areas of concern. We are particularly keen to see the Commission return to a more conventional division between governance and executive. We look forward to seeing the results of the governance audit being carried out in the coming months.

Read more: NAO follow-up report on the Charity Commission: NCVO response

Navca report on the future of charity infrastructure – NCVO response

Commenting on the Navca report, Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, said:

‘It is worth being frank about the challenges set out in this comprehensive and timely report. There are simply no easy answers to many of the issues identified. However I believe that NCVO and Navca have a responsibility to do what we can to support infrastructure organisations as they face these challenges, so we will convene a series of discussions on the future shape of infrastructure. We will explore the full range of options to create a sustainable future. Reform is undoubtedly necessary.’

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