This week, NPC was out in force at the NCVO VSSN conference, the conference in the UK dedicated to research about the voluntary sector. NPC was presenting three papers: Eleanor Stringer presented her research on trusteeship, Gustaf Lofgren presented his research on communicating results, and I presented on grant-making.

There was a lot of interesting research presented at the conference, for example, Beth Breeze’s work on giving, which shows there is a disconnect between what donors say their reasons for giving are, and the organisations they give to.

But, as is probably to be expected, there were lots of calls for more research in the sector, but nothing stated about what the research should be focused on, or the quality of the research. Only 6% of the papers presented at the conference over the past three years focused on effectiveness. 19% were about the relationship between the state and charities. While that is an important area, NPC believes that charities and beneficiaries would benefit much more from rigorous research into which charitable approaches are effective. Less, but better targeted research, might be better for the sector.