Focus on the National Survey of Charities & Social Enterprises

Today our Research Officer Syann Cox looks at some latest survey results.

Last week, the Office for Civil Society released their findings from the 2010 National Survey of Charities and Social Enterprises –this happened in 2008 as well but under a name that involved the now obsolete phrase ‘third sector’. The research is fairly comprehensive with over 44,000 responses giving their feedback on the aims of their organisations including target audiences, how well these aims are being met, how much resource they have to meet them, satisfaction with funding and financial viability, and the extent of relationships with local statutory bodies.

Being the Sport and Recreation Alliance, the findings I wanted to know about were of course those relating to sport and recreation, included in this research under the heading of ‘leisure’. A strong response rate from civil society organisations which deliver leisure, sport and recreation has resulted in almost 15,000 responses falling into this category -1 in 3 of all the organisations to complete the survey! In fact, as the main focus of civil society organisations, leisure is second only to education and lifelong learning with 1 in 5 organisations mainly focusing their work on leisure.

Cutting straight to the juicy findings; community leisure organisations tend to have fewer resources for meeting their main objectives than charities and social enterprises at large.

Community leisure organisations appear to be polarised when it comes to income; over a third (36%) of community leisure organisations have insufficient overall income to meet their main objectives but almost the same amount again have sufficient overall income to meet their main objectives (34%). When we compare this to all civil society organisations, the amount with insufficient income remains the same, but half of all organisations (52%) report that they have sufficient income to meet their main objectives, meaning that leisure organisations are more likely to be in a financially vulnerable position.

Leisure organisations are also more likely to lack internal and external support structures to meet their main objectives. 41% report insufficient volunteer levels compared to only 28% of all civil society organisations, and 39% of community leisure organisations reporting insufficient advice to meet their main objectives compared to just 13% of all civil society organisations. We can also see that at both a local and a national level, 1 in 3 leisure organisations do not receive any funding at all. The good news is that over 1 in 3 (37%) leisure organisations do receive some funding at a national level through grants. 44% of grant funding for community leisure organisations comes from non-departmental public bodies such as Sport England and the Big Lottery Fund. This is considerably more than for all civil society organisations, where 10% of grant funding comes from these sources, and demonstrates the precarious position of the sport and recreation sector.

Given that there is no statutory provision for sport and recreation at a local level these findings aren’t surprising, and nor are they new news. Our Sports Club Survey has highlighted how stretched sports club resources are year on year. To give a taste of the 2011 Sports Club Survey findings, the average sports club surplus has fallen 26% since 2009 to £1,091. Data like this reinforces how important it is for government to support sport and recreation at a national and local level. To this end, the Policy Team is currently working on taxation strategies with DCMS which aim to free up some much needed additional financial resource to our community clubs, and are running a Local Authority Working Group to look at being more effective on a local level.

Back to this research, there are also some unsurprising findings which it’s nice to put numbers to. For example, almost half (47%) of leisure organisations say that the main beneficiaries of their work are young people aged 16-24, although 2 in 5 say this of the general public/everyone and 43% say that they operate at a local neighbourhood level.

For anyone who wants to dig a bit deeper into the findings, they are all available on their own dedicated website and in a refreshingly transparent and accessible format.

And what’s that I hear you all cry at the computer, when can you find out more from the 2011 Sports Club Survey? We will be launching the findings initially in September to members, and then in October after the summer recess to Parliament. Members should receive an email about the September event soon.