Our priorities in a changing world

A year ago, we set out to devise a new strategic direction for NCVO: with clear priorities and refreshed values. Helped by people from over a thousand organisations who shared their views on the future for charities and volunteering.

NCVO in the 2020s: a new approach

Little did we know when we started that events would so fundamentally change the world around us. Covid-19 has changed everything: a decade’s worth of change has been collapsed into a matter of months. Social and economic tensions, long ignored, have been magnified. Add in Brexit, deglobalisation, populism, protests, and climate change, and it is little wonder that people are worried about the prospects for future generations. And right now, we’re all seriously concerned about the survival of charities that people everywhere need and love.

This isn’t quite the ‘2020 vision’ we had in mind when we set out. But we’re far from lost: people still want to help others and join together in their communities. And covid-19 has shown just how crucial charities and volunteers are to helping people through the tough times. And how we underpin so much of community life in the UK and bring people together. Our challenge now at NCVO is to do everything we can to support, shout about, and stand alongside those who make a difference. This blog begins to set out how we will do that.

We’ll make the case for charities and volunteering

More than anything else we’ve heard a fiercely determined optimism that charities and volunteering are relevant and vital for the future. Nearly everyone we spoke to thinks this crucial role is overlooked. We want to change that. Working alongside our members, NCVO will have a much clearer focus on banging the drum about the huge difference made by charities and volunteering. This will require a sustained push to begin a more substantive national conversation. We’ll work tirelessly to make sure that both the public and decision-makers value the essential role that charities and volunteers play – and the potential to achieve more.

Supporting you to run your organisation – so that you can focus on the cause

The other thing we heard is how hard it can be to work for a charity or do something in your community. People have told us it’s often exhausting, with fears of burnout a common theme. So, really practical support that builds capability is a priority. Our members are experts in running charities. Our job is to harness and spread that expertise. We’ll continue to provide practical support on the things that organisations rely on, such as funding, staff and HR, recruiting and managing volunteers, leadership and management.​ We’ll work alongside members to solve common problems and we’ll create spaces to come together around the challenges we face.

We’ll put NCVO members front and centre of everything we do

Talking to people, there’s a real sense that we all want to be part of something bigger, a collective effort to change people’s lives, whatever the cause. So when you join NCVO, I want you to feel like joining a network of organisations where collaboration, based on trusting relationships, is the norm.

Part of this new relationship with our members is about redefining NCVO’s role in the sector. We are proud of our leading role in the sector, but we want to shift the power dynamic that is implicit in this. The insider-outsider debate has run throughout NCVO’s history, but we recognise that insider approaches are not inclusive of all voices.  NCVO can and should play a role in amplifying voices, as well as opening the door for others to take seats at the decision-making table.

Work with us, wherever you are and whoever you’re for

Influence and connection shouldn’t just be for those in large organisations or those based in London. We will build on some of the things we’ve done in the past to bring members together, such as our Members’ Assemblies. We are determined to match our national reach with local engagement – and be less London-centric. And we’ll use our digital platforms to make sharing and taking part easier.

People have told us that they expect us to work closely with the other sector bodies. During covid-19 we have worked together like never before, with a common interest of putting frontline charities and volunteering first. We want to build on this.

New values, and new ways of working

Covid has led to big changes in working practices. Changes in social attitudes and values, such as a shift towards openness and transparency, also mean that none of us can stand still. So, we’ve refreshed and focused our organisational values to reflect these changes and to guide us in trying to do things differently.

We’ll work collaboratively, with members and with the people and organisations who want charities and volunteering to thrive. We’ll make sure our work is inclusive of all voices, putting members at the heart of all our work. We’ll be open about how we work and the things we learn along the way, not least in our journey towards becoming a more diverse, equitable and inclusive organisation.  And perhaps most importantly we will be ambitious. Ambitious for our charities and volunteers as we rebuild, recover and continue to provide essential support to communities across the country.

I’ll return to these themes over the coming months as we add more detail to our strategic framework, which we will launch at our annual general meeting in November.





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Karl Wilding Karl Wilding served as NCVO's chief executive from September 2019 to February 2021.

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