Competition between charities can harm communities, says interim report

2 March, 2020


An interim report from NCVO, ACEVO and Lloyds Bank for England and Wales has revealed the negative impact of competitive behaviour between charities, which can harm the communities they serve, and can lead to trust issues between charities of different sizes.

Rebalancing the Relationship is the first report from a major project developed by NCVO, ACEVO and Lloyds Bank to better understand VCSE sector issues in the commissioning process, and to aid collaboration in the future.

The report introduction emphasises the importance of these initial findings:

‘Organisations have told us competitive behaviours between voluntary organisations are having a negative impact on the sector, people, and places. Good organisations are closing or shrinking. This is resulting in communities becoming disenfranchised and people losing the relationships, support and representation they need. If we do not act, the size and shape of the voluntary sector will change.’

Takeaways from the report include:

  • The ongoing issue of ‘bid candy’ – where a collaboration includes a smaller organisation to look good, but the smaller organisation isn’t given the same power or credit as larger organisations when working together.
  • Smaller organisations are merging to combine their resources. Locally, we’ve seen this in the new merger between Up Our Street, Easton Community Centre and Felix Road Adventure Playground.
  • Whatever your size, you may have problems when collaborating. The most reported issues were larger organisations struggling with the lack of procedures and processes in smaller organisations, whereas smaller organisations didn’t like the bureaucracy and lack of flexibility with their larger counterparts.
  • Subcontracted organisations felt frustrated at being left out of meetings with commissioners, not meeting partners face-to-face, and not being able to shape the bidding process.
  • Collaboration can take many different forms – not just funding bids or commissioned work, but also consortia, campaigning, and sharing resources, staff or training.

Draft recommendations from the report include:

  • Serve the community, not the commissioner. This means some organisations moving away from strictly meeting requirements to look at what communities actually need.
  • Learn from other leaders and be self-aware during the collaboration process. Consider feedback loops for all levels of staff.
  • Support your staff to work more collaboratively with like-minded local organisations; this is something Voscur is passionate about.
  • Keep communication going – it needs to be frequent. Communicate your intention and build a shared ethos.

NCVO, ACEVO and Lloyds Bank invite feedback on the recommendations section of the report – once you’ve read it, please answer the questions on the recommendations page and email by 12pm on Friday 27 March 2020.

To talk to Voscur about collaboration and/or commissioning support, please contact Mark Hubbard, Head of Partnerships and Commissioning: email or call 0117 909 9949.