All posts by Tony Chapman

Third Sector Trends 2022

What is the study about?

Third Sector Trends began in 2008 and is the longest running study of the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector in the UK. The study, which takes place every three years, covers England and Wales – receiving over 4,000 responses in 2019.

We received 6,070 responses in 2022, 1,263 of which arrived with the help of many local CVSs and charitable trusts and foundations across England and Wales.  The national survey closed on Saturday 1st October 2022 but we’ll be back in 2025 to repeat the study for the seventh time.

We’ll produce some ‘headline’ findings in the second week of October to accompany the launch of the latest report from our qualitative study of 50 organisations in North East and Cumbria which has been running for nearly fifteen years. And then there will be a series of in-depth reports over the next six months on a wide range of topics.

The findings from the study will complement Charity Commission, NCVO Civil Society Almanac and 360Giving data to produce robust estimates on employment, volunteering, sector finance and assets. The study then looks at how the ‘energy’ the sector has at its disposal is applied to local causes.

Even though this is a large-scale study, its purpose is to study the structure, dynamics and impact of the ‘local’ VCSE sector. Only by looking at several areas, is it possible to understand individual localities properly.

How did we do in Wales and English regions?

The graph below shows response levels by region. As the dotted lines show, we hoped to get over 500 responses in most regions of England and at least 400 in all areas – that ambition has been achieved.

The response rates when compared with sample frame distribution (n=110,000) show a different story with much stronger responses in North East England where we have been working the longest (since 2010) and in Yorkshire & Humber (since 2013) and North West England (since 2016, but Cumbria since 2010). Elsewhere the responses against the sample frame matched quite well. The exceptions are South East England and especially London which produced fewer responses proportionally to the population of charities in those areas – which is puzzling.

We got responses by sending direct invitations using all the available email addresses from the Charity Commission Register and by working with local VCSE sector infrastructure bodies in Wales and selected English regions (North East, North West, Yorkshire & Humber, South West and West Midlands). This is how it has worked. As you can see, they’ve done a great job in the regions we work closely with.

Who funds the study?

Over the years, the study has been supported by a range of funders including Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, Power to Change, Barrow Cadbury Trust, Millfield House Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Charity Bank, Cumbria Community Foundation, Northern Rock Foundation, Economic and Social Research Council, Sport England together with several local authorities, combined authorities and NHSEngland .

Third Sector Trends is independent and impartial. As such it aims to provide objective interpretation of rigorously collected data to serve the interests of the voluntary sector, local public and health sector, the Lottery, charitable trusts and foundations and businesses.

What evidence does the study collect?

The survey has a core set of questions which never change to ensure comparability. But in each round of the research, there is space to explore contemporary issues. The 2022 survey has, for example, specific focus on the following issues:

  • The extent to which the Covid pandemic has reshaped and refocused VCSE sector activity.
  • The positive role the VCSE sector can play in ‘levelling up’, ‘localism’ and ‘community wealth building’ agendas.
  • The contribution the VCSE sector can make to public health and, specifically, healthy life expectancy.
  • How the VCSE helps to secure economic and social wellbeing in localities.

How are the findings used?

The study is widely used by local authorities, combined authorities, NHS partnerships and VCSE infrastructure organisations in their strategic work and policy formulation. For an example of the full set of findings from the 2019 study at a regional level, see this report:

Third Sector Trends in North West England 2020 – St Chad’s College Durham (

Data are also used for more in-depth work, for example, recent work in Yorkshire & Humber to show how much energy the sector has, where it focuses its activities and how much impact it achieved.

The difference the third sector makes – St Chad’s College Durham ( and The contribution of the VCSE sector to health and wellbeing in Humber, Coast and Vale – St Chad’s College Durham (,  

Data have also been used in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly to assess the strengths of the VCSE sector to support the development of strategies to align sector activity with NHS England priorities for Integrated Care Systems. The first of a series of reports can be found here:

Voluntary sector dynamics in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly – St Chad’s College Durham ( 

It has also been possible to do in-depth work on aspects of sector structure and activity  which  has previously been neglected. Including, for example, issues associated with diversity in sector leadership:

Diversity and inclusion in Third Sector leadership: why is it not happening? – St Chad’s College Durham (

and how the VCSE sector works with the private sector:

Going the extra mile, how business supports charities – St Chad’s College Durham (

The analytical approaches underpinning the study have recently been revised in preparation for the exploration of 2022 survey data. The latest version of the report can be located here:

To get access to all the study’s reports, visit this website: Third sector trends research | Community Foundation

For further information, please contact Professor Tony Chapman, Director of Policy&Practice, St Chad’s College, Durham University, Email:

The contribution of the VCSE sector to health and wellbeing in Humber, Coast and Vale

The VCSE Sector across Humber, Coast and Vale is diverse, made up of many organisations and people that deliver their services supporting a wide range of causes. The sector is a crucial element to support people with their Health and Wellbeing.

This report has been commissioned by the Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership and the VCSE Leadership Group to understand more about the sector and how our geography and the places that make up Humber, Coast and Vale are served.

Professor Tony Chapman, from St Chad’s College at Durham University has worked with the VCSE Leadership Group over the last year, completing an initial look at the size and scale of the VCSE sector, which showcased the value of the sector and contribution it can make to health and wellbeing of our people.

Following this report the group asked Tony to go further and look at how the sector is split across our unique geography that has a mix of urban and rural areas and a large section of coastal communities.

The findings within this report begin to plot the VCSE sector alongside the differences we see across Humber, Coast and Vale in terms of deprivation, health inequalities and our geography. The report provides a tool for strategists to think about the approaches to take ensure the VCSE sector can play its role in supporting the health and wellbeing of Humber, Coast and Vale residents.

The full report and a shorter summary report can be downloaded here:

Voluntary sector dynamics in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly

Policy&Practice has published a new report on the structure and dynamics of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly. The research builds on work from the Third Sector Trends study and draws on data from a wide range of sources including the Charity Commission Register and the Office for National Statistics. The study was commissioned by Voluntary Sector Forum Cornwall and NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group.

This report shows that Cornwall and Isles of Scilly has a large and productive VCSE sector. The sector is comprised of around 2,500 registered organisations and there may be as many as 3,250 additional small, local informal unregistered groups working under the radar of official statistics.

The VCSE sector in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly has an income of about £219 million. This is drawn from a wide range of sources such as contracts to deliver public services, grants, self-generated earned income, gifts and donations, investments and subscriptions.

Organisations within the VCSE sector employ large numbers of staff. There are estimated to be over 4,500 full-time and 5,000 part-time employees – this amounts to 6,000 full-time equivalent staff. The VCSE sector comprises about 4 per cent of all employment in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly

Volunteers play a vital role in sustaining the activities of the VCSE sector – and especially so in smaller VCSE organisations. Over 70 per cent of volunteer time is delivered in small VCSE organisations (with income below £50,000). The biggest organisations (with income between £1m – £25m) only account for about 4 per cent of volunteer time.

VCSE sector activity is estimated to produce a multiplier effect of £387 million of tangible economic, fiscal and use value and £250 million of additional intangible value. It is estimated that the VCSE sector produces a ratio of 3.6 to 1 added social and economic value relative to the energy injected.

The full report is available to download here

There is also a shorter report which can be downloaded here

Telephone befriending during and beyond the coronavirus pandemic

The Bridge Project in Bradford appointed Dr Tanya Gray, Senior Research Associate in Policy&Practice to undertake a review of the pilot Together Talks programme. Together Talks uses volunteers as telephone befrienders to support people misuse to step away from intensive professional support and move towards independent lives.

This new approach to service delivery was forged to some extent from necessity. Recurrent government-imposed lockdowns made it impossible to deliver services in other ways. But the pilot programme was not devised simply as a stop-gap until things ‘got back to normal’. Instead, it was anticipated that elements of the delivery approach would outlive the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. The evaluation of the programme provides clear justification for continuing with the approach post-pandemic.

Together Talks was devised to tackle aspects of loneliness and social isolation which can often accompany the recovery process once intensive support comes to an end. But the pilot’s distinctiveness derives from the presence of a shared outcome – agreed with input from three specialist strands. This makes Together Talks a highly tailored scheme, focusing in on the need of an individual, whilst at the same time actively committing to collective need.

This review confirms that the project has remained personal and proximate to the needs of individuals, perhaps best illustrated by one of the volunteer befriender interviewed: ‘The best thing is how human it has all felt, very down to earth, very real and honest and direct.’

The full report is available here:

The contribution of the voluntary sector to health and wellbeing in Humber, Coast and Vale

Policy&Practice has been commissioned by the Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership to provide robust intelligence on the work of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (VCSE).

Its aim is to inform debate on how to enhance understanding of the impact the VCSE makes through formal partnership working arrangements, by delivering services under contract, and by undertaking activities of a complementary nature that sustain or strengthen the health and wellbeing of the local population.

The area studies includes the following unitary local authorities and county council districts: East Riding of Yorkshire, City of Kingston upon Hull, North Lincolnshire, North East Lincolnshire and the unitary authority City of York, together with six of seven North Yorkshire County Council Districts: Hambleton, Harrogate, Richmondshire, Ryedale, Scarborough and Selby.

The analysis builds on work published in 2021 for West Yorkshire Combined Authority, together with the Health and Care Partnerships for West Yorkshire and Harrogate, and Humber, Coast and Vale, Yorkshire Sport Foundation, Community First Yorkshire, and Two Ridings Community Foundation.

This research aims to dig deeper into the available data on VCSE sector activity in Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership area in order to explore the purpose and extent of support provided and to find out where such support is distributed. It is hoped that the report will help inform debate about the role the VCSE can or should play in supporting health and wellbeing in communities.

In area context, the final report will explore the extent to which VCSE organisations engage directly with local authorities and health organisations by delivering public services under contract and engaging in formal partnership working arrangements.

Early analysis indicates that formal contracts to deliver public services only represents the tip of the iceberg of the overall contribution of the VCSE sector. Consequently, the research will  also looks at less direct contributions that VCSE organisations make to public health and wellbeing by working on issues such as building people’s confidence to manage their lives, tackling social isolation and improving access to services.

The final report will be published in February 2022.

The Structure, dynamics and potential of the voluntary sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

Policy&Practice has been commissioned to undertake a statistical analysis of the structure, dynamics and impact of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly by Voluntary Sector Forum Cornwall and the Cornwall Clinical Commissioning Group. The work is taking forward analytical approaches recently developed in a study in Yorkshire and Humber


The research. which is being undertaken by Professor Tony Chapman, provides an opportunity for comparative analysis with Cornwall’s proximate neighbours and also statistical neighbours in the North of England. This helps to show how the area is different or similar from other areas which share a range of characteristics.

The purpose of the work, from a commissioners point of view, is to examine the current capacity of the local VCSE, but also to look at its potential to engage further with the strategic ambitions of Cornwall Council and local NHS health and social care organisations.

The research will be published in February 2022 and will be followed up with an online event to debate the findings and their relevance to current and future policy initiatives with VCSE and public sector stakeholders.

Evaluating the Auckland Project

The Auckland Project is a remarkable culture-led regeneration project in Bishop Auckland, County Durham. It is undoubtedly an ambitious initiative, combining culture, tourism, economic development and, above all, community regeneration.  

The overarching aim is to revive the community by developing visitor attractions based on the town’s history and heritage – notably Auckland Castle, historic home of the Prince Bishops of Durham.  And it is a very unusual initiative, since it is largely funded by a philanthropist, Jonathan Ruffer who set up and financed a charitable organization to buy the Castle and its collection of Zurbaran paintings.

The whole scheme has expanded to include a heritage show (‘Kynren’), a Mining Art Gallery, a Spanish art gallery, the remains of Vinovium Roman fort and the Weardale Railway – all funded by Jonathan Ruffer.

Professor Fred Robinson and Ian Zass-Ogilvie from St Chad’s College have been commissioned by The Auckland Project and the National Lottery Heritage Fund to undertake an evaluation of the restoration and development of Auckland Castle. Work on the Castle, the associated Faith Museum and linked community outreach activities was supported by a grant of £12.4m from the NLHF.

The Final Report of the evaluation has now been submitted to The Auckland Project and NLHF. It tells the story of the challenges faced in delivering the project, and provides a detailed and informed account of what has been achieved so far. It is the only commissioned evaluation of the work of The Auckland Project.

Fred Robinson said:

“It’s been fascinating working alongside The Auckland Project and seeing this take shape. There have been lots of challenges and frustrations – as well as the problems and delays brought about by the pandemic. We’ve identified lessons from experience, while focusing on the substantial achievements of The Auckland Project. One thing that everyone has learnt is that it’s going to take a long time to revive Bishop Auckland – and it’s a complex process”.

The Report can be downloaded here

The difference the third sector makes

Research shows big difference charities, social enterprises and community organisations make across the Yorkshire and Humber region

West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership and Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Yorkshire Sport Foundation, and Community First Yorkshire have published a joint report today (Thursday 2 September) to celebrate the work of charities, social enterprises, and community organisations ahead of International Charity Day on Sunday 5 September.

The research led by Professor Tony Chapman of Policy&Practice, St Chad’s College, Durham University on the structure, dynamics, and impact of the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector across the area, highlights the big contribution made to the economy and the health and well-being of people who live here.

The VCSE sector in West Yorkshire and Harrogate includes around 14,900 registered and unregistered groups supporting local people in many areas of their lives from youth groups, ageing well support, sports, and wellbeing clubs to name a few. The sector employs around 43,100 full time equivalent posts, which makes up 3.7% of employment across the area.

On top of this there are an estimated 147,000 regular volunteers giving their time and energy to good causes helping young and old people to live their best life possible, around the clock, 365 days per year.

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire said: ‘The voluntary, community and social enterprise sector does amazing work across the region. I’m extremely thankful for all the support they offer to people living across West Yorkshire, especially those local unsung heroes who often give up their free time to volunteer in their communities whether it’s coaching a community sports team, teaching at a young people’s theatre group, or helping at a local foodbank. The sector gives invaluable support to those who wouldn’t otherwise receive it and it is right the report sets out the hard work and commitment of individuals working in the sector who regularly share their life experience to help others – it’s commendable and each organisations and every person has my heartfelt thanks and support’.   

Jo-Anne Baker, WY&H HCP Harnessing the Power of Communities Lead said: ‘The sector is larger than the finance and insurance industries, and larger than the arts, entertainment and recreation sector. The significant contribution made by the VCSE sector to people’s health and community wellbeing is evidenced throughout the research. This not only contributes to financial savings for the NHS and other public services but produces immediate benefits for thousands and thousands of people accessing their help and support’.

The report acknowledges it is hard to measure the total added value the sector produces.  Based on available data, this equates to approximately £1.6 billion per year. If taken alongside the economic value of the sector, this means the total added value of the sector is between £5.2 billion and £6.2 billion per year in West Yorkshire and Harrogate alone.

The use of conventional metrics on productivity only partially captures the value of the sector because the benefit to communities and difference made to people’s lives is unmeasurable.  The report presents new ways of making effective and shared judgements on sector value which draws heavily upon findings from the Third Sector Trends study which has been running since 2008.

The full report is available here: The structure, dynamics and impact of the VCSE (Final Report)

A blog on how to make judgements on the added value produced by the third sector can be found here:


Going the extra mile, how business supports charities

Research conducted for the Law Family Commission on Civil Society by Policy&Practice shows that businesses donated services and funds worth an estimated £2.4billion in 2019 to small charities and community groups – equating to around 0.06% of private sector turnover.

This includes £1.9bn in financial donations and around £474million worth of pro bono support such as legal services, in-kind donations such as the use of office space and employee-supported volunteering.

The study found that on average businesses across England donated £456 each year to charities and community groups with annual income below £25m. While there are many examples of businesses and civil society working closely together, this latest research suggests there are significant gaps in the relationship and that the partnership is not operating at its full potential.

The detailed study of 4,000 organisations by University of Durham’s Professor Tony Chapman for the Commissio

n also found that:

  • Businesses give most support to charities for children and young people and focus attention mainly on poorer urban areas. Those charities that serve the interests of carers and people with learning difficulties are most likely to say that business supports them well, while those which serve BAME and rural communities are the least likely to be well supported.
  • Charities and community groups which received support from business are generally positive about their experiences, with 84% saying businesses trusted them to be well organised and professional.
  • Three quarters (73%) of charities and community groups say they struggle with opportunities to meet businesses.

James Timpson, CEO of Timpson and Commissioner of the Law Family Commission on Civil Society, said: “We have seen the great strides made by business in pursuit of other vital causes, such as sustainability and equal pay. The next great stride that business can take is to commit to a partnership with civil society. Investors may have a key role to play in this, as might transparency measures – as they have on other social issues. No matter how it is achieved, a strong partnership between business and civil society can only help to improve both communities and companies.”

Mitch Oliver, Global VP Brand & Purpose at Mars and Commissioner of the Law Family Commission on Civil Society, said: “It has never been more important for business and civil society to pull together. By working together, we can be stronger and accelerate the recovery from a pandemic that has sadly slowed progress in many of the areas that we all care about. The mission to secure a healthy planet, an inclusive society and a world where everyone is thriving is strengthened when business and civil society collaborate.

Nicole Sykes, Director of External Affairs at Pro Bono Economics, said: “Purpose has become a watchword in every business boardroom in recent years. Customers, investors, shareholders and employees all expect a commitment to social good. But business’ efforts will fall short if they fail to work with civil society. This new research shows that the average annual contribution to small charities from businesses in England amounts to little more than a rounding error. The average business in England donates the same amount of cash to small charities each year as they misplace from their petty cash. It’s no wonder high proportions of the public are sceptical of business’ efforts to paint themselves as about more than just profit.

Professor Tony Chapman, Director of Policy and Practice at St Chad’s College, Durham University, said: “While the financial and in-kind support business currently gives to charities is barely a fraction of business turnover, their contribution is highly valued by the organisations and groups who work well with businesses. However, relationships that are formed seem to happen mainly by accident, rather than design, so there is room for improvement on both sides of the fence to build connections between sectors at the local level.”

Chaired by former Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell, the Law Family Commission on Civil Society is created by Pro Bono Economics with the generous support of Andrew Law and the Law Family Charitable Foundation.

The report can be found here: Going the extra mile – how businesses work with the social sector (July 2021)