Insight: Charity in Norfolk 2024

Jo, Corrie and Laura look at a laptop screen together at the office.

What are the challenges and opportunities for charities, funders and donors in 2024?

Norfolk Community Foundation is uniquely privileged. We sit in a position where we are in constant contact with grassroots organisations through our grants programme, generous donors through our role as a charity, people with lived experience of hardship through our community research, and statutory bodies who value our expertise. This gives us both a birds-eye view of exactly what is going on and a ground-up understanding of the challenges and the opportunities in our county .

Our mission is to invest in communities to improve the lives of individuals. We know this works best when we can all work together. We understand the pressures that everyone is under – from individuals struggling to get by and those who want to do more to help, to the charities that work tirelessly to provide support and statutory bodies who have a responsibility to assist those in need. As we look ahead to 2024, we want to highlight the challenges that charities, donors and funders are under right now so we can better understand the pressures we are all facing, and so that we might be able to take action together to build a better, stronger tomorrow.

A man and a women water flowers outside Centre 81. The man sits in a powerchair holding the watering can and the woman stands beside him
Centre 81

Challenges for charities

Despite rising challenges, we want charities to remain optimistic. Charities that continue to support the most vulnerable in Norfolk are facing even greater demand than last year, and we are confident that with the right support, Norfolk charities will continue to respond to this emerging need and help those who need it most. We are continually impressed with the resilience, creativity and determination of Norfolk charities, and we are proud to support this amazing work through grants and additional support and resources.

Volunteer/Staff Burnout

The past 3 years have been very challenging for charities. The Covid 19 pandemic united the country behind local charities making a difference to people on the ground. Since leaving lockdown, however, support has waned. The cost of living crisis has limited donations. Many volunteers (and especially older volunteers) left the sector during or immediately after covid and have not returned. Grant funding was plentiful during the pandemic but has remained competitive ever since.

Charities are used to doing more with less, but the current situation is seen by many as unsustainable. A recent survey showed that 70% of charity leaders were concerned about staff burnout. Similarly, another survey revealed that 60 of small charities (small charities make up the bulk of charities in Norfolk) saw volunteer recruitment as their main concern.

As a grant funder and advocate for the sector, we are continually working with others to unlock vital funding and resources to support local small charities. Take a look at our recent webinar from MAD-HR about recruitment challenges and how they can be overcome.

Top Banana
Nourishing Norfolk Network members

Collaboration and competition

With funding opportunities becoming more sparse in recent years, charities have been competing with one another for shrinking pots of money. Whilst charities have become accustomed to this competition, it is still a major source of anxiety and a barrier to providing services. Charities are spending more time applying for grants, so it is vital that as a funder we make the process as smooth and straightforward as possible – something that we are committed to.

Collaboration is one way for charities to maximise funding. Joint bids are often considered for funding, and can sometimes offer better value to funders than applying along. Collaboration between charities can help to strengthen provision locally, as well as forge partnerships that last well beyond the end of the project.

Charities can get help with fundraising at one of our Let’s Talk About Fundraising breakfasts with Richard Felton from Felton Fundraising.

General Election

A general election will be called at some point this year. Whether there is a change of government or not, Norfolk charities will need to be alert to how debates shift in the run-up to the election – especially those who work with vulnerable groups such as asylum seekers and those experiencing homelessness. Political debates can become charged and create messy situations that charities will need to be prepared to deal with.

Take a look at our webinars on Financial Resilience and Risk and Decision Making to help prepare organisations for change.

Challenges for donors

The Covid-19 pandemic showed us the amazing support that can be mustered when we all work together. We raised over £1million through our covid response, helping thousands of people during the darkest days of the pandemic. Since then, we have distributed millions more, but donors are also facing pressures due to the cost-of-living crisis. Scandals have also rocked the charitable sector, and it is more important than ever that donors can be confident that their generosity is in safe hands.

Cost-of-giving

The continuing cost of living crisis has seen the value of charitable donations in the UK to fall by more than half between 2021 and 2022, according to a new report by Benefact Group. In spite of this, the number of people donating to charity is higher than pre-pandemic levels. This points to more people donating, but the value of each donation dropping.

Charlotte Weatherley, policy manager at the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, said, “There are many signs that the public will give when asked and last few years have seen some remarkable peaks in giving.” We saw this firsthand during the pandemic, and we will continue to inspire charitable giving by working with local people and businesses to invest in communities on their doorstep.

Feel inspired by the work we have been doing with Sir Norman Lamb on youth mental health, and explore how our partnership with Norse is offering thousands access to affordable food.

Donors listen to charity workers at a Norfolk COmmunity Foundation event
Centre 81

Trust

The charity sector is still often seen as largely voluntary-run and there to simply ‘pick up the pieces’. It is often seen as being low quality or unprofessional, too, and the general reputation of charities isn’t that strong. Recent headline-capturing stories, such as the misspending of funds by the Sir Tom Moore Foundation, have also eroded trust in charities.

We know that the reality in Norfolk couldn’t be more different. Our local charities are solving some of the most complex issues facing communities in Norfolk, and are finding endless new opportunities to apply their creativity and resourcefulness to challenges in our county. As a grant funder, we have a strict process in place that means we know every penny we give to charities counts. Our community research programme is delving deeper into the solutions to todays problems, working with the very individuals who will benefit most.

Take a look at our impact reports and see the great work we support in Norfolk. You can read more about our community research here.

Challenges for funders

As Norfolk’s premier local grantmaker, we are proud to be doing things differently. We have bucked trends, planned ahead and gotten to the root of the challenges Norfolk’s communities are facing.

Supporting the sector

While we offer support to help charities be more self-sufficient and resilient, it is our responsibility to address some of the challenges facing charities directly.

Charities need to be able to deliver things they know work, and this means that funding for core activities and multi-year funding are vital. We have been busing the trend to provide both. Last year, we began to award multi-year funding across Norfolk to youth organisations in partnership with the Office of the Police Crime Commissioner to help provide stability to organisations. We also offer the opportunity for core funding yearly through our Love Norfolk programme.

Our Norfolk ProHelp programme has also offered charities professional support through local businesses. This support, often out of reach of grassroots charities, helps frontline charities keep their limited funds focused on supporting people who need it most. Take a look here.

Political events

Whether in May or October, Norfolk charities will need to think about their next steps after the dust has settled. The funding landscape is likely to change regardless of the result pf the general election, so it is vital organisations can find the funding they need. Statutory funding will likely be affected, so it is important funders are prepared for changes at the top.

Norfolk Community Foundation staff and the Handelsbanken panel
Community Foundation staff wear matching pink hoodies. They stand in a line outside.
Norfolk Community Foundation Staff

2024 and beyond

It is crucial for charities, donors, and grant funders to remain optimistic. When facing difficulties of the scale we are facing today, it’s easy to get bogged down in the negatives and lose sight of the bigger picture. By staying optimistic, working together, and keeping a hopeful attitude, we can overcome obstacles and stay focused on what is important. In the face of challenges so much bigger than an individual, we at Norfolk Community Foundation will continue to coordinate responses to emerging issues and find opportunities to engage all in our mission for an even better Norfolk.

[Posted 18.01.2024]