Charities will face significant competition from the private sector when trying to attract sufficient staff and volunteers to meet rising demand for their services, and must seriously look at how to attract new talent into the sector, the chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations has warned.
Karl Wilding yesterday told an event on the future of work, which was organised by the consultancy firm Eastside Primetimers, that charities could no longer expect to have a monopoly on doing good and private sector companies were increasingly encroaching on their territory.
He said many young people were “sector-agnostic” and would increasingly work wherever it allowed them to make the most benefit for society.
“In the past, we have very much relied on the idea that for those people who want to do something socially useful we are the only place you can work,” said Wilding.
“I don’t think that is true any more. We are actually in that competition for talent with the private sector in particular.”
He said that with demand on the sector increasing, and with the state increasingly overwhelmed regardless of the amount of money invested in public services, charities needed to focus on attracting enough people to run services properly.
Wilding said this meant focusing more on low pay and “precarious work” in the charity sector, rather than solely on issues around high executive pay.
Charities should also not assume that increasing life expectancy and flexible working would automatically mean more volunteers, he added.
“I’m not sure it’s true for a number of reasons, not least that when we think about voluntary work we keep thinking we’re just in competition with paid work or with other charities for volunteers,” Wilding said.
“Actually, we’re in competition with leisure activities. We are in competition with people’s smartphones.
“If you look at time-use data from the Office for National Statistics, you will see that if you want to involve more people in what you do on a bank holiday your big challenge is Game of Thrones and people watching box sets.”
The way charities raise money would also need to change, Wilding said.
“We are a sector full of fundraisers,” he said. “I think that skill-set is starting to shift, and we need to shift from being fundraisers and instead be financiers.
“It is increasingly about how to put together a package of different types of money, not just being able to fundraise from the public.”
But Wilding said there were some opportunities for charities in terms of providing meaning outside of the work environment, in building leadership skills in the next generation and in managing and motivating volunteers.