State of the Sector

NPC’s State of the Sector is the most rigorous analysis of opinion among charity sector leaders and how it changes over time. 

Our insights help shape the debate about the sector’s biggest challenges, from working with government to improving diversity.

State of the Sector is a robust, sampled, phone survey of charity leaders run by NPC. 

It began in 2017 and was run again in 2020 and 2023 (published in 2024). In 2023 we also asked a similar set of questions to the public, including people who use charity services.

Our 2023 research was supported by CAFPwC and Odgers Berndtson. The phone survey was carried out by Savanta

The State of the Sector programme also includes analysis and essays that help to drive new thinking among charity leaders.

Read State of the Sector 2024

The full findings of our latest survey.

Read the report

Our earlier research

State of the Sector is a long-running research programme, allowing us to compare how charities, contexts and challenges are changing over time.

How charities reacted to Covid-19

Covid-19 changed the sector, but in divergent ways. Some narrowed the range of services they offer, whilst others broadened their activities to meet new needs or to reflect existing needs becoming deeper and more complex.

Charities told us that a big barrier to impact was the lack of recognition from government, funders, and society at large. We believe all charities should gather evidence of their vital role in the crisis and the effect that the changes they are making are having on beneficiaries.

Published in 2020.

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food bank worker

Where we stood as the crisis hit

Our research captured the charity sector in the final moments of calm before the storm, offering insight into its strengths, weaknesses, challenges and risks. It paints a picture of a broad and complex sector, wrestling with its relationship with government, funding challenges, technological change and its own diversity and representativeness.

We hope that by understanding the trajectory the sector has been on since 2017, funders, philanthropists and policymakers will be more able to understand vulnerabilities and help charities adapt to the new challenges they face, so they can keep serving the people who need them more than ever.

Published in 2020.

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virus molecules

Flipping the narrative

16 essays from innovative leaders in the social sector exploring new ways to achieve social change.

Published in 2017.

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colourful paint and brush

Charities taking charge

Charities should always be looking proactively for ways to improve, even transform, their work. But added to that there is a pressing need to navigate this changing environment of austerity and rising demand, recent governance and fundraising scandals, and technological advancements. So are charities adapting, or floundering? And what more can be done to ensure the sector is prepared to deal with these pressures, and can increase its impact?

Published in 2017.

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Boldness in times of change

Our first State of the Sector paper introduced new thinking on the critical issues, challenges and opportunities facing charities in 2016 and beyond. We maintained an element of optimism, highlighting the ‘bright spots’ of practice that already exist.

Published in 2016.

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