Mountain landscape

Views from charity leaders


Charity leaders tell us about the obstacles and opportunities they are currently facing.

See what charity leaders think

What is the CAF Charity Landscape report?

Each year we survey charity leaders to understand the challenges they face, and to assess the impact these challenges have on the sector’s ability to meet the needs of its beneficiaries. 

Formerly known as the Social Landscape report, this year's survey reveals a complex mixture of hope, fear and resilience; against an ongoing backdrop of uncertainty and change.

To find out what charity leaders think, read the full findings.

View the findings online

The obstacles and opportunities facing charity leaders


Income generation remains the number one challenge for organisations, followed by meeting demand for services and reductions in funding. This comes at a time when over four in five charity leaders state that demand on their organisation’s services had increased over the last 12 months.


Charity leaders see technology as a double edged sword – nearly all think that technology will help them to innovate and find new ways to do good, but nearly three quarters believe that technology will change the nature of the problems that charities have to address.


Most charity leaders believed that Brexit will have a negative impact on their charity, on their beneficiaries and on the cause area in which they operate. Small changes year-on-year between 2016 and 2018 suggest a worsening outlook overall.


Few charities are optimistic about government support for the sector and most think that over the next five years, government will see them as a nuisance for criticising government policy.

Public trust

Most charity leaders think that the sector has been badly impacted by negative media coverage, and that people do not understand the importance of charities.

Optimism for the future

Charity leaders tend to be more optimistic about the future of their organisations than they are about the sector as a whole.

How can charities adapt to current challenges?

Charities should look to diversify their income

Charities should identify all potential sources of income before deciding which are relevant and achievable. Are they making the most of their properties and any investments held? Developing a disaster contingency framework will help them to cope with the unforeseen.

Charities need to do more to increase public trust in the sector

Most charity leaders do not think that the value of charities is always understood by the public and other CAF research supports this view. The challenge for any charity is to ensure it has the trust of its supporter base first and foremost.

Charities should be seen as a key stakeholder in post-Brexit Britain

Charities have an important role to play in addressing the challenges brought about by Brexit; by bringing their expertise and on the ground experience to share with the Government as it looks to find a new way forward for the country whatever the outcome of debates about our future relationship with the EU.

There is relatively little discussion about how the country can be brought back together, or what practical change this process will deliver for people with real concerns about livelihoods, services, and the state of their communities. These are issues that the Government needs to address – and that charities are grappling with every day.

Charities need more certainty

Issues with anxiety, uncertainty and fear are impacting many charities already. Public sector austerity may continue under the ongoing uncertainty caused by Brexit and it is important that charities are consulted and informed alongside others as key stakeholders who are affected by this uncertainty.

The Government should repeal the Lobbying Act

The Government’s Civil Society Strategy demonstrated much needed support for the advocacy role of charities; however, legislation such as the Lobbying Act continues to have a ‘chilling effect’ on charities’ ability to advocate on behalf of their beneficiaries.

That charity leaders anticipate that their advocacy role will be seen as a ‘nuisance’ by government over the next five years, shows that more support is needed. We recommend that the Government repeals the Lobbying Act, or at least as an interim implements the recommendations in Lord Hodgson’s report.

Charities should be at the centre of technological change

Charities working across different sectors, borders and issues should embrace the role of technology in their organisations, and seek out passionate employees and leaders to help demonstrate the potential for charities and those developing new technologies to work together.

We recommend that the Government recognise that charities have a vital role to play in ensuring that new technologies are developed and implemented ethically, and need to be brought into the debate about the future of technology.


The survey was undertaken by CAF, working in partnership with ACEVO. Charity leaders were invited by email to take part in the online survey between 5 November and 30 November 2018.

A total of 452 responses were recorded. Respondents were either customers of CAF Bank, or else members of ACEVO, ACOSVO or CO3 (all organisations which represent civil society leaders). Data is unweighted. Not all respondents answered every question.

Previous reports

First published in 2015, our Charity Landscape report was previously called the Social Landscape report. All of our charity research and insight is free to view and download. Subscribe and be the first to hear about our latest research.

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