16th Oct 2017

Community Foundation research shows voluntary and community groups in North East England being remarkably resilient in the face of 10 years of economic and political change. But many are having to run faster to stand still, with pressure on those in the poorest areas.

The Third Sector Trends Study published by the Community Foundation draws its data from the responses of over a thousand North East organisations to regular surveys. Some of the facts and figures are particularly striking. Voluntary and community groups, for example, represent around 3-4% of regional employment – bigger than the agriculture, fishing or energy sectors and not far off the size of the construction industry. And, as well as paid staff, the sector’s 150,000 volunteers deliver nearly 11 million hours of work a year.

This kind of regional evidence is taken for granted when it comes to businesses, but it has never been produced for charities and voluntary groups, despite their critical role in society. “It’s really important that philanthropy helps improve understanding of the sector,” explains Professor Tony Chapman, who leads the research. “People might expect a funder like the Community Foundation only to support the actual activities of voluntary groups. But without good knowledge about them and the issues they face, it’s impossible to make sensible decisions about where to place support.”

The Third Sector Trends Study was originally commissioned by the Northern Rock Foundation in 2007. The Community Foundation now leads the research with additional backing from the Esmée Fairbairn and Garfield Weston Foundations. It is also exploring what the most recent findings mean for the biggest independent funder of the voluntary sector in North East England. Director of External Relations Adam Lopardo says: “Grant-making remains the life blood of civil society. And the Community Foundation is committed to growing philanthropy which can provide grants now and for generations to come. But it’s also a big part of our role to lever in a range of other resources to help the groups we support be resilient and effective.”

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