Managing in the new normal

Now in its eighth year, the 2015 ‘Managing in the new normal’ survey, produced in partnership with the Institute of Fundraising and the Charity Finance Group (CFG) collates the views of over 400 senior fundraising and finance professionals in the charity sector.

The operating environment for charities continues to be a tough one, even though economic growth has been strong, unemployment has fallen and giving from the public appears to have held up. But charities have had to stretch their resources to the limit in order to meet a rising demand and cope with public spending cuts.

This eighth survey suggests a modest continued alleviation in some of the challenges faced by the sector and a general sense of a corner being turned. Last year, we reported an improvement in the overall financial environment, and suggested that this was perhaps because many charities have now adapted to the challenges facing their organisations. The results this time around would support that hypothesis, with income and optimism continuing to increase. In addition, there is a sense that, with a more confident and stable base, some charities are now starting to look forward with more of a desire to grow and develop, rather than simply to survive.

There is likely to be a substantial role to be played by the charity sector in the next term of Parliament and beyond. Some charities are taking this opportunity to be as efficient and effective as they can be in order to take advantage of the opportunities that are likely to be available as they seek to meet the increasing demands placed upon them.

However, it is important that this does not lead to a ‘business as usual’ attitude from policy makers or charities. Charities need support to be independent, resilient and sustainable in the years ahead so that they can generate the biggest possible impact for their beneficiaries. Our survey has highlighted a shift in attitudes in the charity sector, and it is important that policy makers recognise this. Government has an enabling role in supporting the sector and must work with charities to create an environment in which the sector can thrive and grow over the coming years.

Key findings

  • 33% of charities identified public spending cuts as the most important challenge facing the sector
  • Year on year demand for services has continued, with 70% of charities expecting an increase over the next 12 months with 28% are not sufficiently resourced to meet the rising demand
  • 47% of small charities are concerned about the sustainability of the sector
  • 61% are taking steps taking steps to become more transparent
  • 57% of respondents have seen an increase in overall staff numbers, while 60% of charities reported the morale of their staff was optimistic or energised, up from last year
  • 75% of charities plan to explore new fundraising options in the next 12 months
  • 54% are seeking to diversify their income streams