State of the Sector

NPC’s State of the Sector programme seeks to inject new thinking to how charity leaders can adapt and thrive in a changing world.

State of the Sector is the most rigorous analysis of sector leader opinion, and how it changes over time. 

Since 2020, 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.

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. For the first time this year we will ask a similar set of questions to those who use charity services to sense-check what we’re hearing from the leaders, and draw out any areas of difference.

Our 2023 research is supported by CAFPwC and Odgers Berndtson, and the phone survey is being carried out by Savanta

Learn more about State of the Sector 2023

What we're doing and how you can help

State of the Sector 2023

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.

Read more
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.

Read more
virus molecules

Flipping the narrative

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

Published in 2017.

Read more
NPC spark

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 2016.

Read more
NPC spark

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.

Read more
NPC spark

To stay up to date with all our research, sign up to our newsletter.