Earlier this week Civil Exchange published the Big Society Audit 2013, investigating how the Government’s flagship idea for civil society has operated in practice. Shortly before the 2010 General Election David Cameron, standing in the shadows of Battersea power station, launched his Big Society plan which, he argued, would give power to people across the nation.
Over the past three years attitudes towards the Big Society have remained mixed, with polling carried out for the Independent in 2011 finding that a quarter of people (27%) had never heard of the Big Society, 41% agreeing that it is merely a cover for spending cuts, and only 17% believing that it will succeed in fostering a culture of volunteering. Half of people asked said that they thought to Big Society to be largely a gimmick.
Civil Exchange’s new Audit splits the Big Society into three distinct parts, and examines the success that the Government has had in putting their rhetoric into practical action.
Looking at the area of community empowerment, the Audit found that there have been significant successes in increasing local control by encouraging communities to take over local assets and services; that there has been an improvement in transparency and an increase in the number of elected officials; and that strong communities remain a positive feature of British life, although one that varies between affluent and disadvantaged areas.
There is, however, no real change in individual influence over local decisions, with only a minority believing that they are actually in a position to shift opinions locally. In addition, recognising traits highlighted by the Back Britain’s Charities campaign, the Audit acknowledge that many voluntary sector organisations are experiencing financial difficulty due to rising demand and falling income.
Turning to social indications, the Audit found that there has been a dramatic fall in giving, echoing the findings of the UK Giving 2012 report, which found a 20% drop in donations to charities. More positively, levels of volunteering have risen, although only to the levels that existed before the financial crisis. There has been an increase in volunteering by young people, an area that the Parliamentary Inquiry on Growing Giving has been looking into in more detail.
Looking at the impact of the Big Society reforms on public services, the picture is bleaker. Cuts to voluntary sector funding have already taken place, with dramatic falls estimated over the next four years that will threaten organisations working to support vulnerable people. This reduction in spending is interesting, particularly in light of research carried out for the Back Britain’s Charities campaign which found that 69% of people believe that their community will suffer if charity funding is reduced.
The report also warned that despite attempts to open up public service contracts to a wider audience, contracts are still large inaccessible to the voluntary sector. There is instead a systematic bias towards the private sector existing in contracting. There are many underlying challenges for voluntary organisations to deal with when competing with large companies for contracts, and CAF’s “Funding Good Outcomes” paper has urged the Government to reflect on how bidding processes can be adapted to ensure that charities and voluntary organisations are able to compete on an equal footing.
The Audit is well worth reading in full, and is an incredibly useful exercise in helping to inform people about what the Big Society means in reality for charities. Whilst there are some positives, charities and voluntary sector organisations are yet to reap the rewards of the rhetoric, and, as the Back Britain’s Charities campaign makes clear, there is still much work that needs to be done to support the thousands of charities across Britain that are struggling. What do you think of the Big Society Audit 2013? Let us know @backingcharity and email@example.com
The release of the World Giving Index 2013 has shown the UK rising up the league table of generosity, now ranked as the sixth most charitable nation in the world - up from eighth last year.
CAF’s World Giving Index, based upon surveys in 135 countries carried out by Gallup ranks, the countries of the world based upon three giving measures: the percentage of people who give money to charity, volunteer their time or help a stranger in a typical month.
The report shows that people in the UK are the most generous in Europe when it comes to giving money, with 76% giving to good causes in a typical month. Volunteering levels in the UK have also risen by three percentage points compared to the previous year with 29% giving in a typical month, and there has been a significant rise in the number of people helping a stranger, increasing from 56% to 65%. Using the combination of all three measures, Ireland is ranked as the most charitable nation in Europe.
Elsewhere, the United States has regained top position as the most generous country on earth, with Canada, Burma and New Zealand tied for second place. Burma has the largest proportion donating money to a charity in a typical month, with Turkmenistan reporting the highest proportion of people giving time and Americans the most likely to help a stranger.
It’s always interesting to see how the UK compares to other countries across the world when it comes to giving, and we’re delighted that once again we retain our place inside the top ten. This is testimony to the generosity of people across the UK, and shows that even during tough economic times people are keen to take whatever action they can to help others.
That the UK has improved in all three measures of giving is an extremely positive development, but it’s crucial that people maintain their support if charities across the country are to be able to continue their work supporting those in need of help. The Back Britain’s Charities campaign has been warning of the threat posed if there is a reduction in the proportion of people participating in giving, and we’ll be continuing to urge people from all walks of life to do what they can to support the causes they care about. Let’s see if we can continue the UK’s upwards trend next year!
Following a recent meeting with representatives from the Back Britain’s Charities campaign, Opposition Chief Whip Rosie Winterton MP has spoken of her concern about the impact that the economic downturn is having on charities in her area, and urged people to do what they can to support charities that are struggling to keep pace with demand for their services.
Whilst the economy has now begun to grow again, many charities are yet to experience the effects of the recovery. Charities are still in need of funds, and the support of donors and volunteers is crucial if they are to continue to help the most vulnerable people in society.
Ms Winterton has been the Member of Parliament for Doncaster Central since 1997, and during Labour’s time in government served as Minister for Work of Pensions and Minister for Local Government, becoming Shadow Leader of the House of Commons following the 2010 election. In September that year she became the Chief Whip, and as a result is responsible for maintaining party discipline.
Speaking after the meeting Ms Winterton, who is the patron of five charities in Doncaster, said:
“It’s worrying that so many charities are struggling to make ends meet, and I’m concerned about the effect that charities being forced to close could have.
“I regularly see the work that they do to support people in Doncaster, often ensuring that people going through difficult times have somewhere to turn.
“Both the recent Children in Need appeal and the response to the Typhoon Haiyan tragedy in the Philippines have shown how generous British people are, and we should be incredibly proud of the strength and scope of our charitable sector, but we need to act now to protect it.
“That means people from all walks of life – businesses, politicians, and members of the public – doing our bit to back Britain’s charities.”
We’re delighted that Ms Winterton has spoken about the need for people to support charities so passionately, and fully endorse her remarks. We understand that people might not be able to give more to charity at the moment. That’s why we’re asking people to give regularly, so that charities are better able to plan their finances and ensure that they are able to carry out their charitable mission.
We’re also asking businesses to maintain their giving to charities, and calling on the Government and charities to look at how giving can be improved so that when people are able to donate their contribution goes further towards the cause of their choice. We are also aware of the impact that spending reductions are having on charities, and calling on all government bodies to ensure that they do not introduce spending cuts which disproportionately affect charities. What do you think could be done to make life that bit easier for charities? Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re now getting towards the end of conference season, having just returned from Brighton where we’ve spent the week mingling with senior representatives from the Labour Party, as well as their activists who travelled down to the south coast for their annual party gathering.
Once again our conference stand game was the subject of much interest – so much so that we were awarded a prize for the second best stand, which was kindly presented to us by Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls MP.
But Ed’s visit to our stand didn’t stop there. After winning CAF’s conference game last year he was determined to repeat his success, and he stormed past Paul Burstow MP – the quickest MP in Glasgow last week – to sit atop our leaderboard as we head north to Manchester for Conservative Party conference. It’s a safe bet to say many Tory MPs will be keen to beat him, – keep an eye on our leaderboard to see if they are successful! Take a look at our Parliamentary leaderboard on the right…
In addition, our stand was visited by a number of senior figures in the Labour Party such as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rachel Reeves MP, Hilary Benn MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and Harriet Harman MP, Deputy Leader of the Opposition. We were also joined by party General Secretary Iain McNicol, who was delighted to beat the fast times set by his children!
We also held another fascinating fringe event, with some great ideas on how we can get more people involved in charitable giving. We were delighted to hear from speakers including Shadow Minister for Civil Society Gareth Thomas MP, as well as David Babbs from campaigning organisation 38 Degrees, and another packed room showed us that many people are keen on developing the concept of people power to support good causes.
It’s been a great couple of weeks in Glasgow and Brighton so far, and we’re looking forward to our visit to Manchester and taking our people power messages to politicians and activists from the largest party of government. As well as our stand we have a great panel lined up from our fringe, and we’ll be hearing from the Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd MP who will be able to tell us what the Government is doing to harness people power for good causes.
The latest of NAVCA’s quarterly surveys has been published this week, and makes interesting reading for charities and voluntary sector groups. We’ve blogged about the regular NACVA survey before, and it always gives a useful insight into the mood in the sector. This quarter’s survey comes amidst talk of an upturn in the economy, but it appears that growing optimism around the nation’s finances isn’t yet reflected in the charity sector.
NAVCA members are split over what the next three months holds in store for them, but crucially more pessimistic than they were at the same time last year. The survey found that 26% of NAVCA members believe their prospects will improve over the next year, with 27% expecting a worsening of their circumstances. By comparison, the figures from last year were 29% for the former and 19% for the latter.
However the survey also demonstrates that charities and voluntary sector groups are adapting in light of the challenges they face, and that this continued focus in helping ensure that they are able to provide support to local groups. For the first time since the series of surveys was launched give quarters ago, more members are looking to increase their services (33%) than reduce them (30%.)
NAVCA report that to increase their service provision charities are working more closely together, building and developing relationships with local businesses, and increasing online support to make it easier for them to engage with other organisations.
We’re also pleased to see that many NAVCA members reported that there has been an improvement in their relationship with local public bodies. Whilst we’re argued – and continue to argue – that public bodies should not cut funding to charity and voluntary sector groups disproportionately, we know that there are significant pressures on local council budgets and it is good to see that their links to local voluntary groups are strengthening.
As polls report an increase in optimism about the future of the British economy, we’ll be watching with interest to see if that has any direct impact on surveys such as this which provide an overview of the mood in the charitable and voluntary sector. In the meantime, why not get in touch and let us know what the next three months has in store for your organisation? Email email@example.com and share your story!
That’s the key message from an eye-opening survey by the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network which has shown that despite the increase in volunteering that we noted earlier in the week, many charities are extremely worried about the future of their organisation.
The survey of more than 1,000 charity professionals found that charities are bracing themselves for a further increase in demand for their support, but many are worried that they simply will not cope.
Asked about their prospects over the next five years to 2018, 8.5% said that they did not believe they will survive, and a further 18% were unsure about their future. More positively, three-quarters of charities think they will still be going strong mid-way through the next Parliament.
The findings of the survey also included a worrying finding about the relationship between charities and the Government, with 47% of respondents stating that they have no confidence in the Government’s approach to the third sector.
These findings are consistent with research carried out by CAF over the past few months. In December, we reported that one in six charities fears being forced to close over the next year unless there is a significant improvement in the economic climate. We’ve also referenced figures from elsewhere which have shown that charities have seen a 67% increase in demand for their services.
Today’s GDP figures – an initial estimate of 0.6% growth in the second quarter – will help, but as we’ve highlighted elsewhere, the combination of increased demand with spending cuts and a drop in donations means that charities are struggling to meet the challenge of doing more for less.
We know that many charities are implementing innovative programmes to save money and ensure that the donations they receive go as far as they can towards helping beneficiaries. We saw yesterday just how difficult things are more some of best-known charities, with Oxfam reporting a significant drop in their income – and we know that for many smaller charities the picture is bleaker still.
That’s why we’ve been working so hard to target a range of different audiences, and make sure that people, businesses and politicians are all doing their bit to Back Britain’s Charities. We’ll carry on pushing for change, but we need your help. Find out what you can do to help us, and make it that little easier for those 10% of charities that are fearful for their future.
Charities across Britain have been boosted by research showing that public trust in their work has increased for the third straight year, and is rebounding to approach the record heights recorded in 2010.
A report carried out by nfpSynergy looked at the attitudes of the public towards different institutions, and found that 66% of people now trust charities ‘quite a lot’ or ‘a great deal’ – up from 64% last year. A more detailed analysis shows that 13% of people trust charities ‘a great deal’ and 53% ‘quite a lot.’ By way of comparison, the corresponding figures from last year were 10% and 54%.
Charities are now the fourth most trusted institution in the UK, behind only the armed forces, scouts and guides, and the NHS. At the other end of the scale, people were least likely to trust political parties, the Government and insurance companies.
Levels of trust in charities have steadily increased over the past few years, rising from a low of 42% in July 2007 to a peak of 70% in January 2010. After a slightly decline, the figures from this year show that once again the public are placing their faith in charities.
People were most likely to trust charities because they know that the charity has high standards when it comes to fundraising, a friend or family member has had contact with the charity, or because they themselves has been in contact with the charity directly. Interestingly the least common reason that people chose was the use of a celebrity to promote a good cause, and there is a hardcore of 5% who said that nothing would make them likely to trust a charity.
It’s great that trust in charities is increasing, but it is worth considering that the report found that 28% of people do not trust charities. It’s important that charities continue to take action to improve the way that they are perceived by the public. As the Back Britain’s Charities campaign has argued, charities must look at the way that they do business to ensure that they are as efficient as possible. Getting as much money as possible to beneficiaries not only helps those who need support the most, but also demonstrates to the wider public that charities can be trusted and will encourage them to support good causes.
The FSI – which is the organisation behind Small Charity Week – will be holding another free advice event for charities on the 16th September. The next FSI Fundraising Forum is named ‘Sharing the Best’ and is open to charities with a turnover of £1.5m or less.
Participating charities can expect to hear from industry experts who will cover the following topics:
- The Influential Fundraiser
- A Trust and Foundations panel
- How to Develop an Effective Small Charity Corporate Partnership
- Direct Donor Marketing and Small Charities
- Major Donor Fundraising from their Perspective
If you would like further info – do visit the FSI website here.
Organisations like The FSI provide several million pounds-worth of training to charities every year, free-of-charge, and those who take advantage are usually keen to report back on how helpful sessions have been.
When education and innovation are surely key to securing the future for many charitable organisations, events like this can equip voluntary sector workers with the tools they need to make necessary adaptations in this hostile economic climate.
Yesterday saw the second, and final, day of the Business 4 Better conference at London Olympia. This two day event aimed to attract representatives from both the corporate and charity sectors in the hope of forging stronger, mutually beneficial partnerships between charities and businesses. Back Britain’s Charities Campaigns Managers, Fiona McEvoy and Steve Clapperton, were both present to speak to attendes about how to campaign effectively with (and without!) corporate support…
Our session, entitled “Campaigning and Influencing” was intended as a whistle-stop tour of the world of charity campaigning, with a particular slant on the work that it is possible to do with commercial organisations.
Occasions like the Business 4 Better conferences are great opportunities for us to speak with and listen to the broader sector as well as the corporate organisations represented. It certainly seemed that there was a real appetite for the sort of collaboration that the Back Britain’s Charities campaign exists to promote.
One issue that, pertinently, came up more than once however was that of resourcing – i.e. the fact that so many charities are struggling to pay the bills and consequently lack the time and capacity to launch the sort of campaigns that promote their mission. On one level, it could be argued that democracy suffers if these charities and their beneficiaries have a diminished voice due to financial constraints, but of course charities are obliged to prioritise the practical work that they do which means that campaigning work sometimes is pushed to one side.
This situation means that the Back Britain’s Charities campaign has a very important role to play in making sure that the value charities bring to society is not lost or overlooked as they work below the radar improving the lives of their beneficiaries.
In addition to the worthwhile campaigning we do, the Back Britain’s Charities team would also be happy to offer our assistance to any charity who might be interested in undertaking some campaigning, either for this campaign or for their own. Though we have our own limitations, we’re happy to talk through some useful strategies and tactics, so if you would be interested please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if there is anything that we can do together.
Furthermore, if you can help us push our messages out, you’d like to blog on this page about your own experiences, or you have any other thoughts or queries about the campaign – do drop us a line!
As regular readers will know, the Back Britain’s Charities campaign has been urging politicians, businesses, the Government and the public to do what they can to support charities during difficult economic times. But we’re also aware that charities have to do what they can to help themselves, and that means making sure that they are as efficient as possible and diverting as much of their income as they can to helping beneficiaries and furthering their charitable mission.
An interesting report by Impetus – ‘Beating the Cuts’- has looked at the challenges that charities are currently faced with, and come up with a number of recommendations that, if adopted, could potentially help charities ensure that their finances go further.
The report’s conclusions urged charities to learn the following lessons:
- Short-term financial pressures should not create a ‘crisis management’ situation
- Keep investing for the future sustainability of the organisation
- Know your “customer” and continually refine your offering to appeal to these customers
- Concentrate organisation resources on the activities where they have the greatest capabilities and are most able to demonstrate tangible results
- Identify a deliverable and sustainable scope and scale of operations while remaining flexible enough to respond to new growth opportunities
- Develop and maintain a healthy mix of sources of income
- There is often scope to reduce costs without impacting core operations
- Your organisation could benefit from a wealth of external experience
The report was compiled following a difficult five years for charities since the global recession of 2008. The report argues that it “is unlikely that pressures on charity funding will ease in the short term” and cites research by the Charities Aid Foundation which uncovered a 20% drop in donations to charities over the past year.
Recognising that difficult financial times for charities look set to continue in the years ahead, the report asserts that the economic outlook for the sector means that there is a renewed pressure on social sector organisations to “prioritise excellent leadership, financial planning, and impact management.”
It’s crucial that charities do what they can to make savings and stretch their finances as far as possible. We know that times are tough and it can be hard to be optimistic, but thousands of charities across Britain are using innovative schemes and ways of doing business to stretch their resources further. The conclusions of this report are essential reading for those involved in the running of a charity, but we know that many charities – smaller ones in particular – still need help and advice. That’s why the Charity Choices programme we discussed last week is so interesting and certainly worth keeping an eye on as it develops, but in the meantime do take a look at this report and see what advice it holds for you!