A MOT for the voluntary sector’s finances

Yesterday, the Steering Group for NCVO’s review into the financial sustainability of the voluntary sector met for the first time.

Alongside the chief executives of NAVCA, CFG, IoF and Andrew Hind, editor of Charity Finance, we discussed the structure of the review and some of the issues that it would consider, such as changes in voluntary income (e.g. donations from individuals and businesses), pension deficit, social investment and reserves.

What is the review?

The Funding Review will bring together evidence and experiences from across the voluntary sector so we can analyse the current financial landscape that organisations are operating in and the changes that have taken place since the recession.

The review will be a platform to develop practical support and guidance for voluntary organisations as well as provide an evidence base for policy makers ahead of the next election.

How will the review be carried out?

The review will be overseen by a steering group, comprising the Chief Executives of NCVO, NAVCA, CFG, IoF, a representative from the Small Charities Coalition and Andrew Hind, editor of Charity Finance.

Under the direction of the steering group, a working group with members from each partner organisation will analyse the best available data around the voluntary sector’s finances to identify trends since the recession, map out of the current challenges facing the voluntary sector and consider issues that voluntary organisations will need to respond to in the future.

There will also be a call for evidence where voluntary organisations, other membership organisations and outside experts can feed in their views.

Why do we need this review?

Voluntary organisations are having to adapt to a fast changing financial environment. The last significant review into the finances of the voluntary sector was carried out in 2008-09, before the effects of the recession and cuts in government were felt in the sector – it also did not consider wider issues such as the sector’s assets and liabilities.

A review is necessary to identify the changes that have taken place in the funding landscape to help voluntary organisations navigate and adapt to the new environment. The review will enable new support and advice to be developed for voluntary organisations. The review is also necessary to assist government and other policymakers as they seek to support the voluntary sector in the changed economic climate.

What does this review hope to achieve?

The review will have a number of positive benefits for the sector.

Firstly, it will help voluntary organisations better plan for future, giving guidance as to the changes that have already taken place and what further changes organisations should prepare for. A better understanding of future risks and opportunities will enable charities to meet the needs of their beneficiaries.

Secondly, the review will also provide a better evidence base for policymakers to draw upon when developing ideas to support the sector in the future.

Thirdly, the review will help foundations and other voluntary sector funders set their priorities as they will be able to place their work within the overall funding environment and have more information about the financial challenges facing the organisations they support.

Finally, the review will help us know what new tools or guidance we may need to develop for the future so that we can best support our members.

How can you get involved?

We will be unveiling a call for evidence shortly which will give everyone a chance to feed into the review, but if you would like to find out more about it and how you or your organisation can get involved, please feel free to get in touch by emailing me Andrew.OBrien@ncvo.org.uk

If you have any comments or views about what the review should look at or any other questions, please leave a comment below.

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Andrew was NCVO’s senior policy officer. He covered issues around funding, social investment, tax and the impact of the economy on the voluntary sector. Andrew has left NCVO, but his posts are kept here for reference purposes.

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