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Sarah Vibert

Sarah Elliott (formerly Vibert)

Sarah Elliott (formerly Vibert)

Chief Executive Officer

Sarah controls the direction of NCVO

Sarah Vibert
Chief Executive Officer

State of the Sector 2024: Reaction and reflections

Sarah Vibert

Sarah Elliott (formerly Vibert)

Sarah Elliott (formerly Vibert)

Chief Executive Officer

Sarah controls the direction of NCVO

Sarah Vibert
Chief Executive Officer

Our chief executive Sarah Vibert shares her thoughts on key findings from NPC’s new charity sector report.

On Monday I attended the launch of NPC’s State of the Sector 2024 report.

The research offers lots of great insights and data. It explores how charity leaders and the people and communities they serve view and experience the sector today.

We’ll soon be adding to the collective evidence base. On Thursday we'll share our insights on the opportunities and challenges facing the sector in our Road Ahead 2024 report. Join us at The Road Ahead launch event.

Here are five reflections on the launch event and report, including practical support and guidance to help you turn insights into action.

A genuine partnership with government

A big focus of the report is how the voluntary sector and government – both local and central – work together. It calls for a renewed relationship with government and a reimagining of what underpins that relationship.

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve previously written about the voluntary sector’s relationship with government. I believe this would be mutually beneficial given the scale of the challenges facing our society.

The public seems to agree. The report found that well over half (59%) want the government to partner with charities more. Particularly when supporting areas that ‘need it most’.

At the Civil Society Summit in January, Keir Starmer promised to reset the relationship between civil society and government. It was heartening to hear Thangam Debbonaire MP, shadow minister for civil society, echo his words.

To support the development of this new government relationship, we’re working with partners at ACEVO to create a manifesto on behalf of the charity sector.

The manifesto has been developed with charities from across the country. It will present a range of ways the next government can work with charities to make a positive difference.

Paying a fair price for public service delivery

To deliver better public services we need better collaboration between the voluntary and public sectors. The government also needs to invest more to ensure public services delivered by charities are properly funded.

The NPC report echoes our findings about the chronic underfunding of public service contracts. Only a quarter of the charities we surveyed said the value of their contracts had increased to reflect inflation. The majority have been forced to plug the gap using their own funds.

NPC's report estimates that charities are propping up public services to the tune of £2.4bn each year. That’s an eye-watering amount of charity fundraising being used to subsidise government underfunding. We’re keen to understand more and continue exploring this issue with partners across the sector. But one thing is clear – this can’t continue.

In November we delivered a letter to the chancellor highlighting this injustice. It was signed by over 1,400 charities.

Ahead of the upcoming budget, we’re joining with our partners in The Civil Society Group to demand urgent action. The group has set out four main policy asks on behalf of the voluntary sector.

Raising our voice

A narrative has developed that charities are ‘too political’. Certain voices in the media say that charities should focus on their core purpose, rather than campaigning on issues.

I’ve always believed this is an unhelpful distraction, so it’s great to have some data to cut through the noise. NPC found that only a small minority of the public (15%) think charities are ‘too political’. In fact, over half of the public (56%) think charities get the balance ‘about right’.

We’re clear that the voluntary sector shouldn't shy away from raising our voices. It's a vital part of our role in a healthy democracy. For many charities, campaigning is the best way of achieving their charitable objectives.

We’ve worked with our partners at ACEVO to produce new political campaigning support and guidance.

This includes practical advice to help you campaign with confidence in the lead up to the election.

A sector that reflects the communities we serve

Improving diversity in the voluntary sector has rightly been a key focus in recent years. Interestingly, NPC found the public is more likely to think positively about charity diversity than those working in the sector.

73% of the public consider charity staff to be mostly or fully representative of the communities they work with. Charity leaders are less sure. Only 51% feel positive about representation and diversity in their organisation.

People from the global majority accessing charity services were more likely to agree with charity leaders. 52% of black and 38% of Asian people polled felt that groups from the global majority were not represented enough.

The NPC results tell a similar story to our latest Time Well Spent report. We found that volunteers from the global majority feel less satisfied, more excluded, and less likely to continue compared to volunteers overall.

We must take practical steps to foster a more diverse and inclusive sector. One way we’re supporting organisations to do this is through our updated guidance on involving volunteers from the global majority.

We're also beginning a long-term project with ACEVO to develop a sector workforce strategy. This strategy will have improving diversity, inclusion and belonging as a key pillar.

The bigger picture

The NPC report explores how the rolling crises of recent years have impacted charity leaders.

The pressure of the ongoing Cost of Giving Crisis means many leaders are understandably focused on ensuring short-term survival. This leaves little room for the bigger picture and strategic conversations about the future.

NPC’s research found charity leaders are having fewer strategic conversations about missions, mergers, and partnerships than they did in 2020. The proportion rethinking their organisation’s delivery model has dropped from 69% to 58%. The number of charity leaders who’ve reviewed their mission has dropped from 72% to 60%.

The report highlights how this is limiting the issues being considered by charity leaders when making strategic decisions. Despite the climate crisis remaining a key concern for the public, only 11% of charity leaders saw it as a top three risk for their organisation. Only 2 in 5 discussed the impact of climate change at board level in the past year.

NCVO must continue to work alongside the sector to tackle immediate challenges, while also raising our eyeline to focus on the longer-term future. We’re encouraging the sector to recognise the threat posed by the climate crisis to our communities and operations.

Our Fuelling Positive Change campaign includes practical steps organisations can take to drive sustainable change.

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