Every year the National Council for Volunteer Organisation publishes an extensive report about what the year ahead looks like for the UK, and how that might affect the charity sector. Looking at the Political, Economic, Social and Technological environments the report asks: what are the big things that look set to happen, how might they affect you, and what can you ask yourself to be prepared? The report is 35 pages and covers everything from the climate crisis to the tech revolution, social isolation to Brexit. Whoever you are, whatever cause you work with there is something to take away from it, so to ease you in we thought we’d put together a couple of the things we found most interesting.
- You can’t ignore the big topics
Britain has exited the European Union. The UK has a majority government. The political landscape and the issues pervading it are everywhere and, in some way, it is going to affect your organisation. Even if your organisation doesn’t directly work with companies in the European Union, the structure within which you have been operating for the last 47 years has relied on it. People who you trade with, or people who they trade with, or people who they trade with, will have to change their methods of operating. With Brexit officially ‘done’, you might stop thinking about it, but the official transition period doesn’t end until 2021. It’s up to you to prepare for that impact.
With a majority government, it is likely that policy making will be subject to less debate and less scrutiny; which means that there is likely to be a lack of media coverage on policies being made and charities may struggle more to get their voices heard. You may need to up your active efforts to follow what is changing in parliament, learn how this will affect you, and find out in enough time to call out any changes that might negatively impact upon you and your organisation.
- The big topics won’t ignore you
On average, studies show that people are becoming more politically and socially engaged. As you look deeper into the impact of the government’s decisions, so perhaps will individuals look into your practice and the impact your decisions have on the world around you – such as, how is your organisation impacting upon climate change?
With cancel culture taking over our lives, charities are going to be held to account more and more about how consistent their ethos is, and how they are managing their ethical impact outside of the cause they work for. For example, how environmentally sustainable is your business? Can you print less, travel more sustainably, and work with organisations with better environmental impact? Many individuals are willing to boycott big brands such as Coca Cola or Barclays on environmental grounds, it can only be easier to cut out a small charity for small mistakes.
- People are engaging with causes more – but think they need charities less.
If people are becoming more politically and socially active, they are more likely to want to make a philanthropic impact, which should act as a boom for the charity sector. However, it seems that the traditional systems for volunteering or giving back are often at odds with how people want to give. Often there is a higher focus on a person’s individual capability, and they are more likely to want to take ownership of their work, wanting a role designed and decided by their skillsets. Is there a way your organisation can ask volunteers how they specifically can help you? If not, they are unlikely to engage.
People are also more likely to want to see immediate results. Crowdfunding websites are a way that an individual can create this sense of immediate impact. They can choose the cause, set up the page themselves, and see something changing straight away. Is there a way that you can be inspired by this approach?
- Technology is still moving faster than charities themselves
We live in a world where globally recognised technology brands are changing almost every aspect our day to day lives. Amazon has an almost global monopoly on how we buy things; Netflix has basically reinvented how we watch TV. In the face of that more than half of charities still don’t have any form of digital strategy.
The innovations that charities have made in the tech sector can make incredible differences: Video gamer Ninja raised $2.7 million for St Jude’s Children’s Hospital by livestreaming himself playing Fortnite. The Red Cross has created a First Aid app where you can ask your Alexa to help you in an emergency situation.
If a structured charity model alienates younger people already, falling behind in digital may exacerbate this disconnect. Is your organisation doing enough to keep up with the digital revolution? (Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy run a Digital Tools for Fundraisers course with Howard Lake, great for taking your first steps in this area).
There’s so much more in this report we couldn’t even begin to cover here: looking at ways you can use data to your advantage, reaching out to people experiencing social isolation, and understanding society as increasingly united rather than divided. You can read the full report on the NCVO website, as well as keep up with the rest of the great work they do to support the sector.
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