As the end of the year draws near, now seems like a good time to reflect. Following our #12blogsofXmas countdown of the most popular posts of 2013, we’re also reminding ourselves of the year’s highs and lows through our blog—the repository of all things third sector (so we like to think!)

January. The message emblazoned across our national newspapers mournfully read: The Big Society is dead. A letter, written by the head of ACEVO and backed by some of the UK’s biggest charities, accused David Cameron of abandoning the voluntary sector which he once held at the heart of his big ideas.

February. Ben Page of Ipsos Mori gave a slightly more cheerful account: charities benefit from ‘high levels of trust in a cynical word—levels any government could only dream of’. But donations are falling and public attitudes are hardening; charities needs to work hard to keep their supporters happy and engaged.   

March. Hot on the heels of Money for Good UK—research which identifies 7 donor segments based on the motivations and behaviours of the UK’s donors—we asked, what kind of donor is Pope Francis?

April. A return to the perennial jibe: Gina Miller criticised charity spending on ‘layer upon layer of staff and administration’. We’ve blogged countless times about this, and our solution: for charities to communicate how they are achieving the change that they seek.

May: Marianne Atterbury explains how a project in Essex, paid through a social impact bond, aims to save more than £10 million in spending on at-risk youths by keeping many of them out of the costly care system.

June. Iona Joy confesses to statistical ineptitude, and calls for more and better data to be available to charities from government and the development of online tools to help them analyse it.

July. Youth organisations need to put young people at the heart of everything they do. There are 1.37 million young people not in education, employment or training in the UK: don’t forget the key ingredient.

August. Another persistent theme: the Daily Telegraph reveals that 30 charities’ chief executives are paid over £100,000. For us, the key questions are: is the individual worth it? Do they help deliver for beneficiaries? Do they drive their charity to improve its effectiveness and impact?

September. Adrienne Skelton, Head of Evidence at the Big Lottery Fund, shares the Fund’s approach to impact measurement across four levels.

October. To grow or not to grow? For some, staying small may be the best and most effective way to operate; but for others, living up to their ambitions may require growing their impact and delivering their work at scale.

November. Stephen Burke discusses growing recognition that the skills, knowledge and experience of older people could and should be better used. So how can we create a society for all ages?

December. Following news of its pretty dodgy looking portfolio, we hope Comic Relief gets some impact investors onto its investment committee, to perhaps temper the financial zeal with a little more enthusiasm for social impact.

It’s been a bit gloomy in parts, but we’re looking forward to next year and the new challenges ahead. In fact, we’ve thought of at least 5 reasons to be cheerful which we’ll share on New Year’s Day. In the meantime, a very Merry Christmas from NPC! 

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