Communities hit hard by voluntary sector void, argues Guardian

An interesting article published in the Guardian this weekend has shone a spotlight on one of the areas in Britain that, it claims,  suffers because it lacks a vibrant voluntary sector. The article looked at the reality of daily life in the Camborne area of Cornwall, and found that many residents dealing with a number of social and economic problems do not have access to charities or voluntary groups that could provide support to them.

Citing a recent report by the Centre for Social Justice, the Guardian article argues that charity is centralised in Britain, with the numbers showing that money is overwhelmingly given to the largest charities, despite the thousands of smaller localised charities operating across the country.

According to the report, the dominance of large charities is such that just 3% of all charities are responsible for three quarters of the sector’s total expenditure, leaving the remaining 97% of charities left to battle over the other quarter of income coming into the sector.

The report goes on to cite research carried out by the Charities Aid Foundation, which discovered that “Britons are three times more likely to give to medical research than to the homeless (and seven times more money)” and in addition that “twice as much is given every year to animals than the elderly.”

Whilst Britain does include a number of national, well-known charities, many smaller charities find success because they are able to help address a specific need in a local community, or because they are able to provide specialised help. However many people prefer to donate to a specific charity that they are comfortable with, which can mean smaller charities struggling to raise enough money to operate.

The Back Britain’s Charities campaign has warned of the dangers posed by falling charities incomes, and acknowledged that it is often small and medium sized charities that are struggling to make ends meet. That’s why it’s so important that people give as regularly as they can – so that smaller charities are able to plan their expenditure over the coming months, and make sure their income goes as far as possible.
We’ve also warned of the danger of cuts by government to charities, and how there is a real concern that some local authorities might disproportionately cut funding to charities, which means that the people who rely on charities and voluntary groups for support suffer. With spending restrictions set to continue for the foreseeable future we’ll be keeping an eye on councils as they set budgets for the next financial year, and check that they aren’t using cuts to charities as an easy way of balancing the books.


Supporting charity the most uplifting thing in 2013, report finds

What lifted people’s spirits the most in 2013? You might think that it was the prolonged warm weather over the summer (hard to recall now, we know), the birth of the royal baby, or even Andy Murray winning Wimbledon.

Well, accordingly to a survey commissioned by Oxfam to start the New Year, you’d be wrong.

In fact, people said that supporting a charity was the thing that had lifted their spirits most last year, with 70% of respondents to the survey stating that helping a good cause had improved their outlook in 2013.

This compares to 62% citing the weather over the summer, 60% being cheered by Murray’s triumph at SW19 and 52% seeing their spirits lifted by Mo Farah winning double gold at the Athletics World Championships.

When asked about TV programmes that had the most uplifting effect charities once again figured prominently. Children in Need was chosen by 35% of respondents, slightly ahead of The Great British Bakeoff and Strictly Come Dancing.

Looking ahead to 2014, 25% of people are looking forward to a well-earned holiday, with the event that most people expect to be uplifting in the coming year being the football World Cup in Brazil. Whether this will be the case given that the recent draw placed England in the same group as Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica remains to be seen!

It’s great to see that so many people find supporting a charity so rewarding, and the generosity of people across Britain is truly appreciated by the thousands of charities who rely on the goodwill of donors and volunteers to support them.

The Back Britain’s Charities campaign has been calling for people to give to charity regularly, regardless of the amount that they are able to give. Not only does this help charities better plan their expenditure and ensure that more money can be targeted towards helping beneficiaries, but is also makes donors feel good!

We hope that, following the results of this survey, people continue to generously support charities in 2014. Happy New Year to all of our supporters!


What does the Big Society Audit say about Britain’s charities?

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’sFunding 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 contact@backbritainscharities.org.uk

Steve Clapperton


UK Now the Sixth Most Generous Country in the World!

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!


Rosie Winterton MP Calls for Support for Charities

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.Rosie Winterton

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 contact@backbritainscharities.org.uk


Report Shows Charities in London Struggling With Rising Demand

Earlier in the year, we reflected upon research that showed two-thirds of charities have seen an increase in demand for their services, a demand that charities are struggling to meet as they deal with a fall in income.

Now research carried out by the London Voluntary Service Council has highlighted that over 80 per cent of charities in the capital have seen demand for their services increase as a result of the economic or policy climate.

This increase in demand is the highest since the survey of London’s charities began in 2009, and marks a significant rise from the figure of 66 per cent last year. The report summarising the research, ‘The Big Squeeze 2013: a fragile state,’ argues that there has been a particular increase in demand for advice and support as a result of the Government’s welfare reforms.

As a result, 93 per cent of charities responding to the survey revealed that they have had to change the way that they operate, with 51 per cent reporting a reduction in their overall funding, down from 60 per cent in the previous report.

In more positive news, the survey did show that there has been a reduction in the number of charities being forced to close a service in the past year, falling from 41 per cent in the previous report to 27 per cent. However that means that over a quarter of charities are being forced to reduce the services that they provide, which will have a real impact on the vulnerable people who turn to charities for support.

Challenges for charities aren’t limited to London, of course, and last week CAF’s Campaigns Manager Steve Clapperton was on BBC Radio Oxford, talking about the economic climate facing charities, and how this is impacting upon their ability to keep pace with rising demand.

We’re particularly keen to hear about the experiences of charities across the country. We’ve already heard some heart-breaking stories of how some charities are struggling, and the impact that this is having, and that’s why we’re so keen that people from all walks of life do what they can to Back Britain’s Charities. If you’d like to share your story please get in touch with us, at contact@backbritainscharities.org.uk


Charity Struggles not Limited to Britain, Report from Ireland States

A survey carried out in Ireland has shone a light on the difficulties that charities are having as a result of falling donations from the public and reductions in government spending, mirroring the challenges that many British charities are also struggling with.

The survey, carried out by the Irish Independent, found that some staff are taking unpaid leave to keep costs down, and the report in the same newspaper highlights than one charity, Inclusion Ireland, has been forced to make interest only payments on their mortgage.

Further research carried out by charity umbrella group The Wheel discovered that of 230 charities stating they had received a sharp rise in demand for the services that they provide, two-thirds were trying to keep up with this surge in demand whilst coping will falling revenues. Since the beginning of the year, one in three has been forced to cut back or suspend services.

These statistics aren’t that surprising, and indeed reflect some of the findings of CAF’s research last year which discovered how charities in Britain are having to adapt in order to deal with the challenge of doing more with less.

As the British economy returns to growth, we will be watching with interest to see whether there will be a similar improvement in people’s disposal income, and if that will have any impact on charitable giving.

We know from CAF’s report on Britain’s ‘Civic Core’ that a number of people would consider giving more to charity if their personal economic situation improves, and the Back Britain’s Charities campaign will continue working to encourage people from all walks of life to do what they can to support good causes.

We’d be interested to hear how the economic climate has affected you. Has your charity suffered as a result? Are you suffering from falling incomes? Get in touch with us a campaigns@cafonline.org and share your story!


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