Charity Forecast poll suggests ‘squeezed middle’ in voluntary sector

The charity sector is experiencing growing levels of spending and optimism, but growth may not be evenly spread, according to the latest Charity Forecast poll from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).

On average, 63% of large charities - those with an income of £1m or more - plan to increase spending in the next year, compared to an average of 51% of lower-income charities.

Medium sized organisations with incomes of £100,000-£1m report feeling more pessimistic than those which are smaller or larger. When asked how they felt about economic conditions in the voluntary sector in the next 12 months, 59.8% of medium sized charities responded that they felt conditions would be negative. This compares to 25.6% of large charities and 29.7% of charities with an income of £30,000-100,000.

The results, based on responses from NCVO’s member organisations, also suggested more charities may be anticipating growth in London and the South East compared to other regions.

On average, approximately 55% of respondents in London and the South East said they were planning to increase their spending in the upcoming year, compared to 48% across the rest of England. 44% of respondents in London and the South East said they had plans to increase the extent of their services in the next year, compared to 35% in the rest of the country.

However, the figures could be affected by the higher numbers of high-income charities in London and the south east, NCVO cautioned. Of the 4,800 charities in the UK with an income of £1m or more, 43% are based in London and the South East.

Karl Wilding, director of public policy, said:

‘We can't draw firm conclusions about regional effects from this poll, however it does seem to confirm our fears about a ‘squeezed middle’.

‘We have been aware for some time that an organisation big enough to be running some significant services but not big enough to spread risk around its operations is more vulnerable, and these results seem to add weight to our concerns. Middle-income charities are feeling the uncertainty of a changing outlook in charity funding and services.’

Wilding added:

‘The consistent growth in users we have seen on Funding Central shows that charities are continuing to search hard for new income streams.’

Funding Central has seen an average of 1,300 new users per month in the last year, bringing its total users to more than 75,500. NCVO was earlier this year awarded funding from the Cabinet Office to continue the service into 2015.

Other results indicated that charities may be more optimistic about the economic outlook for their own organisation than for the rest of the sector. Over 38% of charities are positive about the economic outlook for their own organisation, compared to just 15.5% who feel positive about the economic prospects of the sector as a whole.

Visit the NCVO Almanac to see data for:

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. The Charity Forecast Poll takes place every quarter among NCVO member organisations in England. http://data.ncvo.org.uk/charity-forecast/ Please note that in the graphs we have consolidated data from regions other than London and the SE as the responses received from organisations in other regions were comparatively few.

2. Funding Central is run by NCVO and funded by the Office for Civil Society. It is a free resource providing details of charitable grants, trusts and other resources for charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Its 2013/14 impact report is available online at http://www.fundingcentral.org.uk/Page.aspx?SP=6581.

3. For more information please contact Helen Raftery at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 020 7520 2424.

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