The Blog

Signs of the Times

Our mission here at NPC is to try and increase the impact that the not-for-profit sector achieves. And one of the most important things we have done in recent times has been to help the sector think through the way that demographic change, sweeping through our society and economy, will affect their ability to achieve any sort of impact at all.

We did this by setting up an independent Commission 18 months ago, the Commission on the Voluntary Sector and Ageing, with a brief to really drill down into the issues. With the formidable Lynne Berry as chair we worked with experts in the pure ageing space at the International Longevity Centre; recruited Commissioners from all generations, perspectives and experiences; and consulted widely with the charity sector through roundtables, events, focus groups and a series of short papers which explored the environment for funders, volunteers and the like.

Our final report, Decision Time, was launched last week. It is hard-hitting stuff. While it doesn't blame the sector for being slow to adapt to the potential of our ageing population-we know it is hard enough to keep a charity going from year to year without having to think about the issues you are going to face you over the next decade or two--it does accuse the charity sector for a 'collective failure of imagination'.

But in new calculations, done exclusively for the Commission, the paper estimates that £6.5bn of value from volunteering from older people, and from their donations, is at risk unless the sector gets its act together. Because older citizens will not only have lots of other demands on their time and money, they are likely to have very different attitudes to their giving and volunteering. These needs will have to be met in ways that they currently aren't.

The Commission was not only aiming its sights at the charities and funders which work with older people, though, but also at younger people and children's charities (very much helped by having Javed Khan of Barnados and Keji Okeowo of NCVYS as Commissioners). They not only have some of the same issues to think about around volunteers, staffing and funding, but also need to help younger people start to think about ageing differently and more positively, and even to think about their own ageing. The Commission also identified a gap in the middle age range--what we called the 'mid-life gap'--where charities tend not to focus, yet which is crucial to a better older age.

Do have a look at the report. Don't worry, it is not a 200 or even a 30 page doorstep (and yes, I have been involved in many of those unread tomes in my time in government), but a crisp 12 pages, mainly full of infographics. It is like that because we want charities and those who fund them to really read what it says and try to apply it to their own situation.

And we want the sector to take some collective responsibility for trying to lean into developments so that the charity sector plays its part in shaping the next few decades. We want Britain to be a good place to live, to grow old and to prosper. And as the Commission points out, sector bodies have a central role in achieving this. The likes of NCVO, evidence collection agencies like the Centre for Ageing Better, and crucially the funders--both charitable and governmental--really need to think through who they are funding and on what basis.

At NPC this is certainly not the end of this agenda. We want to help our clients think through how these changes will affect them and how they should adapt their strategies for impact. We want to do research into how some of the things that the Commission proposed might work. We want to help the sector raise its game.

That is the way to #NPCimpact.