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State of the Sector 2023

By Theo Clay 29 June 2023 4 minute read

Three years is a long time 

A lot has changed since the summer of 2020. In the past three years we’ve seen three prime ministers, a revolving door of lockdowns, and England has managed to both lose and win a Euro’s final. These recurring ‘unprecedented’ events have sometimes felt unending, as illustrated by Collins Dictionary’s decision to name ‘permacrisis’ its word of the year for 2022. Three years ago was also the last time we ran our State of the Sector survey. Over this turbulent period, the social sector has played a more varied and flexible role than it has in decades, trying to offer support and remain relevant in the face of seismic shifts. Charities have painfully learned how global forces are inextricably linked to local outcomes. And the first land war Europe has seen in decades has led to inflationary pressures, which have played a key role in forcing charities to drop local government social care contracts which no longer cover the costs of their delivery.  

State of the Sector 2023

We need to be able to understand how these forces have shaped the opportunities and challenges that charities face, if we want to help them to maximise their impact in the future. Our State of the Sector research aims to do exactly that. State of the Sector is a robust, sampled, phone survey of charity leaders, which NPC has run every three years since 2017. This year our research is supported by CAF, PwC and Odgers Berndtson, and the phone survey is being carried out by Savanta. We last conducted State of the Sector immediately prior to the pandemic, providing us with a unique opportunity to explore how charities have changed over the past three years. With an election looming, we’re also looking to gather insights which may be helpful for all parties in thinking about how the sector can support their ambitions. Our State of the Sector survey looks at everything from the diversity of charity staff and what charities want to see from government, to how they involve their users, and how often they cross-subsidise their contracts. 

If we better understand where the sector is now, then we can make sure that it moves to where it’s most needed tomorrow.                                                                                     

Theo Clay, NPC’s Policy Manager

As part of the fieldwork for the survey, our partners at Savanta will be contacting 300 charities across the country in July and August. Your organisation may well be contacted by Savanta’s research team, looking to speak to a senior member on our behalf. If you work for a very large charity, they will almost definitely reach out to you. If they call, please do answer the phone and give them some of your time. It’s only with your help that we can learn how to tackle the challenges that charities face. 

This year, for the first time ever, we’re also asking a similar set of questions to people who use charities’ services. This will provide us with two unique insights. Firstly, it will allow us to identify any gaps in perception between service users and charity leaders, who are often separated in daily operations. Secondly, it will allow us to ask what people who benefit from charity services think their value-add is—where do they have an advantage over the state or business? This will help us to better communicate what the social sector is for, which is essential for securing support from government in a crisis. 

What we want you to do

We’re aware of how time-pressed every organisation is, but if Savanta reach out to you, please give the caller some of your time. It’s more important than ever that we understand the obstacles that the sector is facing when we have conversations with those in government and beyond. We will take forward the responses you give, share the findings with the sector, draw out implications, and work to influence policy. Ultimately, this will help you to create change in communities around the country. If we better understand where the sector is now, then we can make sure that it moves to where it’s most needed tomorrow. 

Our final results will be out in the autumn, and you can follow State of the Sector here. 


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