What our members need and what they think of NCVO: Year three

For the third year in a row, we’ve asked our members to tell us how we’re doing. For the first time, it was linked to our theory of change – both to evaluate specific areas of our work and assess how well we’re achieving our long-term aspirations for the voluntary sector.

Here’s what you told us.

We are heading in the right direction

The NCVO Road Ahead 2017 sets out the difficult context in which our members are operating:

…combined with changing local authority finances, reduced public service provision and lower incomes for poorer households, is likely to increase demand for many forms of charity services and place further pressure on their resources.

Against this backdrop, our members feel that we’re doing a good job. When asked whether ‘NCVO is heading in the right direction or in the wrong direction’, 77% responded positively. For the first time, 50% of respondents said that NCVO is moving in the ‘very right’ direction.

Sustainability and communicating value are the most important issues for our members

Members told us that they need most support on sustainability and communicating value. This is broadly consistent across organisations of all sizes. This is not surprising: there is an increased need for organisations to demonstrate the difference they make in order to secure funding.

We’ve helped members most with governance and volunteering support

When asked in which areas we have been most helpful to their organisation in the past year, members were most positive about our support with governance and volunteering. The recent launch of the Charity Governance Code, as well as our monthly governance round-ups, are there to support voluntary organisations to keep up-to-date, promote a culture of effective charity governance, and support organisations to take action.

We are concerned that we have not been as helpful to members on sustainability and communicating value – the areas where members need most support – as we have been in other areas. While Funding Central continues to be a source of support, and the work of NCVO Charities Evaluation Services is leading the sector on impact and evaluation, we know there is more to do.

After governance and volunteering, the option most frequently selected by respondents was that NCVO has not been helpful to their organisation. This result predominately comes from smaller organisations with an annual income of under £30,000. Whether this is that members don’t know what NCVO offers, how we can be helpful, or that we simply aren’t helpful to them, is unclear. Naturally we’re going to be looking into this further to make sure we’re doing all we can.

Practical information and guidance support is still highly valued

Members told us that practical information and guidance, policy updates and updates on new research are the most important kinds of support wanted from us. These remain the same as in previous years. We’ll continue to invest in NCVO KnowHow Nonprofit – as a resource hub for voluntary organisations – as well as major policy publications like the Road Ahead, and blogs.

Members feel we’ve had a positive impact on public trust and confidence

The fall in public trust and confidence in charities is well-noted.

Through How Charities Work, we’ve tried to better articulate the way charities are run, the difference they make and how they’re funded. Earlier this month, we published a guide for charities on what the public thinks about issues such as fundraising and executive pay, and how to answer questions about these areas.

So we are really pleased to hear that 83% of respondents felt that we’re having a positive impact on public trust and confidence.

We can do more to help members understand a changing environment

We aim to help voluntary organisations better understand the environment they’re working in. We asked to what extent we have helped organisations to understand changes in the external environment like the new Fundraising Code and Brexit. 60% said that we have only helped them understand these issues ‘a little’ or ‘not a lot’. Members value our policy work – updates are the second most important support that members want from NCVO – but we can do more to make this information accessible, relevant and understandable. One way we’re responding is through Brexit roadshows, Brexit updates at Member’s Assemblies and GDPR regional training.

What will NCVO do with these results?

We’re happy to know that we’re heading in the right direction, that we’re responding to our members’ needs and that we’re being helpful. This isn’t an easy time for the voluntary sector, and we know we’ve got work to do to ensure our members succeed.

This has gone straight into our planning process for 2018 and we’ll be working to respond. We need to better support members in sustainability, communicating value and understanding a changing landscape. And if we don’t, you can hold us to account for it.

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