The majority of charity chief executives think that the British public does not understand how important charities are to the country, but only a minority believe they are good enough at demonstrating the impact of their work to the public.
This is according to the new report Social Landscape: the state of charities and social enterprises in 2015, published today by the Charities Aid Foundation and the charity leaders group Acevo. It is based on surveys sent to 572 charity chiefs as part of Acevo’s recent executive pay survey.
According to the report, 15 per cent of charities said they were "struggling to survive"; this rose to 21 per cent among chief executives of charities with annual incomes of less than £1m.
The report says that slightly more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of respondents agreed with the statement "most people do not understand how important charities are in Britain today". A separate CAF survey in April 2014 found that 55 per cent of the general public agreed.
The charity leaders were also asked whether they agreed that "charities are good at demonstrating the impact of their work to the public". Only 23 per cent said yes, compared with 62 per cent of the 1,000 members of the public polled last April, and 41 per cent said they did not. The remainder said neither.
According to the report, 82 per cent of charity leaders said they were optimistic about the future of their organisations, but this fell to 57 per cent when they were asked about their confidence for the future of the sector as a whole, and to 15 per cent with regards to government support for the sector.
Generating more income and achieving financial sustainability was by far the largest challenge for charities identified by the respondents, with 60 per cent of the charity heads saying it was one of their three most pressing challenges, twice the response rate for any other answer.
The report says that technology was high on the agendas of chief executives. Asked what new activities they had initiated, were currently initiating or would initiate in the future, nine in 10 said "increase social media presence/activity/campaigns", and eight in 10 said "invest in IT/new technology and online solutions". Seventy-nine per cent answered "access outside help/ expertise/consultancy", with the same proportion ticking the box for "collaborate/partner with another not-for-profit organisation".
The report says that 60 per cent of the heads of English charities thought charity regulation was effective – although this varied between 65 per cent among respondents in the south of the country, 58 per cent in the midlands and 44 per cent in the north.