Charities 'face uncertain future'

The voluntary sector will continue to be hampered by a "tyranny of innovation" over the next two decades, the consultancy Framework has predicted.

In a report entitled 20 Years: Past and Future, published to celebrate 20 years of working with non-profit organisations, Framework suggests new projects will continue to take priority over the best projects.

The authors say the voluntary sector will be forced to drop good projects "as funders prioritise what's new, not what's best".

But they warn that the bottom line for charities should remain "are we having a positive impact?" and not "can we guarantee our ongoing existence?"

This sentiment has been echoed by David Hunter, policy and development officer at Acevo. He said: "Charities should always be thinking: 'What are we going to deliver at the end?'"

According to Framework - a network of five self-employed consultants whose clients have included Save the Children and Friends of the Earth - the sector will also be plagued by an insecurity of funding, as three-year contracts remain elusive and competition for short-term contracts stays high.

"Insecurity remains the watchword," the report says. "Even if there is a shift away from one-year contracts, three years' funding remains a rarely achieved ideal."

These pressures can be combated by what Framework calls "the development of social capital" - building up strong networks at grass-roots level to ensure the sector is not shaped by funding pressures from above.

The report also praises the growth of quality governance, saying the non-profit sector has much to offer in terms of good governance.

The consultancy perceives that another major challenge facing the sector over the next 20 years will be how to address the expanding consumer culture.

With volunteers and consumers able to pick exactly the campaign and charity they wish to support or volunteer for, the sector will have to consider how to tackle changing attitudes towards more mature organisations, the authors add.

KEY POINTS

- The consultancy Framework says the voluntary sector is suffering from 'a tyranny of innovation'

- A report, 20 Years: Past and Future, suggests new projects will continue to take priority over 'the best projects'

- The report also voices concern about insecurity, with three-year contracts rare and competition for short-term contracts high.

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