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Ulster Bank & CO3 3rd Sector Index Launched

Ulster Bank & CO3 3rd Sector Index Launched

NI third sector confident despite decreases in government funding.

Third sector organisations are confident about their prospects despite a challenging environment and significant decreases in government funding, according to the Ulster Bank & CO3 3rd Sector Index.

Launched today, the new survey of chief executives of bodies such as social enterprises, charities, and community organisations shows that over 30 percent saw government funding received by their organisation fall in the last quarter, with a further 54 percent experiencing no change (i.e. a real-terms decline).

78 percent of respondents categorised the environment in which their organisation is operating as very or quite challenging. And 50 percent expect the Northern Ireland economy to worsen during 2016.

Despite this, almost half of those surveyed expect their organisation’s turnover to increase in the next 12 months, with less than one in five expecting turnover to fall.

Almost three-quarters say that their organisation saw the number of employees (full time equivalents) increase (26 percent) or stay the same (54 percent) in the last quarter. And over 80 percent regard their organisation’s strategic ability to operate in the current environment as very good or quite good.

Amongst the biggest concerns for the sector is the forthcoming EU Referendum, with more than 40 percent of Northern Ireland’s third sector leaders identifying this as something that they are very concerned about, and a further 36 percent expressing moderate concern.

On the other hand, only 13 percent see the planned introduction of the UK national living wage as something that will have a large negative impact on their organisation. Over half expect the new policy to have no impact, and 14 percent expect the impact to be positive.

Ulster Bank Chief Economist, NI, Richard Ramsey says: “As with all sectors, the performance of Northern Ireland’s third sector is something of a mixed bag, with a cohort increasing their staff numbers and expecting to grow turnover, whilst others appear to be more acutely feeling the impact of government spending cuts. However, overall, the survey presents a picture of resilience in the face of considerable challenges. It suggests that the sector is dealing relatively well with the changes and necessary restructuring that it is experiencing.”

Nora Smith, Chief Executive of CO3 commented: “Although a high percentage of members have stated that they are working in a challenging environment, with the economic forecast  set to worsen, they are confident about their ability to strategically lead their organisation during this time of uncertainty.  Many have managed to increase their staff numbers and turnover.  This is testament of the leadership and professionalism of third sector CEOs”.

Mark Crimmins, Regional Director, Business Banking, Ulster Bank, says: “The importance of the third sector to Northern Ireland’s economy and society is perhaps not always fully appreciated. It employs tens of thousands of people – as many as Northern Ireland’s construction sector by some estimates – and contributes significantly to service delivery in areas including health & social care and economic development. Partnering with CO3 for this project will help us to connect with even more third sector organisations and produce information and data on a quarterly basis that will help bring about a better understanding of the sector.”


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About the survey

The Ulster Bank & CO3 3rd Sector Index is a new barometer of Northern Ireland’s third sector, involving a quarterly survey of CO3 members who include the chief executives of some of Northern Ireland’s largest charities and social enterprises through to small community groups. The survey is sponsored by Ulster Bank and carried out by Perceptive Insight, based on an online survey of 125 Chief Executives of third sector organisations.


About CO3

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. It has a growing membership base of over 500 Third Sector leaders, who range from leaders of some of the largest charities and social enterprises through to small community and faith-based groups.


About the third sector

Existing research into the Third Sector in Northern Ireland reveals that the value of the work and services from the sector, and even the size of the sector, is difficult to estimate. Research by PwC in 2013 estimated that the Northern Ireland Third Sector comprised of 3,821 organisations, employed 29,784 people and was supported by approximately 46,000 volunteers (based on a survey with 511 respondents). In comparison, research conducted by NICVA in 2014 estimated that the sector is made up of 4,836 community and voluntary organisations, 27,773 employees and 45,106 volunteers (based on a sample of 1,191) while the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland estimate that between 7,000 and 9,000 charities are operational in the province.