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3SG's Third Sector Survey Highlights Challenges and Opportunities in Year Ahead

Updated: Mar 27, 2023


Concerns over long term funding for the local Third Sector has grown 44% in the past year, our survey has shown, with urgent calls for core funding support as demand for services increase.


Bath and North East Somerset Third Sector Group (3SG) has revealed the results of its 2022/23 Annual Survey of charities, community groups and social enterprises that it serves through its membership network, with the organisations that responded supporting almost half a million individuals across Bath and North East Somerset (BaNES).


Published for the third year, the survey helps 3SG as the local infrastructure organisation to help support the sector and lobby on its behalf. 79 organisations responded to the questions at the end of last year, with support received from Statisticians for Society* to help analyse the results and build the strength of the annual survey for 2023/24. An infographic with the key findings can be viewed at the bottom of this article.


Unsurprisingly, long term funding was the key issue, with 84% ‘very’ or ‘moderately’ concerned. 68% reported working at capacity or over; 52% were having difficulty recruiting volunteers and 32% were using reserves to meet core costs. 17% reported less than 3 months of expenditure held as reserves.


In response to the cost of living crisis, 46% of organisations have taken no action. Where actions have been taken, the most common actions are unplanned use of reserves (25%) and increased cost of services (22%). These seem to be more short-term, reactive actions. If the cost of living crisis continues into the medium-term, it seems likely that actions taken would change.


With the sector looking at digital inclusivity, the survey demonstrated a clear need for support in this area. 97% did not have a completely clear understanding of the use of digital to achieve goals in the organisation, with 62% stating their use of technology and tools wasn’t good or strong.


But there is room for optimism, with the results showing sector resilience after three years of turmoil. Despite all of the pressures, 64.9% said that morale was excellent or good, with a very small percentage reporting poor or very poor morale within their teams. There has been a decrease in concerns around working patterns in 2022/23, 30% ‘moderately’ or ‘very’ concerned in 2022/23 compared with 82% and 86% in 2021/22 and 2020/21 respectively.


There has also been a decrease in concern over viability of current services, with 80% reported in 2021/22 compared to 62% in 2022/23. Whilst organisations noted an increase in difficulty recruiting volunteers, the same respondents said that concerns over retention had decreased from 37% to 23%.


Collaboration is also high, with just over half saying they had collaborated with five or more organisations in the past year and 41.8% collaborating with between two and four others. 77.2% hoped for more collaboration this year, with 100% viewing collaboration as generally positive.


Becky Brooks, Director at BaNES 3rd Sector Group (3SG) commented: “Our thanks to all the 3SG members and local organisations that took part in the Annual Survey. This feedback gives us an in depth understanding of the issues facing the Third Sector and whilst there are some green shoots appearing in terms of resilience and spirit after three very challenging years, the results show a sector that desperately needs core funding support and investment.


“Demand for services that the Sector provides is increasing exponentially as we recover from the turbulence of a global pandemic, adapt to war in Europe and the cost of living crisis. Residents need these services now more than ever, so we would urge people to support local charities in whatever way they can.


“3SG will be using the survey results to make a clear plan for the rest of the year. We hope to provide more workshops on funding opportunities, digital skills and we are currently working on strengthening volunteering across the whole of Bath and North East Somerset, with two events coming up shortly. The first will take place online on 27th March where we will be teaming up with St Mungos and the BaNES Community Volunteer Service for organisations to discuss volunteering needs. The second, on 29th March, will be for residents to find out more about how to volunteer. We are also planning to hold a Volunteering Fair later in the year for people who want to give something back to the communities in which they live.


“3SG is constantly looking at ways in which it can help strengthen the Sector - from directories to group training offerings and the launch of quarterly socials for informal networking amongst colleagues. We are also increasing work on social enterprise, as more charities look to diversify income streams in challenging times.”


Kate Morton, CEO of Bath Mind and Chair of 3SG’s Board of Trustees said: “3SG’s survey is unique in our region and is a powerful barometer of the challenges and ambitions of the BaNES third sector in 2022-23. The results show that unsurprisingly, funding issues, high demand for services, limited capacity and volunteer recruitment remains difficult. There are, however, positives to take from the survey - it seems that many more organisations are open to collaboration as we move forward and hopefully this will resolve duplication, enabling charities to work efficiently together, particularly when it comes to funding bids.

“The sector is also showing great resilience and spirit as it navigates yet another hard year to do what it does best - help and support other people.”


To join 3SG or find out about how it supports charities and Third Sector organisations with training, advice, support and networking events visit: www.3sg.org.uk or sign up for the 3SG newsletter https://bit.ly/3SGNEWSLETTER


*A huge thank you to Kat, a volunteer statistician who generously gave her time to support the analysis of the survey. Find out more about Statisticians for Society's pro bono service.


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