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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

The Scottish Third Sector Tracker – latest updates

This opinion piece is about 1 year old

The Scottish Third Sector Tracker (Tracker) gives a voice to third sector organisations working in Scotland.

It provides them with an opportunity, each quarter, to tell their stories. Stories that are heard by SCVO, the Scottish Government and other key stakeholders in Scotland and beyond. Initially devised to understand the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on the sector, it now functions as barometer for the health of the sector. It looks at the challenges that organisations are facing and the support that they need. It also covers pertinent topics such as service and programme delivery, staffing and volunteers, organisational finances and more. SCVO work with this information to amplify the voice of the sector and advocate for the support it needs.  

The penultimate wave* of the Tracker can make for difficult reading. Wave 5 (Winter 2022) sees a mark deterioration across almost every metric we use to evaluate the health of the sector – most notably a decline in organisations’ financial health. Rising running costs are making it near impossible for organisations to operate in a sustainable fashion – with increasing numbers having to apply for additional funding or forced to dip into their reserves to continue to provide their invaluable services. Now, more than ever, new models for funding the sector are needed.

It is not just financial pressures that are having a detrimental impact on organisations and their ability to operate. Around two thirds of organisations are having difficulties recruiting and retaining paid staff and volunteers. Organisations are losing paid staff to more secure employment in the public sector, and some are not in a financial position to backfill all posts. This loss of experienced staff is making it difficult for organisations to meet the increased demand for their services, particularly those working directly with communities.   

Those organisations that are working on the frontline report worrying stories of deprivation, thrown into sharp relief by the cost-of-living crisis. As costs continue to rise and organisations struggle to hold on to staff, more and more organisations are finding it difficult to support the people and communities that so desperately need them.

Perhaps most tellingly, organisations’ confidence in their own survival is at the lowest point in the 18-month history of the Tracker. One in ten organisations are not sure they’ll be around in a years’ time. If that were to come to pass, it would be a huge loss to the sector and the people and communities that it supports.   

Our #EssentialSector is under pressure and needs the appropriate funding and support to thrive and grow.

*of phase one.