Cause4’s response to: The UK Civil Society Almanac 2019 Report

15 July 2019 | By Cause4 staff

The UK Civil Society Almanac Reports, released by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), is a crucial source of data that has been providing insights into developments in the voluntary sector since 1996.

NCVO has now released its latest annual report, of which the following response will outline key findings including positive growth in terms of grants and investments, whilst public donations and fundraising decline. Diversity in particular has been highlighted as an ongoing issue within the sector throughout the report.  

Key headlines showcased positive growth:

  • The voluntary sector has a wide reach with nine in ten UK households reporting that they have accessed voluntary organisations for support at some point. The value of volunteering was estimated at £23.9billion in 2016. 
  • The number of larger organisations working across the UK generating over £100million has increased from 45 organisations to 51 in the last year. Yet smaller organisations still dominate the sector. 
  • Overall the growth of the sector in 2016/17 was driven by grants (£588.8million) and investments (£602.6million).
  • The sector’s net assets have grown by 4% in 2016/17 as a result of strong investment trends. 
  • The voluntary sector workforce has been growing by 11% since 2010 with over 50% of the workforce educated to or above degree level. 

However, in a response to the report, Third Sector noted that the increases in grants and investment income “mask difficulties in attracting further income from the government and the general public.”[1] 

The report highlighted particular issues in public income and diversity:

  • For the first time in 6 years, income generated from the public has fallen by £287.2million. 
  • The sector still lacks diversity with formal volunteers more likely to be older, well-educated and from higher socio-economic backgrounds. 

So why has there been a decline in public donations and fundraising activity?

  1. Firstly, Third Sector suggested in a recent article that the decrease in public income could be due to organisations having to adapt their fundraising strategies in order to meet stricter data-protection regulations. The Status of UK Fundraising 2019 Benchmark Report similarly revealed that 57% of fundraisers agreed new GDPR regulations were a “drain on resources”.[2] 
  2. Additionally, Karl Wilding, Director of Public Policy at the NCVO, noted that some organisations may prioritise their resources towards carrying out internal work, such as implementing activities and adhering to new regulations, rather than launching donor campaigns to generate income.[3]
  3. Thirdly, falls in public donations may correspond with falls in public trust. The Charity Commission report ‘Taken on Trust’ revealed that concerns about the governance of larger charities combined with media scrutiny have caused public trust to decline. 

Diversity has also been identified as a key issue in the report. In addition to the majority of formal volunteers being from older age groups and higher socio-economic backgrounds, there is also a reported issue that not enough BAME groups are participating.[4]Tesse Akpeki, a consultant at Onboard and NCVO, recently proposed that charities should be rewarded with grants when efforts are made to improve diversity.[5]However, there is a risk of this leading to tokenism with some organisations only including members of diverse backgrounds in order to access grants or improve reputation rather than truly valuing their input. 

As a person of colour, such findings are particularly disappointing. However, I do feel that there are many BAME groups doing so much for local communities, such as the volunteers at the award-winning Brixton Soup Kitchen providing vital services to the homeless. It is about time that more volunteers from diverse backgrounds are recognised for the work that they do and the impact that they have. Although there is growing recognition of the need for diverse groups participating in the voluntary sector, I equally think that more needs to be done to represent those already doing their bit. 

Overall, the report reveals a need to work towards a more robust and innovative voluntary sector. Big changes such as GDPR regulations can come as a shock to charities and also cause suspicion among the public – subsequently causing public income to decrease. It is important that charities continue to find new, creative ways to work around these changes. Diversity is a key factor in fostering growth in the voluntary sector, ensuring an inclusive approach will inevitably lead to more innovative ideas on how to fundraise strategically and approach more diverse groups of donors. Ultimately, it is vital that organisations develop strategies that incorporate balanced approaches towards both fundraising and internal activities  whilst also working hard to increase diversity. 


Written by Anjumon Ali. 

Anjumon is a Development Intern who joined the Cause4 team in July 2019. She is also currently studying BA Geography at University College London (UCL). 

She is passionate about social research and development and has experience working as a youth activity leader, a research intern at Landward Research Ltd and project leader of Double Exposure, a UCL volunteering project working creatively with individuals affected by homelessness. 

Anjumon is looking forward to extending her knowledge on innovative development strategies and gaining a wider understanding of the third sector. 


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