Managing in the ‘new normal’ 2014 – the latest instalment in the series of 'Managing in a Downturn' surveys

The environment for charities has remained challenging over the past 12 months. Added to the economic difficulties organisations had faced in recent years, were a new raft of reputational concerns as the sector hit the headlines with a number of negative incidents. Whilst these events can be taken in isolation, they have combined to make fundraising more challenging. But there is no doubt that they have also made charities more aware of the need for transparency and good communication with stakeholders.

Now in its seventh year, the 2014 ‘Managing in the new normal’ survey, produced in partnership with the Institute of Fundraising and the Charity Finance Group (CFG) collates the views of nearly 500 senior fundraising and finance professionals in the charity sector. The results of this year’s survey give a first glimpse of whether the much anticipated up-turn in the economy is being felt by charities and our results show that there is cautious optimism from respondents about the next 12 months with many charities searching for ways to make the most of a sustainable recovery. However there is reason to remain cautious as over two-thirds of respondents report year on year increase in demands for their services and many report that they do not all feel well equipped to cope with this.

The charity sector is both resilient and innovative in responding to the changes in the economic and political environment and we remain positive that the increased overall optimism from respondents will be tempered with a realism and a desire to protect, sustain and grow that which organisations have fought to maintain in recent years. For those charities that are able to remain robust and well managed, substantial opportunities remain to meet the increased demands placed on them.

Key findings

  • 70% of respondents are optimistic about the next 12 months
  • However 77% believe that fundraising got tougher in 2013, with 68% predicting that the next 12 months will be tougher still
  • 90% of charities reported that the sector had become subject to more media interest and scrutiny
  • 49% have taken steps to enhance levels of transparency and disclosure of financial information
  • 45% reported that government policies had a negative impact overall on their charity in the last 12 months
  • Year-on-year increases in demand for services have continued, with 69% of respondents reporting an increase during 2013 and 68% expecting a higher demand for services in 2014