Supporting our sector through the cost-of-living crisis

24 Oct 2022 Sandra Bailie    Last updated: 28 Oct 2022

In the midst of the cost-of-living crisis our communities need our sector more than ever before. However, voluntary and community organisations are facing unprecedented challenges. This article outlines the support that NICVA provides.

Our context

Our sector is in crisis: increasing costs, reducing income, increased demand for services, lack of volunteers, stress on staff and uncertainty from every angle.

Our members have told us that they are concerned about the high cost of energy, wellbeing of their staff and volunteers, increasing staff wages and volunteer expenses, decrease in charitable donations and demand for services that outstrips what they can supply.

They are tackling these issues by using their reserves, improving their energy efficiency, trying to source new donors, reducing services and trying to recruit more volunteers. But the pressure that they are under is immense, with many reporting that they are only just surviving and don’t know how long they can continue.

At this very challenging time we are here to offer any support and practical help that we can, as well as represent your needs to government and other decision-makers. We want to hear from you. How can we help?

Support and Advice

We are here to listen to you and help if we can. Please call us on 028 90877777 or contact us through our website

We will continue to keep you updated on news, training/events and funding through all our communication channels - Enews, monthly members' bulletin, twitter @NICVA, Facebook and CEO emails.

If you would like advice or information on a particular subject you can directly contact our staff directly.


Civil Society highlighted that recent research by Pro Bono Economics reports that 26% of donors are giving less. The Office for National Statistics reported that the consumer prices index rose by 10.1% in the 12 months to September 2022, up from 9.9% in August. They estimate that charities reserves have reduced by about half a month’s worth on average in the past year due to high inflation.

The impact of the cost-of-living crisis on charities’ finances is twofold. Firstly, donations, subscriptions, service fee income and other income sources will most likely reduce. Secondly, energy, goods and services will be more expensive, and donations will not go as far as they once did.

For more on how it is impacting charities and things to consider have a look at this article by our Fundraising Advice Officer, Jocelyn Horton, Charities and the cost-of-living crisis. You can contact Jocelyn for advice or to sign up for a fundraising clinic.

The Funders Forum for NI has issued a position paper - The pandemic demonstrated that in times of urgent need, funders can mobilise, adapt and flex, enabling the VCSE sector to deliver essential services for their community. They recognise that the Cost-of-Living crisis is unprecedented, with potential to impact negatively on communities at a scale not experienced at a local level, in recent times.  They are committed to supporting communities and the sector to respond to the current cost of living crisis. To read the position paper click here


Trustees have an important role to play in leading the organisation through this uncertain time. Difficult decisions may need to be made. It is going to require new thinking and refocus, and Trustees will need to take important steps to navigate the challenges organisations face.

Our sister council in Scotland (SCVO) has an interesting article on their website on How to be an effective trustee during the cost-of-living crisis.

When we surveyed our members in July 2022 58.9% of those that responded said that they were using financial reserves to help them deal with the crisis. Our Reserves policy guidance is a helpful reference.

Our webinar on Financial management and options for sustainability in uncertain times is still relevant today. It was designed to help organisations with their financial governance, both in dealing with the crisis and planning a way forward. It is delivered by Rosemary Peters Gallagher, Moore NI and Jenny Ebbage, Edward and Co Solicitors.

Human Resources and Wellbeing

The impact of cost-of-living crisis has had a drastic effect on our staff and volunteers’ wellbeing and mental health. Especially for those who are at the front line of the crisis, supporting people being pushed into poverty and further inequalities. Catherine Murnin has written a blog with some useful advice and links on Workplace wellbeing. Inspire Wellbeing have a support hub with lots of valuable resources to help you. This article from CIPD on How to help your employees provides great practical suggestions. We also have training sessions detailed below, relating specifically to managers of staff and volunteers and HR staff to help you support your workforce.

Training and Events

We have several events planned and are planning more, as a response to the cost-of-living crisis. Please keep an eye on the events/training page of the NICVA website.

Financial well-being webinar will give an outline of what financial wellbeing is and the benefits to staff and volunteers and will include practical guidance on how to implement.

Strategies for positive mental health online session will provide you with strategies and practical tools to support positive mental health in the workplace from experts from the mental health field in our sector.

Influence and Policy

The voluntary sector is a vital part of the solution to supporting people and communities through this crisis. We’re highlighting this but also the targeted support charities require to meet rising need.

NICVA has convened a cross-section of members who are providing more information on impact and NICVA along with other organisations is engaged with the Department for Communities minister Deirdre Hargey who has re-established an Emergencies Leadership Group.  The cost of fuel, heat and light are thrashing organisations’ budgets.

We have also arranged meetings with the Northern Ireland Office as the relevant UK Government Department.  It is clear that unless there is more support from government and other funders increasing costs will threaten or cut service delivery.

To gauge the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on organisations, NICVA recently surveyed all heads of Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector member organisations in Northern Ireland - you can find a summary here. The main concerns reported around the cost-of-living crisis was the increasing cost of fuel and energy (79.9%), wellbeing of staff/volunteers (66.5%) and the potential increase of staff wages (52.1%).

Over recent months, NICVA has held several round table discussions with Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector representatives, Minister for Communities and other government officials, and surveyed members, to establish the full extent of the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis on the sector.  It is clear that the demand for VCSE services is increasing drastically, whilst resources are diminishing, and energy, fuel, and food costs rise.  

NICVA has prepared a briefing paper on the most pressing issues as well as our ‘6 Key Asks’ and is seeking meetings with all Ministers and the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) to discuss these proposed solutions.  

The Energy Bill Relief Scheme  - The UK Government has published details on how the energy support scheme which will help charities in Northern Ireland this winter.  Discounts will be applied between 1 October 2022 and 31 March 23. More details are here.

NICVA provides the Secretariat for the Joint Forum. The Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) representatives of the Joint Forum discussed the growing cost of living emergency and in particular its impacts on not only the individuals and communities they serve but directly on sector organisations, at their meeting on 6 September.  This included VCS organisations capacity to respond due to the scale of the emergency and the unsustainable financial pressures of ever-rising fuel and energy costs, which may force some organisations to close or reduce vital services, at a time when the sector's contribution is never more needed or in demand. They then agreed a VCS Panel Position Statement on the current Cost of Living Crisis  - you can read the position statement here.

Further information and support

Cost of living – ACEVO

Cost of living & the #RunningCostsCrisis (

Chartered Institute of Fundraising - Cost of living crisis (

Supporting employees through the cost-of-living crisis (when pay rises aren’t an option) (

Confronting the cost-of-living crisis - NPC (

Supporting members through the cost-of-living crisis | NCVO

Cost of living | NCVO

The cost of giving - What UK charities need to know about inflation ('s picture
by Sandra Bailie

Head of Organisational Development

[email protected]

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