NCVO: An update on our financial and organisational plans

Over the past month, with reflections from the anniversary of the first lockdown still fresh in our minds and the country maintaining its course of restrictions easing, we’ve been focused like most organisations, on closing our financial year. This has been especially important this year as it provides a clear picture of the direct impact the pandemic has had on NCVO, as it will do for colleagues across the sector. Its also given us an opportunity to look forward to the delivery of our new strategy to better support and represent our members. 

As we recently highlighted in our regular barometer survey with Nottingham Trent University and Sheffield Hallam University, the impact of the pandemic has been ‘uneven and unpredictable’ on charities and voluntary organisations. In the latest wave of the survey:

  • 46% of responding organisations said they’ve had to use their cash reserves to cope with the impact of covid-19 on their organisations
  • nearly half (46%) reported demand on their services increasing in the last 30 days, versus just 19% seeing a slowdown
  • 47% reported a worsening of their financial position in the past year.

Responding to increased demand

The story at NCVO reflects the experience of many of our members and the wider sector. Over the past year, we’ve seen demand for our services and resources increase while a large percentage of our revenue-generating activities had to stop almost overnight.  

We’ve previously stated publicly that we were forecasting a £1.3m budget deficit for the year. However, as we shared through a press release on 15 April, we’ll be ending the year with a significantly smaller deficit than originally forecast. This will be in part thanks to the National Lottery Community Fund, from whom we received a grant allowing us to continue to focus our effort and resources on providing additional support for the sector through this challenging year.   

We’re ending the year in a better place financially than anticipated due to the hard work of our team. I have watched with pride as a dedicated team have gone about their work pivoting many of our services from face-to-face to remote delivery. I have seen us open up all our resources to a sector that was hungry for information to support their own decision-making. I have seen organisations committing to long-term relationships with us by becoming members, whether to be part of a collaborative voice for the sector or as a way of acknowledging the resources they’ve benefited from.

I’m delighted to highlight that we recently reached a landmark 16,000 members and we are well on the way to 17,000. We welcomed Disability Information Bureau as our 16,000th member in December 2020. Their work is focused on empowering disabled people, vulnerable adults, carers and those with long-term health conditions to achieve their full potential. We’re proud to have them as a part of our voluntary sector community and look forward to supporting and working alongside them and all our members to make the biggest impact they can.

Acknowledging the commitment and sacrifice of our staff 

During the pandemic, many staff at NCVO made personal financial sacrifices to support our organisation. This was either by going on furlough and not receiving their full salary as part of the government’s Job Retention Scheme, or through taking a voluntary pay cut. As we close the financial year in a better than predicted position, the board has decided to reimburse current and former staff, so everyone receives their full contractual pay for 2020/21.

Like many charities in the sector, NCVO is going to feel the impact of the pandemic over more than one financial year. Yet we have reduced our cost base, have healthy reserves and are optimistic about many revenue -generating activities returning later this year, which is why we’ve been able to make this decision at this time.  

Pay decisions are different for every voluntary organisation and each one has their own financial context to consider after a challenging year. Given NCVO is transparent about pay, we felt it important to share this decision with members. Our final audited financial accounts for the year 2020-21 will be presented to members at NCVO’s annual general meeting on November 2021.

Stability to follow a period of change

The year-end also marks the close of a period of internal change at NCVO. In 2019 we began a new long-term strategy review that concluded at the end of 2020. We have managed a considerable restructuring of the organisation to make sure we have a reduced cost base and the right roles to deliver our goals to connect, support and mobilise charities and volunteering.

Following this process, Karl Wilding made the decision to step down as chief executive in January, believing that someone new, not part of the past, should lead the necessary cultural change NCVO is determined to achieve in order to deliver our new strategy. After completing a period of handover, Karl’s last day was 31 March 2021.

Replacing Karl will be one of the most important duties I and the board of trustees undertake in the year ahead. We’re determined to find the right candidate for NCVO that is emerging in 2021. Someone who shares our new values and who can continue to deliver the new strategy we have developed with members.

We want to take the time needed to get this right and will work with an agency partner to develop an open, robust, and inclusive recruitment process. I am delighted that, while we work through the process of selection for the new permanent chief executive, we have the reassurance that Sarah Vibert will continue as interim chief executive in the positive and impactful way in which she has begun. 

A new leadership team 

Sarah will be supported by a new leadership team structure which includes the recent appointment of Laura Crandley as director of finance and services. Laura joined us in January having most recently worked at Leonard Cheshire. Janu Miah also joined us from the Liberal Democrats at the start of April as head of people and culture. I am delighted to welcome Janu into this crucial new role in the organisation.

As we continue to deliver against our actions from last years’ equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) report, Janu will be pivotal in working alongside the leadership team to embed our new culture and ways of working – this will underpin how NCVO approaches everything it does. We’ll provide a further update on the progress of this vital work, including the recruitment of our EDI committee chair, in the coming weeks.

Gavin Finch, NCVO’s head of communications, marketing and membership will take on an interim role as director of membership and engagement. In parallel, Jarina Choudhury, NCVO’s volunteering consultant, will join the leadership team as interim strategic lead for volunteering ensuring NCVO has a much-needed strategic focus on this area of the sectors’ work. They will join the other new members of the leadership team established through the restructure as follows. 

  •   Alex Farrow: Head of networks and influencing 
  •   Tracy Kiernan: Head of central services  
  •   Sophie Reaburn: Head of digital, data and technology 
  •   Andrew Walkey: Head of support and services 

As a board of trustees, we’re pleased to welcome the new leadership team and offer them our full confidence. We have a fantastic new strategy, and we’re excited that the new team is in place to deliver it. I’m looking forward to working with them over the next 12 months and seeing our vital plans for the future role NCVO will play come to fruition.

A focus on supporting and representing our members 

What our members told us they want most is help with the fundamentals of running a charity, adapting to an ever-changing environment, and growing to meet new demand. NCVO’s focus on providing high- quality practical support and guidance on the things that matter to organisations continues.

NCVO will not just be about practical support though, but about collaborating with our colleagues and partners to harness our sector’s collective power. This is to enable us to boldly make the case for charities and volunteering. We’ll continue to push for the best possible environment for our members and all within the voluntary sector.

 

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Dr Priya Singh is chair of NCVO's trustee board.

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