Survey shows donations held up well in 2011

State of the Sector, run by Third Sector and nfpSynergy, also suggests sector is doing more with less

Research suggests donations held up better than statutory income in 2011
Research suggests donations held up better than statutory income in 2011

Donated income to charities remained strong last year despite growing unemployment and shrinking household incomes, according to the biennial State of the Sector survey by Third Sector and the sector consultancy nfpSynergy.

Forty-three per cent of respondents said donated income at their organisations rose or stayed the same in 2011, with 32 per cent saying it went down. Four per cent said donations went up a lot, while 18 per cent said they went up a bit.

Overall income was reported to have risen or stayed at the same level by 49 per cent of respondents, while 48 per cent said it had fallen. Seven per cent reported large increases, and 22 per cent large falls.

More than 700 sector staff responded to the survey. Full results, including opinion on government policies, regulation, independence and key challenges for the sector, will be published in Third Sector magazine and on on 10 and 17 January.

The survey confirms a significant drop in statutory income for parts of the sector. Thirty per cent said their income from central government had gone down, while 20 per cent said it had gone up or stayed the same; 33 per cent said income from local government had fallen, while 17 per cent said it had gone up or stayed the same. Forty-four per cent said this question did not apply to them.

Figures from the survey also appear to confirm anecdotal evidence that many UK charities managed to provide more services with fewer resources.

Despite the fall in income reported by 48 per cent of respondents, 72 per cent said their organisations increased services or held them at about the same level during 2011, while 22 per cent decreased services. Thirteen per cent increased services a lot, 32 per cent a bit and 27 per cent kept about the same level.

Joe Saxton, co-founder of nfpSynergy, said one of the most interesting results was that donation income had held up so well. "Many organisations have shrunk, but a decent number have grown, while a number have stood still," he said.

"But there is no catastrophic collapse in donations overall – unlike in central and local government income, where far more people are saying they have seen a decline. The public are remaining very generous in difficult times – the same can’t be said of government.

"These changing income patterns are against a background of increasing service delivery by charities. More than 40 per cent of respondents are providing more services than they were two years ago, and 30 per cent are employing more people than they were two years ago.

"This suggests a typical charity is doing more at the same time as having seen its income stay static or shrink. So the recession and government cuts appear to have made charities more efficient. Whether it makes them more effective is another matter."

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