The year ahead

On what for many will be the first working week back, our thoughts are now turning to the year ahead and the challenges and opportunities we face. But I would like to begin by wishing you all the best for the new year, on behalf of NCVO.

We have been planning for 2015 for some time – and like many of you, we are now amid detailed budgeting and planning for the next financial year. In case you missed it, we have shared our thinking about the operating environment for charities and voluntary action in our Road Ahead briefing, which you can download free of charge. It is a practical look at the future with insights which I hope will help you set the context for your own planning and budgeting.

It isn’t easy…

The tenor of the Road Ahead is one of optimism. I think that this is no bad thing – a scan of many end-of-year reviews and predictions for 2015 is pretty depressing stuff. Such predictions are now surely a challenger to economics for the title of ‘the dismal science’. The public funding environment is, and will continue to be, difficult. Scepticism about the role of charity and, in some cases, volunteering will likely endure. Charity campaigning will be under fire. And in an election year, deep uncertainty will cloud the planning process for many.

… it never was

But thus it ever was. In that sense, 2015 is déjà vu, all over again. This includes the likelihood of future opportunities. On the resources front, a number of voluntary organisations have recently reported successful fundraising initiatives and increases in incoming resources. We also continue to hear from our members about increasing public and corporate interest in volunteering and social action. The beginning of a new year is a good time to remember the aphorism, attributed to many, that the best way to predict the future is to invent it.

If there is one certainty for 2015 it is that no one can confidently forecast the outcome of a general election. Whatever the composition of the next administration, I hope that in the run up to May 2015 politicians of all stripes will give greater thought to how voluntary organisations and volunteering can make a bigger difference to the society we will live in post-2015. Reminding those in power that we are here – and that we can help the next administration deal with problems and create opportunity – will be at the heart of our own work in the coming months. As will our work to shape the public’s understanding of charity and volunteering. And finally, our work to support NCVO’s growing membership will continue, helping organisations to make a bigger difference over the year ahead.

As ever, I welcome your thoughts.

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Stuart Etherington Sir Stuart Etherington has been chief executive of NCVO since 1994.

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