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About CO3

CO3 Chief Officers 3rd Sector is a membership organisation for Third Sector leaders in Northern Ireland.

We help Third Sector Leaders to be exceptional

Established in 1985, Chief Officers 3rd Sector (CO3) is a leading membership-based organisation that focuses on supporting, developing and connecting Third Sector leaders in Northern Ireland.

We have a growing membership base of almost 700 third sector leaders. Our members range from leaders of some of the largest charities and social enterprises through to small community and faith-based groups.

We use the term third sector to describe the breadth of our members’ work. Members work across all policy areas and connect to all government departments. Our members offer considerable expertise, services and innovation. Our members lead organisations that contribute resources and investment in public services, employ tens of thousands of people and have a considerable asset base to help strengthen the economy.

We work closely with members, as well as partner organisations in the private & statutory sector and government departments. CO3's capacity to deliver services has been enhanced in recent years. Membership numbers have increased substantially, from 60 in 1998 to almost 700 as of October 2021.

CO3 receives funding from a range of sources, membership fees, training, a small proportion of government funding, and income from a number of Trusts and Foundations.

Full membership is open to chief officers (the most senior staff member) of third sector organisations in Northern Ireland. Other categories of membership are open to third sector senior managers (associate members), board members and partner organisations in other sectors via our corporate membership. Full members are entitled to vote at the AGM and elect Executive Committee members. CO3 Executive Committee meets five times annually, and has established a Finance, Audit and Risk Sub Committee and an Honorary Officers Committee.

Our History

CO3 was formed in 1985 as the Association of Senior Officers of Voluntary Organisations (ASOVO), by a group of chief officers who started meeting to share good practice, information and peer support, to help them be more effective. We then became the Association of Chief Officers of Voluntary Organisations (ACOVO) in 1986 and developed the organisation to provide support and development to chief officers in Northern Ireland’s voluntary and community sector. In May 2007 ACOVO was renamed CO3 Chief Officers 3rd Sector.

Download our 'About us' brochure here to find out more!

CO3 is a company limited by guarantee, company number NI 037439.
We are also a registered charity: Number XR24273.