Report reveals testing time in charity sector 29/10/08

Latest research reveals that a period of relative stability for the third sector appears to be coming to an end, but that there are ways in which charities can prepare to cope with a possible recession.

The sixth edition of the Voluntary Sector Strategic Analysis, analyses the changing shape of the voluntary sector within civil society during 2008/09 and examines the trends within the service deliver and operating environment.

The key trends include: changing participation both within organisations and more widely within the wider community; changing patterns of distribution and consumption; the economy; and the impact of national politics on the future of the sector.

Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, said: "Charities that are versatile, willing to adapt, and consider all the options available to them, should be able cope with the extra challenges posed by the credit crunch and survive it.

“We need to encourage people to carry on giving to charity, because many worthy causes are supporting those most affected by the credit crunch and demand for their services is likely to increase as a result.”

The report examines key ‘drivers for change’ - forces or trends - that will shape the future of the voluntary sector and the whole of civil society going forward, in preparation for the next General Election in 2010.

For example, the final chapter identifies a number of risks and opportunities for the sector, including the danger that with a recession, public attitudes towards the voluntary sector may harden, if consumers fail to see the value it provides during an economic downturn.

On the positive side, a recession could also represent an opportunity for the sector to work actively with Government to try and change public perception.

Karl Wilding, head of research at NCVO, added: “In previous years, the report has focused on a rapidly expanding sector operating within a relatively benign environment. What is now clear is that change is in the air and the clear challenge to the Voluntary sector now, is to plan for and respond to these changes.

“The underlying current of many strategic plans being written should be about building resilience through control of costs and retaining current resources, rather than expansion. In other words, hang onto the gains – especially the cash – of the last decade.”

The report includes a short user-friendly guide at the end, specially designed to help organisations plan ahead and better understand how to make strategic choices and engage with the external environment.

Voluntary Sector Strategic Analysis is available to order, priced £25, from

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