The National Council for Voluntary Organisations is considering working more closely with other infrastructure bodies and trade unions in a bid to extend its work across England and throw off its reputation as a London-based organisation.
The umbrella body is facing difficulty reaching beyond the South East, despite efforts to build its membership in the regions and increase the number of small local and regional organisations joining.
Researchers working on a new report into the human resources capabilities of small voluntary organisations found that some respondents from outside the capital had not heard of the council.
"NCVO does recognise that it has traditionally been regarded as a London- and South East-based organisation and is already working hard to identify how it can provide a consistent service and voice for all voluntary organisations in England," said Joanna Wootten, human resources services manager at NCVO.
Over the past 18 months, NCVO has targeted each region in turn using a series of regional events and mailings.
The strategy has so far succeeded in boosting the organisation's membership from 2,000 at the end of 2001 to an all-time high of more than 3,000, and has pushed the number of local members to more than 50 per cent of the total membership.
Recent NCVO research also shows that 90 per cent of the 2,592 members asked felt that the umbrella body is effective in representing the voluntary sector.
However, when Ian Cunningham and Kirsty Newsome, researchers at the University of Strathclyde, spoke to voluntary organisations as part of the study commissioned by NCVO, they found that some had not heard of the body and didn't know what it could offer.
Cunningham and Newsome based their research on questionnaires completed by 177 small- and medium-sized voluntary organisations and 30 detailed telephone interviews. One of the main research findings was that NCVO should concentrate on expanding its services outside London and the South East.
Cunningham was unable to release details of the exact number of organisations that were unaware of NCVO, but said that it was "more than just a couple".
"NCVO is keen to ensure that all infrastructure bodies, including NCVO, are working effectively together," said Wootten. "It is important to accept that we can't do everything and to ask instead what added value we can provide to other organisations that are better placed to act in those areas."
The new research, which was commissioned after NCVO's helpline received more than 1,200 calls about human resources matters from small- and medium-sized voluntary organisations, also showed that NVCO should focus on campaigning on employment issues.
NCVO is also likely to play a role in lobbying the Government and funding bodies to ensure that they allow for the human resource costs associated with projects when they provide charities with funding.