As we approach our centenary in 2019, we’re thinking quite a lot about our history, and that includes our membership. Organisations like NCVO are frequently described as ‘umbrella bodies’ or infrastructure, but first and foremost we are a membership organisation. And we’re pleased to report that our membership is a growing force for change.
Over 13,500 voluntary organisations are now NCVO members, from grass roots community groups to international NGOs, covering causes from animal welfare to addiction, homelessness to volunteering. Our members employ over one-third of the voluntary sector paid workforce and engage tens of thousands of volunteers who devote their time to civil society.
Pride, passion and people
We’re incredibly proud of every single one of our members and the great work they do for their communities. Their drive and passion is integral to what we do – and it’s something that society can too often take for granted. So, we’ll continue to shout that Britain is better because of charities and volunteering.
But they’re also important to us and our identity. I asked a few of my colleagues what our members meant to them:
‘NCVO means a stronger collective voice for the role of charities in the world and the practical help to deliver your cause’
‘Our members make us who we are. They are the essence of our organisation and everything we do should be based on their needs’
‘Our members make us credible’
Helping you to make a bigger difference
We want being a member of NCVO to be something that helps people make a bigger difference. Over the last couple of years we’ve worked tirelessly to make sure that we’re focused on doing the things that people think will help the most, whether that’s our practical support and guidance or our policy and campaign activity. Our annual survey of members shows that our members think that we’re doing that, with some pointers about what we need to do next.
Findings from our UK Civil Society Almanac show that small and medium sized charities are particularly feeling the squeeze – and it’s these organisations that make up the majority of our members. Most of our tools and resources are aimed at these organisations and we’ve seen nearly 20,000 downloads in the last 12 months. Members wanted solutions to problems with templates, sample policies and tools, and that’s what we’ve given them – in fact, we’re told its one of the main reasons why people join.
NCVO members are a growing community
Our membership has more than doubled in the last ten years, growing from 5,775 to 13,640. Over 100 voluntary organisations on average become a member each month. Most have an income below £1m.
Crucially, we need to make sure those people who have made the decision to join NCVO continue to value their membership year on year. This boils down to giving people what they need in a way that they want it. We’ve got some great plans for the next couple of years, much of which is about our members finding information more easily. I’m personally very proud (a real understatement!) of the support we give our members and I’m going to let the numbers speak for themselves:
We started to record and measure our membership retention in 2009/10, since then our commitment to deliver what our members want has proved invaluable, with over 90% choosing to stay with us year on year.
Our representation across England is worth a mention too – 39% of our members are based in London or the South East compared to 36% of actual voluntary organisations in these regions.
We’re fortunate to be able to offer free membership to over 9,000 of our members. This is possible because a small number of our bigger members opt to pay additional membership fees to support this goal.
97% of charities in England have an income of less than £1m and our membership isn’t too dissimilar, with 93% of our members falling into this bracket. At the other end of the spectrum we have 66% of what we refer to as super major organisations in membership (£100m and over).
This means that when we talk on behalf of the sector we are in a unique position to speak with the authority of a membership base that reflects and represents the voluntary sector.
Getting to our roots
We’re keen to work closely with our members. We partner with regional and sub-sectoral support bodies to help us achieve this. We are working with several infrastructure bodies to free up their capacity and increase their impact which, in turn, allows us to support more organisations with our expertise and national perspective. The more members (relationships) we have, the louder our collective voice can be – together we can achieve more. Current partnerships include Mind, The Scouts Association, NUS, Racing Foundation, Roundtables.
With 133,505 voluntary organisations in England, it really is quite an achievement to say we have over 10% of them in our membership. Our members are telling us that we are moving in the right direction and as we continue our journey of digital transformation and doing more with less (sound familiar) we hope to see you along the way.
Please email me if you want to discuss anything covered here or want to know more about our membership scheme.