Understanding the challenges of community groups

By Matt Shaw, Media & External Affairs Manager

Last month Localgiving published its annual Local Charity and Community Group Sustainability Report, which provides a snapshot of the local voluntary sector, highlighting both the unique value of local groups and the key challenges they face.


The report surveyed 686 local charities and community groups. The findings of which will no doubt resonate strongly with the challenges and issues faced by Sported’s own membership, so what did the report find?


Unsurprisingly with austerity and public spending cuts to youth provision, the demand for the services of local charities and community groups has continued to increase. Some 78% of respondents reported an increase in demand for their services over the past 12 months, with just 3% seeing a decrease. Worryingly, 85% of groups predicted a further increase in demand over the coming year, with just 14% of those groups feeling sufficiently resourced to meet this demand.


Whilst most groups are confident that they will stay afloat in the short term, only 47% of respondents were confident that could sustain themselves financially over the next five years.


The importance of sound finance is mirrored in the operational needs and challenges of Sported’s members. The graph below is an analysis of 181 Sported Game Plan capacity assessments surveys*, which were completed by our members before long-term Sported mentor support or projects to help identify key areas for support. (For more information about how we measure our impact, please click here).

Sported Game Plan results



The analysis shows that our members’ strengths lie in serving the needs of their local communities, which is founded upon being embedded in the locality and having the people with the right blend of skills and knowledge (i.e. the dark blue and orange bars primarily positioned on the left-hand side of the graph). Whilst the areas where they typically need greater support are with their sound finances and  mission and structure (i.e. the light blue and dark purple bars primarily positioned on the right-hand side of the graph).





Interestingly, the five lowest scoring areas in our capacity model – namely reserves, impact practice, strategic plans, diverse sources of income and funding supports core mission – correspond directly with some of the key concerns identified in the report. For example:


42% said they were concerned by a lack of sufficient reserves – up from 36%.

73% see competition for limited grants as their primary income generation issue

29% of groups are concerned that they are over reliant on a single funding stream

49% had concerns about accessing unrestricted funding, hindering their ability to cover core costs such as salaries, training and rent.


Finally, the report highlights the value volunteers bring to the community and voluntary sector, with an estimated financial value of between £7.5 and £10.5 billion per year! Sported’s own volunteers obviously play a vital role in supporting our members. If their importance was ever in doubt, the report highlights how local community groups struggle to help staff and volunteers develop the skills required for a sustainable future – a key benefit and outcome from our own volunteer mentoring service, in terms of helping our members develop their skills and knowledge in key operational areas such as business planning, marketing, governance or financial management.


Localgiving’s Local Charity and Community Group Sustainability Report is packed full of useful insight and stats, so do give it a read! You can download a free copy of the full report by clicking here.





*Results aggregated from member groups who have done Sported’s capacity assessment survey (181 groups from August 2016 – April 2018.)