Time Well Spent

New research exploring the volunteering experiences and perspectives of people from the global majorityy. Find out more

Sarah Vibert

Sarah Vibert

Sarah Vibert

Chief Executive Officer

Sarah controls the direction of NCVO

Sarah Vibert
Chief Executive Officer

Supporting members through the cost of living crisis

Sarah Vibert

Sarah Vibert

Sarah Vibert

Chief Executive Officer

Sarah controls the direction of NCVO

Sarah Vibert
Chief Executive Officer

Coming back from leave last week felt frighteningly like March 2020. An inbox full of panicked messages from members. Requests for urgent calls with partners and civil servants. Talk on social media of an existential crisis for many charities.

Voluntary organisations on the front line of the cost of living crisis

Members have written to me about an exponential rise in demand for food, debt advice and mental health support. Charities whose mission does not typically include crisis support are increasingly finding themselves supporting with immediate financial concerns.

Our members are at the front line of the cost-of-living crisis. They are supporting people and communities being pushed into poverty and picking up the pieces where existing inequalities are being exacerbated. Addressing the root causes of food and fuel poverty must be the top priority for our new prime minister this September.

The ability of charities to meet this increasing need is being severely tested. Trustees of voluntary organisations ranging from leisure centres to village halls, nurseries to care homes are trying to do the maths on 300% increases in energy costs. I have heard from organisations that are selling property because associated costs have quadrupled. Others are closing services because they are struggling to retain staff leaving for higher salaries in the public and private sectors.

Added to the challenges of rising demand and rising costs is falling charity income. Survey after survey tells us public giving is declining as households on ever tightening budgets make choices about spending. This is particularly concerning for small charities. Our Civil Society Almanac found 63% of small charities’ income in 2018/19 came from donations, compared to 45-50% for charities of other sizes.

Income, and reserves, are subject to inflationary pressures. For organisations receiving public sector contract or grant income which has not been uplifted this is particularly challenging.

As well as a decline in giving money, people are also able to give less time. We know from our Time Well Spent research that paid work is the number one reason why people do not volunteer. If people need to take on more hours of work to pay ever-increasing bills, it’s understandable they'll be less able to give their time volunteering.

Supporting members: our number one priority

Right now, supporting members through the challenges of this winter is our number one priority. We’re doing this in three main ways.

Not another 2020

The scale of the challenge is huge, in many ways far greater than charities experienced in 2020. The root causes of this crisis are very different and require bold and far-reaching action from government. Yet, we shouldn’t lose sight of what the voluntary sector learnt from 2020.

There are lessons on influencing government, maintaining resilience and pivoting our work to respond to a crisis. We also have the strength of the partnerships formed through covid. At NCVO, we’re drawing upon these to ensure we provide the best possible support for our members and the wider sector, so you can focus on supporting people and communities through a very tough winter ahead.

Back to top