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New research shows increased charity demand for services and support from sector infrastructure organisations during the pandemic

The pandemic has increased demand within the voluntary sector for services and support from charity infrastructure organisations, according to new research released today.

50% of the front-line charities and 85% of infrastructure organisations thought that the level of demand for services and support from infrastructure organisations has increased since March 2020.

These findings come from the thirteenth monthly Covid-19 Voluntary Sector Impact Barometer, which is led by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), Nottingham Trent University and Sheffield Hallam University. In November 2021, the survey explored the relationship between front-line service providing organisations and charity infrastructure (local, regional, national or sectoral) over the course of the pandemic.

Increased demand for infrastructure services and support

Infrastructure is defined as the organisations, structures, networks and systems that exist to support the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector. They may function at a national, regional or local level and can work across the sector or in specific fields (for example, homelessness) or with specific groups or organisations (for example, LGBTQ+ groups or small organisations).

58% of the front-line charity respondents reported being a member of (or affiliated to) a local, regional, national or sectoral infrastructure body, whereas 29% had no affiliation. 54% of charities reported using the services or support provided by infrastructure bodies since the beginning of the pandemic.

29% of charities experienced an improved relationship with infrastructure bodies since March 2020, 32% saw no change, and 9% reported a deterioration.

66% of infrastructure organisations participating in the survey experienced increased demand for their services since March 2020, with only 7% seeing a decrease.

Overall, 50% of the front-line charities and 85% of infrastructure organisations thought that the level of demand for services and support from infrastructure organisations had increased as a result of the pandemic. This was particularly seen in areas such as digital technology, developing and promoting new services, new funding, and mobilising volunteers.

When asked about the most important kinds of support provided by infrastructure organisations during the pandemic, the most common forms cited by charities were advice and guidance (59%), information provision (46%) and training (29%).

Frontline organisations also said that covid-19 (53%), health and safety (29%), remote working and/or volunteering (21%), and managing change in organisations (20%) were among the most important subjects where infrastructure organisation provided support.

Daniel King, professor of organisational behaviour at Nottingham Trent University and project lead, said:
“The capacity of infrastructure organisations to respond to covid-19 has been at the heart of much of the charity sector’s response to the pandemic. Many local, national and sub-sector infrastructure organisations have been critical in helping their member organisations navigate the challenges they have faced, from providing covid-19 guidance, information about funding and helping organisations cope with change at an unprecedent time. Many infrastructure organisations have been organising workshops, peer and leaders support sessions and ramping up information like newsletters to give more information at this key moment.
"The pandemic has also raised the profile of many infrastructure organisations with key stakeholders, which gives them more visibility and prominence. However the future is uncertain and, with core funding often difficult to get or maintain, many infrastructure organisations are concerned about their future direction and capacity to deliver their central mission.”

Charity financial outlook stable

In Wave 13 of the survey, 23% of charities reported that their financial position deteriorated in November 2021, compared to 21% in the previous month. 26% reported an improvement in their financial position, the same number as the October survey. 51% reported a stable financial position in November.

Looking to the future, there are also signs of greater stability. 64% expect their financial position to remain the same over the next month, 18% expect their financial position to deteriorate over the next month, while 17% expect their financial position to improve over the next month.

Charity service demand still expected to increase

In November 2021, the demand for services provided by the voluntary and community sector maintained the same trajectory reported in previous surveys – with 57% of charities reporting an increase in demand for their services. Expectations of increased future demand for services provided by the sector remained strong at 56%, with only 4% expecting a decrease.

Stable employment figures and increasing volunteer numbers

Over the last month, the employment position in the sector is reported as relatively stable, with 47% reporting the same number of paid employees compared to previous months and 23% reporting an increase in the number of their employees, which can be linked to the reopening of the economy. Only 8% saw a decrease in their paid workforce.

In November, 26% of charities saw an increase in volunteer numbers and 30% expect an increase over the next month. 50% saw volunteer numbers stay the same, while 13% noted a decrease in volunteers in the past month.

Anya Martin, research and insights manager at NCVO, commented:
“This month’s barometer shows how charities made use of support from infrastructure bodies throughout the pandemic, especially on matters relating to covid-19 and health and safety. Infrastructure bodies play a crucial role providing advice and guidance to charities who may not always have the internal resource to stay on the front foot against a rapidly changing environment.”


Notes to editors

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About the survey and report: You can download the full PDF report here. The Covid-19 Voluntary Sector Impact Barometer survey is the UK’s largest temperature check on the state of the voluntary sector during the pandemic. It is part of the Respond, Recover and Reset: The Voluntary Sector and Covid-19 project led by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), Nottingham Trent University and Sheffield Hallam University. In the 13th wave of the report, 343 organisations from across the UK responded to questions about the impact of the pandemic on volunteering within their organisations. All previous waves of the survey and report can be found here.

About NCVO: NCVO is the largest membership organisation for the voluntary sector in England. With almost 17,000 members, NCVO represents all types of organisations, from large ‘household name’ charities to small voluntary and community groups involved at the local level. We are also the lead body for volunteering in England. To find out more visit NCVO's website.

About Nottingham Trent University: Nottingham Trent University (NTU) was named University of the Year 2019 in the Guardian University Awards. The award was based on performance and improvement in the Guardian University Guide, retention of students from low-participation areas and attainment of BME students. It is one of the largest UK universities. With nearly 32,000 students and more than 4,000 staff located across four campuses, the University contributes £900m to the UK economy every year. With an international student population of more than 3,000 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook. To find out more visit Nottingham Trent University's website

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