Like a pair of carpet slippers, there's something comfortable and warm about an almanac. Think Wisden, Old Moore's, Whitaker's. Think of the way they compile and then dissect statistical information into digestible chunks that allow the reader to look back on a recent period. The secret is in the way you look up something you want to know and, serendipitously, find something unexpected too.
For Third Sector readers, the NCVO's Voluntary Sector Almanac 2002 is just such a read, up there with the likes of Wisden. On one level, it's an essential snapshot of the state of the voluntary sector, on another a collection of incidental, although none the less riveting for that, facts. Did you know, for example, that 1.5 per cent of total donations come from jumble sales and fetes? That may not sound like a lot, but it's £45 million or so. That's an awful lot of bric-a-brac.
Perhaps the almanac's real value lies in the way it portrays the bigger picture and at the same time sets it in the context of wider changes in society and culture. It's too easy for voluntary sector managers to lose sight of the bigger picture in the day-to-day rush. The information here sets their efforts into context. Not least too, it provides an endless stream of rudimentary benchmarking opportunities. If, for example, voluntary income across the sector is 43.6 per cent of total income, how does your organisation score?
NCVO's Voluntary Sector Almanac 2002
NCVO Publications, £20.