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State of the Sector survey reports

Clinks relies on having up to date information from our members and others in the voluntary sector to enable us to advocate on their behalf.

Each year Clinks surveys voluntary sector organisations to collect information about how healthy the sector is, the role it is playing, and the wellbeing of service users. Results are anonymised and collated in order for us to publish our ‘State of the sector’ reports which you can download below.

The information we collect is hugely important as it informs how we support the sector, and provides us with evidence that we can draw upon when working to influence policy.

The state of the sector 2017: Recommendations for change (published December 2017)

Our 2017 state of the sector research shows that many voluntary organisations are experiencing significant challenges. In response to these findings we consulted with key stakeholders from charitable trusts and foundations, government, criminal justice agencies, and voluntary organisations themselves to set out recommendations for change. This paper sets out what Clinks intends to do to support voluntary organisations which includes: supporting organisations to explore alternative fundraising options; assisting organisations to support their staff and volunteers; and proactively acting as a critical friend to decision makers. We also suggest what can be done by voluntary organisations, independent funders and government.

The state of the sector 2017 (published July 2017)

During a year of political instability, voluntary organisations continue to support the most vulnerable people despite a shifting funding landscape and increasing and changing service user needs. In our latest state of the sector research, organisations told us that they've seen an increase in the number of people they are supporting, with more complex and immediate needs, resulting in organisations developing more flexible and creative working and recruiting more volunteers. They have dealt with large reductions in funds, and have struggled to get full cost recovery on services, and some closing services. Through all of this the sector remains innovative and creative, with many designing new services to meet emerging need and responding to a changing landscape.

The state of the sector 2016 (published March 2016)

During another year of considerable change, the voluntary sector remains focused on delivering creative solutions to supporting the needs of their clients. Organisations told us that their clients’ needs have changed and become more severe, which has led them to develop and deliver new services to respond to this need. Partnership working is important for the sector, but it can be challenging due to the policy and funding environment creating ‘rivalry and competition.’ Grant funding continues to be important but organisations are also reliant on contracts, yet are unlikely to receive full cost recovery on any contracts they deliver. Some organisations are at risk of closure and nearly half of organisations are using their reserves to support their work.

The state of the sector 2015 (published April 2015)

The results from our latest survey show that the sector continues to be diverse, with survey respondents ranging from small community based organisations that are completely volunteer led, to those with 2,000 members of staff. We found that the needs of service users are increasing and becoming more complex, volunteering remains vital for the sector, and volunteer recruitment is increasing. Many organisations are relying on their reserves putting them at risk of closure and the majority of organisations only sometimes or never receive full cost recovery on the contracts they deliver.

The State of the Sector October 2013 (published November 2013) [+ Executive Summary]

The situation for many VCSE organisations remains unchanged – financial uncertainty; focused on delivering one project at a time; middle-sized (10 – 50 employees) being the most affected financially; redundancies continuing across the Sector and a growing use of volunteers. More worrying are the number of organisations (now 50%) who are not achieving full cost recovery and the increasing number (65%, up from 58%) who are using their reserves to meet costs.

The State of the Sector February 2013 (published May 2013) [+ Executive Summary]

Two thirds of respondents are not achieving full cost recovery on their contracting arrangements. Reserves are being used to subsidise this shortfall, which is clearly unsustainable. We are aware that many organisations are doing this because it’s all that is available, and you are doing your best to meet the high levels of need that you're experiencing.

The State of the Sector 2012 (January 2013) [+ Executive Summary]

The VCS working with offenders is facing a challenging combination of decreased income, but increased demand, according to the latest Clinks research. Sixty seven per cent of respondents are using their reserves (the money the Charity Commission recommends that charities hold). Many organisations are struggling to balance the demands of Government strategy, the economic situation and increased demand for services. Organisations also face rising costs, along with more competition for income. Of particular concern is a reported trend from long-term contracts to shorter one-off pieces of work which do not cover the full costs. 

When the dust settles: an update [March 2012]
This update indicates that national and local government cuts over the last twelve months have resulted in a decrease in the quantity and quality of the services on which the most vulnerable depend. In the past, the charities and not-for-profits organisations have provided a safety net for those whose needs are not met by the public sector. But with large cuts to the public sector services coinciding with cuts to the not-for-profit sector, some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable are falling through the gaps. Eighty percent of organisations which responded to a Clinks survey are struggling to cope with a decrease in income, while simultaneously experiencing increasing demand both in terms of quantity and complexity. 

When the dust settles [March 2011]
This Clinks report summarises the following three reports, and provides a Clinks perspective as well as recommendations for the Home Office.

A changing landscape [2011]
A qualitative and quantitative study of the VCS working to reduce reoffending and address community safety in changing times. This report collates the experiences of 18 voluntary sector organisations that recorded fortnightly journals between January - March 2011. It uses information from two Clinks' surveys to support the findings.

Changing times, Challenging times [2011]
This report provides a snapshot of the challenges the VCS were facing at the end of 2010 and start of 2011. It analyses two Clinks' surveys that captured the views of almost 300 staff working with the VCS in the Criminal Justice System.

Partner roundtable reports [2011]
We commissioned Drugscope; the Women’s Resource Centre; National Council for Voluntary Youth Services; and Victim Support to hold roundtable meetings of their members working in their specific areas of: young offenders; victims; vulnerable women; and drug offenders. This report collates the outcomes of these meetings.