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Research published: October 2011

In September 2010, nfpSynergy were commissioned to complete an analysis of the state of the benevolent sector. This looked at the current issues and challenges faced by many grant-giving charities as well as the potential for sharing resources and developing strategic partnerships.

Key findings

  • Income (both voluntary and statutory) has been reduced for many benevolent organisations through a combination of circumstances, including a decrease in asset portfolios and subscriptions. While this situation may be stabilising for some charities, it remains a problem for many others.
  • At the same time, the demand for the services that these organisations provide is growing - as public spending cuts, rising unemployment and increasing life expectancy mean many more people are in need of support.
  • Running 'organisational deficits' - where an organisation spends more than it receives through donations, fundraising, investments and Government grants - helped many charities to deal with the sudden development of the UK's financial crisis. However this is not a sustainable solution and they will have to find a longer term solution.
  • Some benevolent organisations opted to change their services and eligibility criteria as a way of meeting financial challenges. For example, some have stopped funding holiday breaks and now only fund bills/living expenses. Others have opted to change the type of financial help they provide, for example, moving away from long-term maintenance payments in favour of short term, one-off grants for specific purposes. Further refinement of these changes may be necessary this year.


Way forward

This research found that the communication between benevolent organisations and providing regular forums for the sharing of ideas and best practices are key to charities working together to face the mounting challenges that the sector currently faces.

In light of this, Elizabeth Finn Care jointly hosted a conference with other leaders in the sector (Association of Charitable Organisations, Directory of Social Change and nfpSynergy) entitled ‘Shaping the future of benevolence’ in October 2011. This event was chaired by Dame Diana Brittan, Chairman of Independent Age.

Further information

Read the Understanding the benevolent sector report (PDF file size 1,800kb)

Last reviewed: 4 February 2015