How do leaders view the future?

Like a ship in troubled waters


The 5th Charity Forecast survey results have been released by NCVO. The survey is a ‘confidence/trends’ survey. This survey looks at the opinions of charity leaders - chief executives and trustees - on a variety of topics, particularly looking at finances, staffing, campaigning and other issues in their own organisations and their opinions on wider issues such as the state of the sector and its relationship with government. This particular survey was conducted in February 2009 and had 144 responses. As such the results are not representative of the sector, but rather provide an indication of confidence levels.

Two points of particular interest I feel are:

  1. Almost a fifth (19%) of charity leaders surveyed for the report plan to decrease the number of paid staff, with over half (51%) maintaining staffing levels.  The figures are in marked contrast to the previous quarter (October to December 2008) where over half (56%) of those surveyed planned to increase paid staff numbers. However, volunteers continue to be seen as vital to the sector, with almost half of respondents (49%) planning to increase volunteer numbers. In terms of finding volunteers this may link into what people have been saying about the recession: as people are unfortunately made redundant or have their hours decreased, they may turn to the VCS as a way of keeping their skills up to speed or indeed develop their skills.
  2. Almost half (49%) of those surveyed feel that government policies will worsen the operating environment for their organisation. Many respondents expressed concern about cuts to funding for essential services, as well as providing the same level of services with less resources.

Tension identified last time between leaders having confidence in their own organisations' future and pessimism about the shape of the sector is echoed this time round with the fact that two in five sector leaders (42%) plan to increase their organisation’s expenditure over the coming year and almost half of those surveyed (48%) plan to expand their services.  While respondents have more confidence in their own organisation than for the sector or UK economies, we have seen a steady decline in this confidence over the past year (both for confidence in the general situation and for the financial situation of the organisation).  In particular for the financial situation only 22% of respondents think this will improve over the coming year.  So negative perceptions about the economy appear to have filtered down to the level of the organisation.   

Do you agree? What are your feelings about the future? If you're an NCVO member you can take part in the survey - see what Dave says about it.

One of the survey respondents said,

'...I feel the negatives will be balanced out
by the positives, and we are trying to steer a steady course through troubled times.

This reminded me of something one of the Foresight network members said to us recently. He used similar imagery to emphasise that it's hard to keep on course with external factors buffeting you, and pulls in how planning for the future can help:

All charities are bounced along like a cork on a wave and the way to survive is to look ahead and to try and plan for the worst and hope for the best. The analogy I've always used is the analogy of firing a gun at a moving ship. You aim at not where the ship is but where it's going to be when the shell lands.


(Richard Boyd, Disability Essex)

Hear more from Richard


See what we've said about previous survey results.

Other intentions

Order the full report (£100 or free to NCVO members) to find out about the intentions of sector leaders relating to:

  • Staff numbers
  • Volunteer numbers
  • Competition and collaboration
  • Services delivered
  • And more…

Want to get your voice heard? If you're a chief executive or trustee we need to know what you think. The 6th Forecast survey is now open to NCVO members to take part.

Last updated at 17:57 Mon 12/Apr/10.
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Kathryn's picture


Third Sector Foresight

If you receive Engage, NCVO's magazine, you'll be able to read more about this on pages 30 -31. More on Engage.

Kathryn's picture


Third Sector Foresight

December 2009 saw the release of the latest results from the Charity Forecast survey. One of the key points is that, not surprisingly the main confidence index has mirrored the worsening global economic situation and the confidence of the business sector and general public. The eighth survey, written by Jenny Wilton and Jenny Clark, is out now - it's free for NCVO members and can be found on the NCVO research pages.

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