The Road Ahead is our annual analysis of the changing operating environment for anyone working in the voluntary sector. It identifies and explains forces and trends that are shaping the sector and are likely to have an impact on organisations in the future.

As in previous years, this report was developed using a PESTEL analysis to highlight the key drivers shaping the sector in six areas: political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal. We used a wide range of information sources: from official statistics and research to the latest economic forecasts and futures analysis, as well as calling on the expertise of our colleagues at NCVO. We mainly focus on general trends and drivers likely to impact on a broad range of organisations in the sector.

The report begins with a commentary from Sarah Vibert, NCVO’s director of membership and engagement. She reflects on the six areas as a whole, and how they might combine to shape the future of voluntary organisations and voluntary action.

All of the issues highlighted in The Road Ahead present opportunities and challenges for voluntary organisations. Trustees and managers can benefit from using the analysis to explore the implications of these issues for their organisations when planning for the short and medium term. We have included some questions at the end of each section that may help you think about what these issues might mean for your organisation and move forward.

It’s worth noting that this publication is only a starting point. There will be plenty of other issues and questions to consider that are more relevant to what your organisation does and the context in which it operates.

For help and guidance on strategic planning, there are many resources available on the NCVO Knowhow website, including guidance on how to do your own analysis and tailor it to your needs. We can also offer in-house support with your strategic planning through our consultancy services.

We have also included some specific sources of help and guidance in each section of the PESTEL analysis.


We would like to thank our colleagues for their contribution to this report.

  • Rob Brennan
  • Elizabeth Chamberlain
  • Jarina Choudhury
  • Eleanor Dean
  • Alex Farrow
  • Megan Griffith Gray
  • Josie Hinton
  • Lisa Hornung
  • Emily Paterson
  • Sophie Raeburn
  • Chloe Stables
  • Ben Westerman

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 03 February 2023