A rough sketch: Funding Review 2014’s ‘Call for Evidence’ so far

At the end of July we launched the Funding Review 2014’s ‘Call for Evidence’ to give voluntary organisations the chance to directly feed in their experiences to our review of the financial sustainability of the voluntary sector in the aftermath of the recession.

The response has been excellent so far with over eighty organisations feeding in their experiences through our online survey. The survey is open to the end of the month, but in order to encourage more organisations to take part, I thought I would give a general update on some of the stories that have emerged so far.

Who has taken part?

The survey has attracted all kinds of charities so far, with a majority of survey responses coming from organisations with a turnover of less than £1m. Small and medium sized charities account for the vast majority of organisations in our sector, but it can often be difficult to find good case studies for this size of organisation.

The more small and medium sized charities that fill in our survey, the richer the picture we can paint of the impact of the recession on these organisations and the efforts they have made to adapt. So if you are a small or medium sized charity and you haven’t taken part, please take time to take part in the call for evidence.

Tough but trying to adapt

Unsurprisingly, respondents have reported how tough the funding environment has been for charities since the recession. Respondents have reported cuts to grants, particularly from local government, which have significantly reduced their income.

However, they have also showed a sector which is trying to be more entrepreneurial in generating income with respondents seeking to raise funding through fundraising and trading. Another story is the uncertainty that has been shaped the funding environment, with charities reporting high levels of volatility in funding since the recession.

Yet organisations have reported that they are still trying to find new sources of grant funding, despite the difficulties in finding new sources since the recession, demonstrating how important grants are to the sustainability of the sector.

Efficiency is the order of the day

A tighter funding environment has inevitably forced charities to find ways to make their resources stretch further.

Some changes could have long term benefits, with organisations reporting efforts to reduce their utility bills, reducing costs and freeing up resources to fund core work.

However other changes are more worrying, with charities reporting pay freezes, reducing training and not replacing equipment to make savings. This could threaten the long-term sustainability of the sector and its ability to work effectively.

A number of respondents have also reported that they are trying to use digital technology and partnership working to improve their effectiveness.

Making the most of what we’ve got

The voluntary sector has over £120bn of assets at its disposable, and many respondents have reported that they have tried to use their assets to make their organisations more sustainable.

These range from renting out office space to others trying to developing intellectual property in order to generate returns.

Most respondents have reported that they have not sought social investment to invest in new income streams or bid for contracts, but some have, although few have been successful.

Tell us your story

A big thank you to all those that have taken part so far, but if you haven’t, there is still time for you to tell us your story. The more respondents that we have, the comprehensive our review will be.

Do the trends and affects that I have described above sound familiar? How have you sought to adapt to a tightening funding environment? How have you sought to make the most of your organisation’s assets?

If you haven’t yet, you can still participate in our our short online survey; which is open to the end of the month.

Once you have taken part, pass it on your colleagues and friends who work in other parts of the sector. If you have any questions about the survey or the review, please get in touch with me by emailing me (Andrew.Obrien@ncvo.org.uk) or leaving 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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