Next six months ‘crucial’ for political lobbying, NCVO tells charities

26 Jan 2023 News

The next six months are crucial for voluntary organisations to influence future government policy, NCVO has advised.

NCVO’s latest edition of its annual Road Ahead report series suggests that politicians from all major parties are looking for ideas to include in their policy manifestos, with a general election potentially on the horizon.

Therefore, it urges charities to “act now” to lobby policy-makers as “this year, we’ll see all political parties make substantive decisions on the scale and scope of their commitments for the next election”.

The report covers five key insights for 2023 on issues including ongoing staff challenges, equity, diversity and inclusion strategies and the cost-of-living crisis.

‘Act now’ to influence government policy

NCVO predicts that as a general election is on the horizon, politicians are looking for new ideas.

“The next six months are a crucial time for voluntary organisations to influence pledges made in the next manifestos. We’ll need to act this year to secure support for our causes in years to come,” it says.

Alex Farrow, director of influencing and engagement at NCVO, said: “Last year saw a political storm almost unlike any other” so “this is going to be a key year” to influence what goes into manifestos and the political narrative.

He added if organisations are trying to influence the current government now is the time to act as time will be short — “a lot is up for grabs and now is the time to influence”.

The report adds: “As time ticks, we can expect limited time to scrutinise bills and pragmatic decisions on what will be tabled.

“As a sector, we’ll need to act fast to engage with policymakers and politicians on the issues that matter to us.”

Cost-of-living crisis

NCVO said that the cost-of-living will continue to present problems for the voluntary sector and those they work with.
Farrow said the cost-of-living crisis is an increasingly “significant risk for charities” though there is some “positive against quite a negative situation” in that inflation and fuel costs should be coming down.

He suggested key things to think about include checking budgets are realistic, always focusing on your public benefit – so charities can adapt but should focus on why they exist – and added charities should consider new collaborative ways of working.

The report adds “what matters is the difference we make, not the legal form we take”. 

This means charities could consider whether changing your legal structure, merging with others, or closing the legal entity will allow you to continue delivering your purpose.

“If it does come to it, ending well is a really vital, crucial, part of the process,” added Farrow.

The second prediction is that there will be ongoing challenges to retaining staff, trustees and volunteers during the year.

Ongoing staff challenges 

Farrow said “staff, trustees and volunteers are, in many ways, the heart of voluntary organisations” but they were feeling crisis fatigue. 

Moreover, recruitment may be more challenging, as well as staff retention – so if possible prioritise flexible working and support wellbeing.

The report adds: “Low pay, alongside rates of pay elsewhere outpacing the voluntary sector, threatens our ability to recruit and retain people. Some may be forced to find better paid work to support themselves and their families – even if they don't want to leave their jobs.”

It adds charities should consider how to engage with political parties and contentious issues while staying politically independent.

EDI ‘cannot be put to one side’

NCVO also predicts equity, diversity and inclusion will remain a challenge for many organisations and communities.

“Not everyone will be impacted the same by these converging crises and existing inequalities could be exacerbated. Action on equity cannot be put to one side – it’s core to how we weather the storm,” a statement from NCVO reads.

Farrow said as a sector our drive “must not slow down” and urged charities to consider a number of actions, including being transparent, capturing data, and consolidating steps taken.

New laws and regulations

NCVO’s report also notes there will be a range of legal and regulatory changes which will affect charities.

“These will change how charities can operate, alongside more guidance on investments and new reporting duties.”

Farrow added that it is easy to be swept away by the amount of challenge, which can feel consuming, though he said it is important that the sector does not lose hope.

Editor's Note: This article has been amended to include the quote “staff, trustees and volunteers are, in many ways, the heart of voluntary organisations”.

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