3SG’s second annual survey highlights the challenges facing the third sector in BaNES

By Nick Batten on 14 February, 2022

Bath-based membership network, 3rd Sector Group (3SG), has revealed the results of its annual survey, Third Sector Report 2021-22, which reports on the state of the charity sector across Bath and North East Somerset (BaNES).

The findings give a clear insight into the challenges facing local charities and other non-profit organisations in the year ahead. In comparison to last year’s results, this survey shows some positive signs emerging in the sector but the dominant challenges are funding issues, the impact of Covid-19, demand for services exceeding capacity and concerns over staff wellbeing. 

The survey, now in its second year, was conducted between October and November 2021 among 800 readers of the 3SG newsletter who were sent an online questionnaire. The majority of organisations which responded came from 3SG’s 170 member charities, social enterprises and non-profit organisations. Each organisation submitted a single response to the survey to avoid duplication and 97 organisations responded to the survey this year compared to 72 in 2020. 

BaNES 3rd Sector Group, (3SG) is an independent, membership network representing over 170 local charities, social enterprises and community groups in the Bath and North East Somerset area and provides them with training, support, networking opportunities and one-to-one consulting services. 3SG also works with a wide variety of stakeholders including local businesses, healthcare organisations, local authorities and civic bodies. 

The findings of 3SG’s survey highlighted six key areas of concern for the third sector in BaNES: 

  • Long-term funding & financial viability – 90% of respondents are worried about finding sustainable, long-term funding opportunities. 65% of organisations are concerned about their current financial viability, down from 74% in 2020. Over 77% of respondents were forced to seek new income streams in 2021 due to the pandemic and grants and trusts were listed as the top source of new income by 69% of organisations compared to 58% in 2020. Other sources of new income came from individual fundraising 32%, community fundraising 29%, philanthropy 27%, trading 21% and statutory funding 20%. 
  • Staff wellbeing – 84% of organisations are concerned about the wellbeing of their staff after the roller coaster of the pandemic and dealing with heavy workloads, fatigue, uncertainty and recruitment challenges. 
  • Impact of Covid-19 – 54% of organisations have been unable to re-open all of their pre-pandemic services leading to a lack of access to support services and activities in the community. 
  • Unmet demand for services – 46% of organisations are currently working at 100% capacity or over, up from 32% in 2020. The biggest unmet needs of charity beneficiaries included mental health needs, isolation, loneliness and getting access to support. Reasons given for this unmet need included funding problems, lack of volunteers and the impact of COVID restrictions. 
  • Volunteer recruitment – Half of organisations, 48%, have difficulty recruiting volunteers up from 38% last year as many volunteers have stepped down due to the risks of Covid-19. Retaining volunteers is slightly less difficult than last year down to 37% from 45% in 2020. 
  • Using reserves – 41% of organisations have three months or less of expenditure in their reserves. 33% of organisations are using their financial reserves to cover core costs up from 25% last year. 

Positive signs for 2022: 

  • Collaboration – 97% viewed collaboration as a positive and 77% of organisations are willing to collaborate more in 2022 with partners across BaNES such as church groups, businesses and universities. 53% of organisations collaborated with five or more third sector partners in 2021. 
  • Working Pattern changes – surprisingly over half of organisations, 56%, weren’t much concerned about changes to work patterns. Hence it seems the gradual return to hybrid or office working as well as a rise in home working hasn’t presented major difficulties for the third sector. Only 30% stated work pattern changes as a moderate worry. 
  • Team Morale – Over half of organisations, 56%, felt that their team morale was good but 30% felt team morale was only fair. 
  • Next 12 months – 57% of respondents personally felt positive or fine about the next 12 months with 36% feeling worried. 

James Carlin BEM, Director at BaNES 3rd Sector Group (3SG) commented, “Our thanks to all the 3SG members and other local organisations who took part in this Annual Survey. It has given us a deeper understanding of the issues facing third sector organisations and despite some glimpses of optimism, the results show a clear and ongoing crisis of unmet needs in the community and charities in need of financial support. In light of these findings, I hope the wider community of BaNES will come together to support local charities as they fight to recover from the pandemic by attending their fundraising events, making donations or giving time either by working in a charity job or as a volunteer.” 

Kate Morton, Chief Executive Officer 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 2021-22. This year’s results show that funding issues, Covid-19 restrictions, high demand, limited capacity, staff wellbeing and volunteer recruitment all remain challenging. Mental health also continues to be a major unmet need across the BaNES community along with isolation, loneliness and access to services. However, it is good news to see that collaboration is on the rise between charities which will facilitate the sharing of limited resources to help local communities.” 

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 http://bit.ly/3SG-newsletter 

Pictured above: (left to right) Kate Morton, CEO of Bath Mind and Chair of Trustees at 3SG with James Carlin BEM, Director of 3SG