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ACO Changing for good report - Sample pages from the ACO publication 'Changing for good'
Last updated December 2020

State of the Sector survey report : Changing for Good

The Association of Charitable Organisations (ACO) has released a “State of the Sector” research report “Changing for Good” that highlights the challenges faced by benevolent funds and trusts and foundations providing grants to people in need. These include the changing patterns of need as a response to financial austerity and fears of more pressure on charitable funds due to welfare reform.

The survey challenges the out dated view of benevolence, saying that funds are reviewing and restructuring their support services to meet need, discouraging dependency, and becoming more strategic and creative, embracing new technology and increasing proactive programmes of support to get people “back on their feet” in these difficult times.
The survey is a snapshot of the sector. The results highlight the significant and vital contribution Funds make toward enhancing the lives of disadvantaged people together with meeting the challenges posed by austerity, welfare reform and changing need. Download and read the full report from the document panel below for further analysis of the survey results.

Key Findings

  • ACO members gave an estimated £100 million in grants and other services to individuals in need
  • Applications steady at present
  • Rigorous process used to determine need
  • Significant numbers of applications coming from referral agencies
  • Funds are expanding overseas
  • Concern about impact of austerity
  • Grants funded by investments
  • Planning leads to more collaboration
  • More work to be done on impact
  • Concerns about welfare reform in futureM
  • Majority say the boundary between state and Funds is blurred
  • Members value ACO, the umbrella organisation for trust and foundations who give grants to individuals in need

This is a time of considerable change for the benevolent sector and trusts and foundations providing grants and welfare support to people in need.

We are heartened that so many of our members have reviewed and restructured their programmes of assistance in the past few years. The sector is rapidly shaking off the out of date perception of Victorian paternalism and dependence, replacing this with a new creativity that is evident in new, dynamic and strategic approaches. This is a work in progress and is fast moving. Funds are trying new approaches, embracing new technologies and reassessing beneficiary need.

Funds do not live in a bubble or float loftily above public discourse. On the contrary, ACO and its members conduct lively debates about public policy and its impact on grant making and beneficiaries, and have done so for some considerable time. The sector has throughout history changed with the times and led by innovation pioneering the creation of alms-houses and specialised care homes, moving more recently to person-centred care enabling people to live independent lives in their own homes.

Our members have worked alongside the Poor Law system, seen the introduction of the Elizabethan Charity Act in 1601, the rise of Victorian philanthropy, and the invention of the welfare state and the NHS. The demise of benevolence funds and the relevance of grant making for individuals in need is a constant refrain. But our members remain, now as ever, a vital component of the wellbeing and safety net for fellow citizens.

Undoubtedly, the cuts to statutory funding coinciding with increased demand will for many continue to impinge upon the Funds’ work and operation methods for the foreseeable future. The sector’s future lies in its own efficacy, its effectiveness and the ability to adapt to the marauding effects of austerity, the marching drum of technological advancements and the changing needs of individuals who fall on hard times.

ACO is heartened by this research, showing both the challenges and achievements of our sector. We face the future, uncertain as it is, with a positive outlook that funds are working hard to improve lives, day in, day out and will continue to do so for a considerable time.

The full report can be downloaded here

Icon Changing for Good - April 2013


State of the Sector: Changing for Good. Survey report commissioned by ACO on Benevolence in the Charity Sector 2013

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