NICVA Releases Findings from Northern Ireland Faith Survey

26 Apr 2017 Rachel Shannon    Last updated: 20 Jun 2017

NICVA recently completed research on the faith based sector in Northern Ireland, which established the community work conducted by these organisations, outside of regular worship, and identified their training/support needs.

Introduction

As part of the Faith Based Strand of the Regional Infrastructure Programme (RISP), NICVA completed a piece of research which aimed to explore the community work undertaken by the faith sector in Northern Ireland and the training and support needs of these organisations. This work was undertaken between July and December 2016 by NICVA's Research Interns, Niall Robb and Lisa Irvine.

Summary of Key Findings

  • 77% of places of worship respondents organised community activities
  • Youth activities was the most popular community activity organised by places of worship 
  • The main service user group that accessed respondents' community activities was 'children and young people'
  • The estimated total number of paid staff that work in the faith sector in Northern Ireland is 8,582
  • The estimated total number of volunteers that work with the wider community in faith based organisations is 84,327
  • The main skills gap identified by respondents was fundraising, closely followed by communications

Methodology

The research had a number of methodological phases. Firstly a mapping exercise was undertaken to identify the size of the faith sector in Northern Ireland. Organisations were identified using the following sources: NICVA's internal Customer Relations Management database, the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, the Charity Commission for England and Wales, organisations' websites and directories, an online form and the Community Faiths Forum. In total, 2,529 organisations were identified through the mapping exercise. The spread of organisations across council areas is displayed in the map and table below.

Spread of faith based organisations, identified through the mapping process, according to council area
CouncilNumberPercentage
Belfast41418.2
Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon27812.3
Newry, Mourne and Down2189.6
Causeway Coast and Glens2069.1
Mid and East Antrim1888.3
Mid Ulster1858.2
Ards and North Down1727.6
Fermanagh and Omagh1707.5
Lisburn and Castlereagh1566.9
Antrim and Newtownabbey1496.6
Derry City and Strabane1335.9

 

 

An interactive map displaying the organisations identified through the mapping process.

A questionnaire was designed in consultation with the Community Faiths Forum and the Department for Communities. The design process drew upon previous research conducted by GWEINI (Council of the Christian Voluntary Sector in Wales) and the Cinnamon Network. The questionnaire was built onto an online survey platform, SurveyGizmo. The survey was open between 9 November - 2 December 2016 and targeted 2,177 organisations. The survey link was distributed directly by email to 1,590 organisations, while other organisations were targeted by phone, social media, newsletters and through the Community Faiths Forum. Three Amazon Tablets were offered as prize incentives to the target sample. The survey response rate was 23% (498 separate organisations). The spread of organisations in the target and achieved sample according to religion/ denomination and place of worship status, is displayed in the tables below. 

Religion/ denomination% Target sample (n=2,177)% Achieved sample (n=498)% Difference
Presbyterian26%20%-6pp
Other Christian38%38%-
Church of Ireland14%19%+5pp
Roman Catholic12%13%+1pp
Methodist8%5%-3pp
Other1%3%+2pp
Hinduism0.3%1%+0.7pp
Islam0.4%0.4%-
Judaism0.2%0.2%-
Buddhism0.2%0.2%-

 

 % Target sample (n=2,177)% Achieved sample (n=498)% Difference
Place of worship76%71%-5pp
Not a place of worship24%29%+5pp

 

Survey Results

The following sections outline key findings from the survey.

Community Activities/ Areas of Work

Over three-quarters of respondents, that stated they were a place of worship, organised activities with the wider community.  Youth activities was the most popular community activity organised by places of worship, with 79% of respondents selecting this option. Social activities ranked second in terms of popularity (70%), while the third most popular category was leisure activities, hobbies, sport (69%). 

Results to question: Please indicate which of the following activities/ areas of support your organisation has been involved in over the last year which serve the general public 

Respondents to the survey that were not a place of worship (n=142), were asked to indicate their top three areas of work in rank order. Responses to this question were given a weighted ranked score, and the results are presented in the graph below. The area of work that received the highest score was faith activities (180). Children and young people (108) and overseas/ development (73) were the second and third most popular areas of work respectively. 

Results to question: Please rank your organisation's main areas of work 

All respondents, excluding places of worship that did not organise community activities, were asked which groups they worked with outside of regular worship. The most popular group was children and young people with 81% of organisations selecting this option, followed by older people (67%) and parents/ families (65%).

Results to question: Over the last year, which groups has your organisation worked with

All respondents were asked to indicate if they had purpose built premises for community activities and if they offered their facilitates to the wider community. As displayed in the graph below, just over one-third (35%) of respondents stated that they had a purpose built community centre, 42% of respondents stated that they rented out rooms (or a hall) to community groups and 47% stated that they provided facilities free of charge to the community. 

Respondents were asked to indicate the number of service users that accessed their community based services in a typical week. As displayed in the pie chart below, 43% of organisations stated less than 50, while 28% stated between 50-100 service users accessed their services in a typical week. Just under one-tenth of respondents stated that 300+ service users accessed their community activities during a typical week. 

Results to question: How many people do you estimate use your community based services in an average week

Staff and Volunteers

Over two-thirds of organisations that responded to the survey stated that they employed paid staff. The average number of paid staff in these organisations was 6. Using this figure, the estimated number of employees in the faith sector in Northern Ireland is 8,582. Of those organisations that employed paid staff, 66% employed paid staff that worked with the wider community. The average number of paid staff per organisation that worked with the wider community was 5. Using this figure, the estimated number of paid staff in the faith sector that work with the wider community is 4,070.

Close to three-quarters of organisations that responded to the survey involved volunteers in their organisation. The average number of volunteers in these organisations that work with the wider community was 51. Using this figure, the estimated number of volunteers that work with the wider community in faith based organisations in Northern Ireland is 84,327.  Each volunteer spent an average of 2 hours volunteering per week. 

Training and Support Needs

Respondents were asked if their organisation had any training or support needs. As displayed in the graph below, fundraising (43%), communications- including social media (41%), community development (30%) and website development (30%) were identified by respondents as the most common skills deficit areas. 

Results to question: Please indicate which of the following areas your organisation would like to receive training/ support in

Summary of Key Findings

  • 77% of places of worship respondents organised community activities
  • Youth activities was the most popular community activity organised by places of worship 
  • The main service user group that accessed respondents' community activities was 'children and young people'
  • The estimated total number of paid staff that work in the faith sector in Northern Ireland is 8,582
  • The estimated total number of volunteers that work with the wider community in faith based organisations is 84,327
  • The main skills gap identified by respondents was fundraising, closely followed by communications

Thank you

NICVA would like to thank all those organisations that took the time to complete the survey. As a gesture of thanks, three organisations that completed the survey were drawn at random and each received an Amazon Tablet. These organisations were First Ballymena Presbyterian Church, Lisburn City Church and The Salvation Army. You can read more about these survey respondents here.

If you would like to contact a NICVA representative about this research, please contact Rachel Shannon (rachel.shannon@nicva.org/ 028 9087 7777).