Charity leaders pessimistic about sector's economic outlook, NCVO survey finds

Chief executive Sir Stuart Etherington says sector will reach breaking point if the gulf between demand and resource continues to widen

Sir Stuart Etherington
Sir Stuart Etherington

Ninety-four per cent of charity leaders expect the economic outlook for the voluntary sector to get worse in the next 12 months, with none expecting an improvement and the remainder expecting no change, according to a new survey by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

The quarterly NCVO Charity Forecast, which got 85 responses from its membership, says that 59 per cent of charity leaders who responded expect the financial situation of their own organisations to get worse, with only 13 per cent expecting an improvement.

Sixty-one per cent believe the situation has got worse in the past six months; 22 per cent believe their situation has improved.

Nevertheless, 32 per cent of organisations say they plan to increase staff numbers, compared with only 19 per cent who plan to make staffing cuts. Thirty-four per cent intend to increase the services they provide; 16 per cent intend to decrease them.

The NCVO’s forecast says that net confidence in the economic outlook for the voluntary sector – which subtracts the proportion that are expecting the situation to worsen from those that expect it to improve – is at -94 per cent. Net confidence has fluctuated between -88 per cent and -98 per cent for the past two years, it says.

"There has been a big fall [from the previous quarter] in the number of charity leaders expecting the financial situation of their organisation to improve over the coming 12 months, down to 13 per cent from 22 per cent," the forecast says.

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO, said: 'The charity sector has always done its best to put the people it supports first when faced with economic challenges, but there's a very real and present danger that it will reach breaking point if the gulf between demand and resource continues to widen.

"The sector is already doing a lot more with much less, and something has got to give eventually."

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