Here comes the Navy: Forecasting Charity Confidence
In 1915, for reasons unclear, my landlubber grandfather joined the Royal Naval Division, formed by the young Winston Churchill so that marines who lacked ships could fight on land. After surviving the disaster of Gallipoli they were used to plug gaps in the flooded trenches of the Western Front, where whenever these bearded sailors appeared, some damp joker would cry “look lads, they’ve had to send in the Navy!” Oh, how my granddad and his mates must have laughed. As manager of NCVO’s regular survey of charity leaders, the Charity Forecast, I currently sometimes wonder when the Navy will splash into view.
Five minute snapshot
With ten questions about cash, staff and the wider operating environment, the Forecast survey is open to CEOs, senior managers or Trustees of NCVO members. It takes each leader just five minutes to click through, four times a year (the current survey closes on 7 March). But these twenty minutes really help us to make sure that we are giving our members the right kind of support and voicing the right concerns. Based on each quarter’s survey responses, the quarterly Charity Forecast report (see the last one here) gets lots of media attention and is often mentioned by politicians and other decision-makers. It is also free to all our members, and is emailed straight to those leaders who filled out the survey, giving them a useful snapshot of how their peers are doing.
Hitting rock bottom
However, because we began the Charity Forecast at the start of 2008, just as the credit crunch started to, well - crunch, it’s no surprise that charity leaders have increasingly reported that their trench is flooded with no Navy in sight. In summer 2011, they reported net confidence of minus 98% in the sector’s economic condition – the statistical equivalent of hitting bedrock (this trench metaphor might also be bottoming out round about here).
Yet even amid such stats, the Charity Forecast report always contains surprises. In the same report, when leaders mainly expected their expenditure to decrease or stand still over the next three months, they also overwhelmingly expected to maintain or increase their services. Not a shock to us, who know the dedication involved. And not necessarily a good thing, as their comments made plain that underfunded organisations were struggling to meet increased demand from vulnerable, recession-hit people. But an arresting statistic to put in front of the media, politicians, local authorities, and others whose views and decisions could make the situation better – or worse.
Every Charity Forecast report also has an undercurrent of fighting talk from leaders, with recent comments telling stories of valiant adaptation, innovation, resilience and reorganisation. Some leaders are placing their hope in Big Society Capital, the National Citizen Service, social investment, or using statutory Best Value Guidance to challenge disproportionate cuts of the sort tracked by our www.voluntarysectorcuts.org.uk site.
Give it a go! You have until 7 March
So, if you are a leader, trustee or senior manager in an NCVO member charity (or know someone who is), why not click (or encourage them to click) here and spend five minutes blowing off steam? The Navy won’t come to the rescue, but it will give NCVO the information we need to fight on your behalf. And you even get £5 to spend on an NCVO book!
(If you read this after 7 March, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll email you when the next survey opens)
Comments? Talk to Nick on Twitter @NCVOForesight, or make a comment below.
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Nick Wilson Young, NCVO Foresight Manager, discusses trends and forces in the wider world that could sink your organisation or speed it to success.