Viewfinder 13: voluntary and community sector fighting hard to provide services despite financial crisis
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At first glance the results seem to paint a gloomy picture for the sector but look closer and you'll see that the resilience of organisations and the sector as a whole is a common theme in Viewfinder's research.
In the final Viewfinder survey of 2012 the uneven impact of the current financial situation in the voluntary and community sector over the last year continued to be apparent. The survey results have been fairly consistent over the 12 month period, with 41% of organisations indicating in October 2012 that their financial situation has worsened; for 22% conditions had improved and 34% reporting no change. In relation to reducing staff numbers, around a fifth of organisations reported losing staff, down from a mid-year high of almost 30 percent.
In response to the prevailing economic conditions it has been apparent over the year that organisations have progressively responded by increasing their expenditure levels, rising from 31% of respondents in Viewfinder 11 up to 41% in Viewfinder 13. Additionally, over the year organisations have increased the number and range of services they offer, the figure rising over the year from 39% initially to 56% at the end of the year. This rise in services on offer has not kept pace with the increase in the demand for services reported by members, with 79% reporting in October 2012 that demand for services had increased in the last 12 months.
This increase demand for, and delivery of, services has to be placed in a context wherein consistently over the year around 40% of members reported increased competition with other organisations in the sector. Furthermore the impact of public sector cuts in the voluntary and community sector has been a feature over the year, although the level of organisations affected by the public sector cuts this year has varied from a high of 67% to the latest figure of 57%; the percentage of organisations having their funding cut has varied over the year around the 40% mark.
For those organisations in receipt of funding the main trends over the year include increasing demands to show ‘value for money’, increased levels of monitoring and evaluation and increased funding bureaucracy. For almost two thirds of members there has been no inflationary uplift in their funding levels.
The main sources of funding are government departments, charitable trusts councils and health boards / trusts. For those organisations directly impacted by funding cuts the main actions taken to remedy the impact include examining new funding streams, increased lobbying, increasing the numbers of volunteers and developing joint bids with partner organisations.
 In October 2012 the Viewfinder 13 questionnaire was made available online to 906 NICVA member organisations. In total 198 organisations responded, generating a response rate of 22%. Viewfinder 12 was issued in May 2012; Viewfinder 11 in January 2012.