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Charities with public contracts have fewer volunteers, finds research

25 Sep 2017 News

Charities which take on government contracts attract fewer volunteers than the sector as a whole, according to research produced by an academic in the Third Sector Research Centre.

The research, by Chris Damm, a research associate at the Centre for Regional, Economic and Social Research within Sheffield Hallam University, looked at around 4,600 charities with over £500,000 of annual income, providing services to individuals in the UK.

It found a “small to moderate” reduction in the ratio of volunteers to employees in charities where the main source of income was government contracts, compared to those where only a small amount of income was from government contracts.

The same correlation did not apply for grant-funded charities.

The research does not identify a causal link between government income and reduced staffing, and suggests that other factors may be more important than government funding. State funding accounts for at most 5 per cent of the difference.

The research also did not look at the role of volunteers.

It suggests that the most likely explanation for reduced volunteering at contracting charities is that it is difficult to deliver government contracts with a volunteer workforce, because of the way government contracts are structured.

It recommends that more work is done to make volunteer participation and contracting more compatible.


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