Generic NPC banner

What is the role of faith in the charity sector?

By Rachel Wharton 8 September 2015

This question has been on the agenda at NPC for a while now. We published a discussion paper on faith and charities in December last year to highlight some of the key questions, such as how are faith-based charities unique and how is the changing nature of faith in the UK affecting faith-based charities? This initial research showed us there is much we still have to learn about the relationships between faith and charities, and those that fund them. For instance, while we know that faith is an important force motivating people to donate and volunteer, we have little understanding of how faith manifests itself in the approach, relationships, activities and experiences of charities themselves.

Following a roundtable event and discussions with a number of organisations we have developed a programme of work and are currently conducting further research, exploring the influence of faith across six organisational characteristics:

  • Purpose and focus: How does faith feature in a charities founding statement, mission and charitable objectives?
  • Reach: Does faith amplify, or limit, the ability of charities to reach beneficiaries?
  • Delivery of services: Does faith affect charities in the commissioning landscape?
  • Collaboration: Does faith facilitate collaboration and what types of collaboration are faith-based organisations involved in?
  • Funding: How does faith impact fundraising and how does faith influence grant-making?
  • Impact: Does faith affect how a charity measures impact?

The project is focused on seven of the UK’s main faith groups—though we intend to reflect the diversity of faith in  the UK throughout our work. We are in the early stages of the research but have already gained some valuable insights and have also come up against some challenges and questions: for example why is there so little official information available on faith-based charities and how could we improve the information that is collected?

We are pleased to have the support of Charity Clarity on this project, who work to improve transparency and governance. Just a cursory glance over the Charity Clarity database gives us an indication of how many charities and organisations there are out there where faith plays a part—whether that is in founding principles, mission, charitable purpose or day-to-day activities—so we are holding a joint roundtable next week (15 September) to discuss and debate further what this means.

We are really keen to engage with as many different charities, funders and faiths as possible so please email if you’d like to be involved in the project or are available to attend our event. And look out for the full findings from our research, which will be published on our website in a few months time.

This blog was originally published on the Charity Clarity website.