If a picture, or in this case a series of graphs, is worth a thousand words, we can see that small charities and community groups across all communities are under constant and enormous pressure as rising demand for their services impacts across all of their activities. Clearly small charities and community groups cannot continue to meet the current rate of increase, something will have to give, and so it is just a matter of when and what.
One solution would be a decrease in demand but that looks very unlikely. Cuts in funding mean that the support and services met by charities to the most vulnerable, the homeless, the sick, the disabled, the unemployed, and the increasing number of families reliant on low paid and insecure employment, will continue to rise, as we continue on the road to a less equal society.
A further way to balance this reality would be for more income to flow into the small charity and community group sector but again there is no evidence that this will happen. Traditionally small charities and community groups have relied upon funding from Local Authorities and the generosity of the general public. Whilst the public continue to support charities, voluntary income has remained relatively static in the UK over the last 8 years and an increase in funding from this source seems unlikely. An increase in funding from statutory sources, government and local authorities is also very unlikely as government departments are told to outline potential spending cuts of up to 6% with the aim of saving up to £3.5bn by 2020.
Whilst the government continues to represent that it is committed to a modern, high-quality public sector that delivers the services people need in the most efficient way, the people are increasingly turning to small charities and community groups to meet the ever increasing gap between what support is available and what is needed. The tough financial climate in the UK looks set to continue.
Find out more on each of the three areas we are focusing on in our Trends Report 2017
Are we in the eye of a perfect storm? I am sure we are but when it will break we cannot say. What we can say is, that those who will suffer will once again be the most vulnerable as charities with heavy hearts and great reluctance are forced to put on the breaks.
All charities have the paramount duty to ‘act in the best interests of their beneficiaries’ and part of that is to try to predict what the future holds for them. No one can promise they can predict the future accurately but in order to be as accurate as possible we should acknowledge that not everything is random.
This is why over the last 48 months, through the Small Charity Index, we have been tracking the wider challenges facing small charities and community groups. The information in this report provides the wider context of the challenges facing the Sector (see above and blog: Urgent, Important & Underlying Challenges). We hope that this is useful not only for our members to support the decisions they make on how to predict specific trends that affect beneficiary group, but also for those with influence who are in a position to support the ongoing development of a healthy, vibrant and effective civil society.
In this, our fourth Trends Report, we have chosen to use, as a backdrop, the unprecedented (103 per cent since June 2013) rise in the demand for services.