The charity chief executives body Acevo has called for a summit to discuss the estimated £200m a year of European Union funding the sector will lose, and the chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations has urged charities to play a key role in rebuilding trust in society after the UK voted to leave the EU.
Other reactions from the voluntary sector to the result of yesterday’s referendum, in which 52 per cent of voters chose to leave the EU, included a warning from Paul Palmer, professor of voluntary sector management at Cass Business School, that there would be a "double whammy" of a fall in donations and further government austerity measures.
Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, said the decision was a "seismic shock to our politics and economy that will have a profound effect".
He said: "Those who have cried wolf too often about public sector austerity – which has barely scratched the surface of our bloated public sector in Scotland – will shortly discover the costs of this mistaken, damaging and profoundly unwelcome decision."
Acevo said it was seeking an urgent meeting with leading Brexiteers to establish how they proposed to make good the loss of European funding to the sector, plus key matters of regulation including employees’ rights.
The chief executives body said the Charity Finance Group had estimated that the sector would lose £200m of European funding by leaving the EU.
Caron Bradshaw, chief executive of the CFG, has today written to Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society, calling for a round-table meeting with voluntary sector representatives to consider the implications for charities of leaving the EU.
"Far too often, charities are an afterthought when it comes to policy-making," she wrote. "It is critical that, in the coming months, where significant decisions will be made about the future of our country, the voice of charities is not ignored.
"I hope that the Cabinet Office will commit to working with the CFG, and other sector bodies, to ensure that we can adapt to this new situation and that our ability to serve the needs of our beneficiaries is not negatively impacted."
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO, said in a blog that Britain was facing "political and economic unrest for months if not years to come" and called on charities to help heal divides and rebuild trust in society.
He said he hoped the "racial tensions stoked so crudely and cruelly during the campaigning do not linger", but the risk was clear.
"We must now play our role in healing these divisions," he wrote. "We can and must help people in the communities we work with to understand, respect and cherish each other."
Others said charities would have a key role to play in bringing people together after the vote.
Neil Cleeveley, chief executive of the local infrastructure body Navca, said: "The referendum exaggerated divisions in the UK, which must be healed.
"The ability of local charities and community groups to bring together people from different backgrounds and experiences for the common good is more vital than ever. I am sure that our members will do what they always do and unite people to tackle the economic and social consequences."
Dan Corry, chief executive of the think tank NPC, said: "Where charities might now have a key role is in trying to bring together communities that have been divided by a pretty aggressive referendum campaign on all sides. Local groups can do a lot to help communities plan for their future outside the EU."
John Low, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said: "In the short term, the cloud of uncertainty hovering over the nation’s finances will have an impact on charities and their ability to help some of society’s most vulnerable people.
"It will be vital for the millions who benefit from the support of charities that government addresses this quickly. A strong and stable economy is a crucial factor in people and businesses feeling able to donate to good causes."
Peter Holbrook, chief executive of the umbrella body Social Enterprise UK, said he was concerned that social enterprises would be affected by knee-jerk reactions from the state, banks and big business. "We want to avoid social enterprises facing the pinch by a combination of a freeze on public sector contracts, banks using the decision as an excuse not to lend money and for-private profit businesses seeking to keep their balance sheets looking good by squeezing their suppliers," he said.
He called on the UK government to commit to spending at least the same amount on supporting people into employment and training as social enterprises would lose from the EU Social Fund.