Charity leaders' confidence levels lower than ever

With fears over the economy dominating the headlines, a new survey suggests that confidence levels in the voluntary sector’s financial future are at an all-time low.

The Charity Forecast Survey, published today by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), shows that 98 per cent of charity leaders expect economic conditions within the sector to be negative over the next 12 months.

This is the bleakest outlook in the survey’s three year history, with confidence levels lower than they were at the height of the recession.

Respondents also demonstrated dwindling confidence in their organisation’s general situation and finances and the UK economy as a whole.

Many voiced concerns about the impact of spending cuts on their ability to support vulnerable beneficiaries, and predicted that the worst is yet to come.

One respondent claimed that fears of a double-dip recession and cuts in funding and commissioning are combining to make this ‘the most challenging time for income generation in the last 30 years.’

Commenting on the findings, Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, said: "These figures really hit home the widespread trepidation shared by many voluntary organisations. Many have serious concerns about their future resilience and ability to provide vital services.

"This survey, together with the news that the voluntary sector workforce is on the decline, adds to mounting evidence that these testing and unpredictable times are far from over.

"While the government has outlined some encouraging aspirations in relation to charitable giving and public services, it needs to work with us to translate these into concrete and accessible opportunities.

"It will be important that the sector now engages in close dialogue with Government about next year’s spending round, to ensure that voluntary organisations are not seen as a soft target for cuts."

Other findings from the quarterly survey include:

Thirty-eight per cent of respondents expect to increase the extent of services they offer over the next three months, possibly because the recession has driven up demand.

Thirty per cent of respondents have plans to decrease paid staff numbers over the next three months.

Seventy-two per cent of organisations expect to collaborate more with other organisations over the next 12 months.

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