About the Social Landscape report

This is the third year that we’ve worked with the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) to produce the Social Landscape report.

The report provides a unique insight into the voluntary sector from the perspective of its Chief Executives – to understand any challenges faced, and to assess the impact such challenges have on the sector’s ability to meet the needs of its beneficiaries.

Key findings from Social Landscape 2018

Top challenge facing charity CEOs
Income generation and financial sustainability is still the key challenge faced and there is no indication that it will diminish.
Impact of charities
Measuring and demonstrating impact was cited as a challenge for more than a fifth of charities, but this is an area that is being worked on.
CEOs optimism
Despite the challenges faced, optimism is high and on the increase.

Findings in detail

Key challenges faced

The top challenge has remained unchanged since we started producing the Social Landscape report in 2015, namely ‘generating more income/achieving financial stability’. Indeed, the level of those considering this a challenge reached its highest level in 2017 (62%), having fallen back slightly in 2016.

‘Meeting demand for services’ and a ‘reduction in public / government funding’ complete the top three challenges for charity CEOs in 2017 although both of these have decreased since 2016 in terms of the overall percentage considering these as pressing challenges.

Within the qualitative research conducted, these issues were also regarded as the most pressing challenges, with people mentioning that these can keep them up at night worrying about the effect they will have on the people that depend on them as charities.

Demand for services

In 2017, meeting demand for services is in the top two challenges faced by CEOs, with a third (33%) saying it is a key issue.

When asked directly whether demand for their services had increased or decreased over the last 12 months, two out of five CEOs (42%) said it had increased ‘a lot’, whilst the same number said that demand increased a little. Overall therefore, 84% believed that demand for services had increased.

CEOs expect this trend to continue with 47% expecting demand to increase ‘a lot’ in the next 12 months, and a further 39% expecting it to increase a little. This is almost the exact same picture as we saw in last year’s report, indicating that there is no let-up in demand and charities predictions of increased demand last year appear to have been realised.

This is backed up by the qualitative research where there was a view that austerity measures had started to have a real impact in the previous 12 months in a way that they had not previously, and with more people needing the services that charities provide.

Figure 1: Change in demand for services in the last 12 months and over the next 12 months

Future optimism

The majority of CEOs are optimistic about the future of their organisations, despite the challenges they face, and this grew between 2016 and 2017 (from 64% to 73%). However, optimism remains at lower levels than seen in 2015 when we reported that 82% felt optimistic.

Optimism for the future of the charity sector in general, and public support for the sector are stable at around a half of CEOs interviewed feeling positive.

Pessimism however remains high around government support for the sector (also seen in the top challenges as a concern over public/government funding), and the overall economic conditions. Indeed, pessimism over economic conditions has seen an increase over the three years (up to 72% in 2017 from 68% in 2016 and 38% in 2015).

Figure 3: How optimistic are you about...?

The impact of Brexit on charities and their beneficiaries

The majority of CEOs believe that the effect of Brexit will most likely be negative for both themselves as a charity and also their beneficiaries, with 64% saying it is negative for their charity and 63% for their beneficiaries.

The causes in which their charity operates are seen as being less likely to be affected, with just 52% of CEOs feeling Brexit will have a negative impact, although just 1% think it will have a positive impact on their charity’s cause area.

In addition, over a third of CEOs anticipate that charitable donations to their charity will decrease as a result of Brexit, although a quarter are unsure what will happen. This may be contributing to concerns over funding, income generation and the economic climate which were explored earlier in the report.

Figure 5: Do you think Brexit will be positive or negative for…

Importance of charities and their impact

Over a third (35%) of CEOs agree that ‘charities are good at demonstrating the impact of their work to the public’. This is down slightly from 2016, but still an increase on the 2015 figure when it was just 23%.

This reflects the introduction of impact measurement by more than a half of charities. Furthermore, around half also say that their organisation has ‘appropriate metrics in place for measuring success and impact’, possibly providing a boost.

However, it should also be borne in mind that 37% of CEOs do not feel that charities are good at demonstrating their impact and this links to the fact that this is a top challenge for one in eight charities.

Figure 10: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements…? Charities are good at demonstrating the impact of their work to the public
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Social Landscape 2018

Unique insight into the voluntary sector from the perspective of its Chief Executives.

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