Charities spend eight hours a week dealing with bureaucracy

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is calling for a cut in the amount of bureaucracy facing sector organisations north of the border after research showed that red tape takes up a total of 373,000 hours a week for charities.

The finding was based on interim results of the SCVO Member Survey, using the 320 responses gathered ahead of last week’s Third Sector Summit of voluntary sector staff, funders and government officials in Glasgow.

It found that Scotland’s 45,000 voluntary organisations each spend an average of 8.3 hours a week filling in forms required by funders or regulators. Organisations with incomes of more than £1m spend 21 hours a week on average; those with incomes lower than £100,000 spend five hours.

The survey also found that reducing bureaucracy was the leading non-financial concern for bodies, with 54 per cent of respondents describing it as a high priority. Longer-term funding agreements were the biggest concern, cited by 72 per cent of organisations, followed by full cost recovery, mentioned by 59 per cent.

Lucy McTernan, deputy chief executive of the SCVO, said spending so much time on red tape impaired small organisations’ ability to function.

“The fact that smaller organisations are spending a much larger proportion of their time on dealing with red tape shows that the burden is unfair," she said. "A third of their staff time could easily be spent on red tape – and the fact that much of this is repetitive form-filling for regulatory bodies, funders and government shows that taking action to cut it would be in everyone’s interests.”

She said funders and government both had “roles to play in ensuring that we have smart, fit-for-purpose accountability without getting in the way of voluntary groups’ ability to make a positive difference to people’s lives”.

Respondents to the survey listed “measuring and improving quality” among their top priorities for next year. An SCVO spokesman denied that better quality measurement was incompatible with reduced bureaucracy.

“It’s about smart measurement rather than more measurement," he said. "Let's have fewer indicators but make those indicators of success more meaningful.”

Other top priorities cited by respondents were “managing change”, such as growth and cutbacks, and “funding and income generation”. The report reads: “This suggests that voluntary organisations are experiencing a period of external change and could be struggling to keep up.”

Almost 40 per cent of respondents thought the funding environment for their organisations’ work had deteriorated; only 22 per cent thought it had improved. However, 56 per cent said they were optimistic about their organisations’ prospects, with only 24 per cent expressing concern. Nearly half of Scottish organisations are growing in size, with only 11 per cent getting smaller.

More than two-thirds of organisations said they collaborated on third sector concerns, but only just over a third did so on fundraising or accessing volunteers.


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