Funding Review 2014: How have partnerships changed through the downturn?

In this guest blog, NCVO's Andrew O'Brien provides an overview of how a group of organisations are working together to review the financial sustainability of the voluntary sector.

Here, Andrew considers what this means for partnership working and the Compact, and how you can contribute your experiences.


Although it is now seven years since the financial crisis and five years since the recession, voluntary organisations are still trying to adapt to the changes that have taken place in the funding environment.

In order to help voluntary organisations navigate the changing financial landscape, NCVO is working alongside Charity Finance Group, Institute of Fundraising, NAVCA and Small Charities Coalition to carry out a review into the financial sustainability of the voluntary sector.

The aim of the review is to understand the main trends that have emerged since the recession in terms of how the sector is funded (income), how it spends its money (expenditure) and how these changes have affected its assets.  

As part of that process we are trying to get the stories of how voluntary organisations have adapted through a direct ‘call for evidence’. This targeted online survey provides the chance for voluntary organisations to share their experiences and help us to paint the fullest picture possible about how the recession has impacted on the sector.

One of the areas that I find particularly interesting is how the sector has sought to build partnerships both with government (local and central) and within the sector itself.

We are in the midst of one of the toughest government spending environments since 1945 and this has put a significant strain on relationships between the voluntary sector and government, particularly local government.

The Compact is important because it ensures a formal set of principles managing that relationship remains in place, on top of which richer or more informal partnerships can be built.

Good relationships with government are important not only in the context of income through service delivery or grants, but they are also in helping to maximise the sector’s resources. For example, many local authorities have supported voluntary organisations by providing subsidised space to rent or reducing the cost of using council-owned facilities. This helps to reduce costs and enables voluntary organisations to use more of their income in improving the lives of beneficiaries. 

As part of the Funding Review, we are interested to know how different organisations relationships with local authorities have changed. Has your organisation built new partnerships with local authorities or public bodies to maximise your resources? Or have these partnerships been lost due to cuts in government spending?

We also want to know about partnerships that have been built within the voluntary sector. Have you worked with other organisations to maximise local resources and to increase the resilience of the sector? If so, how and how successful has it been? Have you tried to form new consortia, potentially brokered by the local authority, to deliver services?

We are looking to publish our conclusions in early 2015. If you would like to find out more about the Funding Review and how you can help, please email me: andrew.obrien@ncvo.org.uk  

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