Third Sector Trends has released its fifth and final report, this time looking at people, places, and policy within the sector.
With around 200,000 registered Third Sector organisations (TSOs) in England and Wales, the report shows that over 60% of organisations work exclusively within the boundaries of the local authority where they are based. Half work just at neighbourhood or village level.
Sector income & its distribution
Excluding major national or international charities with income above £25 million, the report puts sector income at about £48 billion. TSOs with income between £1 million and £25 million however command over 70% of sector finance yet account for just 5% of organisations. Micro and small organisations have only a 3% share of income but form over 70% of the sector.
Millions of hours at sector’s disposal but huge reliance on volunteers
With around 1.1 million employees and 4.3 million regular volunteers, the work-time at the sector’s disposal is enormous. Calculating sector energy from the number of days people work, the Third Sector Trends report shows that employees produce most of the work-time at about 243 million days a year, while regular volunteers work some 42 million days.
However, it points out that as most organisations have very few or no employees, without volunteers 85% of the sector could not keep going. Sector leadership would also collapse without the voluntarily given time of trustees.
Where the money goes
The report assumes that the Third Sector in England and Wales had at least £40bn to £45bn at its disposal to invest in good causes in 2022, and looks at how it was used. It found that while there are more organisations in affluent areas, most are small and without as much energy at their disposal as those working less advantaged areas.
Most of the energy invested in poorer areas is devoted to service delivery – often paid for by the state in the form of contracts or by big grants to address social need by charitable trusts and foundations. Most is also expended by bigger TSOs.
Distribution of organisations
However, when distribution of organisations by size is compared across areas a different picture emerges. The data shows that there are 1.2 micro or smaller TSOs per 1,000 resident population in the poorest areas, but 2.7 in the richest areas. By population, there are two-and-a-half times as many small organisations in the richest areas compared with the poorest.
Third Sector Trends’ comparative analysis indicates that in affluent areas, local people are much more likely to be interested in, see the personal value of, and have the available resources to set up organisations which serve social purposes that they judge to be important.
Arguably then, it suggests, the debate amongst trusts and foundations needs to move beyond questions of trust or attribution and turn to the issue of balance, with a need to maintain a ‘watching brief’ where trusts and foundations engage in ‘informed debate’ based on decent evidence from 360Giving, NCVO’s Civil Society Almanac and Third Sector Trends about funding distribution.
The report states:
“TSOs cannot and should not be expected to sort this out themselves by agreeing shared priorities. Civil society is not driven by principles surrounding fair distribution of services for all, as is the case in a welfare state. Instead, organisations focus on particulars, not universals and defend their corners vigorously. And while there will be alliances on specific issues from time to time, there can never be a fully shared set of values (beyond the legal right for such organisations to exist) on issues surrounding purpose, practice, need or social benefit. In a sector that is enormously ambitious to make a difference, this means that there is intense rivalry to highlight the importance of causes and fierce competition over resources.
“As champions of causes in need of financial support which, often, only grant funders can provide – it helps if the funding environment remains pluralistic. And while the resources available to the Third Sector may always be dwarfed by business and the state – charities and social enterprises continue to pack a punch that brings about social change.”
Third Sector Trends has been surveying the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector every three years since 2010. In 2022, 6,070 responses were received across England and Wales (an average of around 600 responses in each region). The representative longitudinal survey produces comparative analysis at a regional and national level, and the project was funded in 2022 by Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, Power to Change, Barrow Cadbury Trust and Millfield House Foundation.
The previous report came out in February this year, and looked at relationships, influencing, and collaboration.