All posts by Tony Chapman

Launch of the findings from Third Sector Trends in North West England 2020

A Tale of Three Sectors

The world was a very different place when the latest Third Sector Trends survey for the North West closed in December 2019. The relative stability of the sector highlighted in previous reports is reflected in the latest report but will that still be the case in a post-coronavirus world in 2020 and beyond?

At this launch Professor Tony Chapman will present the latest findings from Third Sector Trends but will look at the situation of the sector through a contemporary lens. He will argue that it is better to look at the probable social and economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic in a more focused way than is currently being featured in the media.

A Tale of Three Sectors will look at the situation of small, medium sized and larger charities and social enterprises – to make an assessment of their future prospects.

This ground-breaking longitudinal study explores the scale, dynamics and needs of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector in the North West and looks at what the sector can promise to achieve for its beneficiaries.

The report, based on a representative sample of over 3,000 organisations in the North, is the latest of a series of reports that began in 2008. This gives the study a long-term view not available from other research on charities and community organisations regionally or nationally.

The event will be hosted on Zoom and a link will be sent out the day before. To sign up for the event, click this Eventbrite link A tale of three sectors

This event will feature presentations from:

Professor Tony Chapman (St Chad’s College, Durham University) on the findings of the survey.

Jack Hunter (Institute for Public Policy Research) on the consequences of these findings for the North.

Warren Escadale (Voluntary Sector North West) on how these findings could feed into conversations we’re having around recovery for the region.

This event will also include an opportunity to ask questions directly by participants.

The full report will be available on the Community Foundation serving Tyne & Wear and Northumberland Website on 18th June. If you would like to download the report, please click here: Third Sector Trends in North West England.











Are one in ten charities facing immanent collapse? I don’t think so.

In an article in The Guardian yesterday it was claimed that 10% of charities could collapse. Yes, times are going to be tough for a lot of charities in the social and economic aftermath of Covid-19. The sector is not collapsing now and will not do so in the future. There will be casualties and that is sad. But we need to get things into proportion argues Tony Chapman in a blog today.

Are one in ten charities facing immanent collapse? I don’t think so.

How will charities respond to the aftermath of Covid-19? A tale of three sectors

The fifth iteration of the Third Sector Trends study in North East England is published today and will be launched in a Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland webinar. The report, based on a representative sample of over 1,000 organisations, takes a long-term view not available from other research on charities and community organisations regionally or nationally.

The recent findings paint a picture of a sector that, having stayed fairly resilient during and after the financial crisis had, by December 2019, started to see small increases in the number of organisations, employees and volunteers. Comprising 7,200 organisations, 38,250 employees and 154,000 volunteers, the sector is a significant part of the North East ecology.

Already playing an important role in supporting many vulnerable people during the Covid-19 crisis, the latest findings give an insight into how the sector in the region may fare after Covid-19.

Many charities, community groups and social enterprises will suffer financial hardship as the economy reels from the Covid-19 pandemic. But this report shows that organisations with different characteristics will respond to the challenges ahead in a variety of ways. Drawing these distinctions will be useful, it is hoped, to grant making foundations and public sector bodies which support the Third Sector.

Rob Williamson CEO of the Community Foundation said:

“When we commissioned this latest edition of the Community Foundation’s Third Sector Trends Study, we could never have envisaged the extraordinary circumstance we’d be in when it came to sharing the results. Over twelve years, Third Sector Trends has reported on the financial crisis and impact of austerity. The pre-Covid-19 data reveals a sector finally coming out the other side. This raises critical questions about how charities and community organisations will come through the current crisis. But, as Prof Chapman says, the findings give funders, policy-makers and sector organisations an opportunity to pause, reflect and look at the big picture rather than becoming overwhelmed by the here and now.”

The author of Third Sector Trends, Professor Tony Chapman, said:

“Previous Third Sector Trends reports have drawn some criticism for being ‘too optimistic’. Our results often run contrary to assumptions, and don’t mirror the findings of small scale, one-off surveys. But, as a long-term study, now running for 12 years, our data will provide vital comparative evidence to inform thinking in these enormously difficult times. The money side of things is extremely worrying now, but the sector does not run just on financial resource – it is fuelled by the ideas, values and work of the people who work in it. Few of them will be ready to throw in the towel. Many will be more determined than ever. whatever comes next, we know civil society is here to stay.”

The full report, a shorter summary report and an infographic which captures key findings  will be available on the Community Foundation website on May 27th, 2020 at this web address:

Or you can download the full report here: THIRD SECTOR TRENDS IN NORTH EAST ENGLAND 2020

And a summary report here: SUMMARY REPORT Third Sector Trends 2020 in North East England

The launch presentation slides, from 27th May, are available here: NORTH EAST TST LAUNCH PRESENTATION 27th May





After Covid-19, what will the ‘new normal’ look like?

Professor Fred Robinson, of Policy&Practice, shared his views on what the ‘new normal’ might be in a leader article for the Northern Echo,  published on 29th April.

One day, this awful pandemic will be over. Or at least the crisis will have passed. It is possible to imagine a time when the situation will be under control. There will be far fewer new cases and widespread testing and contact tracing will be used to control infection. Better treatments will have been developed and – we hope – there’ll be a safe and effective vaccine to support an exit strategy.

We certainly aren’t there yet. But now, as we see at least a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, thoughts can turn to what the future holds, after Covid-19. Will we be returning to normal, to “business as usual”? Or will things be very different? A sign on the A67 at Barnard Castle The next few months will be difficult. Recovery will be slow. Restrictions will be eased, but then may need to be imposed again if there’s an increase in infections and hospitals are under renewed pressure. Social distancing is going to have to continue for a long time. People will be fearful. Of course, much depends on when (and if) a vaccine becomes widely available. And in all this there’s the international dimension – gradual recovery in the UK will be overshadowed by desperate suffering in the world’s poor countries.

One thing we do know. The economy will be in deep recession. UK government spending has had to increase substantially to support businesses and households hit by the lockdown. Government borrowing is rising fast as tax revenues plummet. The backdrop is a global slump, at least as bad as the Great Depression of the 1920s, and a lot more sudden. Unemployment will rise and household incomes drop. Some economists think the UK economy could bounce back quite quickly, but that feels like wishful thinking. Many businesses will have gone bust. UK companies exporting products and services will be affected by weak demand and global oversupply, their difficulties quite possibly compounded by post-Brexit problems.

Worried domestic consumers are going to be reluctant to spend, adding to recessionary pressures. But this has to be a time for hope, not despair. This trauma has certainly made us all think and it could prove to be a pivotal moment when we choose a different path. We could learn some important lessons from this. Crises focus the mind on what really matters. Everyone is well aware of the vital importance of key workers who are keeping things going during the lockdown. There’s a renewed appreciation of the NHS and of people working in care homes. There’s recognition of the immense contribution of staff from BAME communities and from overseas. Shop-workers, delivery drivers, and those working for the utilities are seen to be essential.

There is also a new awareness of the role and responsibilities of the state. We look to the government to act – and we see how important it is that the state is competent and ready to intervene to support the society and economy. The importance of international co-operation is also clearly revealed – a virus doesn’t recognise borders. And of course we really are all in this together. Within local communities there has been an upsurge of mutual aid, volunteering and neighbourliness. There’s a palpable intergenerational solidarity. Every day The Northern Echo has uplifting stories of people helping each other. The selfishness that’s been a strong element in our culture since the 1980s is unacceptable in such a crisis.

I hope that we will learn lessons from this experience and not just try to put it behind us and get back to “normal”. This pandemic has shown how fragile our lives are. It could be taken as a wake-up call, reminding us of all the issues we’d prefer not to think about. We were dimly aware that a virus like this could threaten us, but did nothing about it. Our government, like others, was unprepared and has struggled to catch up. There are other major threats on the horizon. Climate change is an emergency, but the response to it is clearly inadequate. There are serious problems with global food production, especially livestock production – which could generate viruses far more lethal than Covid -19 as well as promoting antibiotic resistance.

Our way of life, based on endless economic growth, is environmentally unsustainable. The hope, then, is that we do everything we can to address these issues and avoid another terrible and destructive crisis like this one. We can draw on a renewed understanding of what matters, how problems need to be tackled and how we can all work together to build sustainability and resilience. Here in the North-East we can draw on traditions of solidarity and community. But it’s a big challenge. After this crisis, things will be different – and maybe they need to be.

The article can be downloaded from the Northern Echo Website, at this address:

How do charitable trusts and foundations strengthen North East England

Civil society in North East England is in good shape. Around 7,000 voluntary and community organisation and social enterprises serve the interests of their beneficiaries. Much of their energy comes from people who give their time and expertise as trustees and volunteers. More than 150,000 people deliver more than 10m hours of work at no financial cost to the region.

Charities need money too for wages, rent and kit to get things done. Some of these costs can be met from fundraising, endowments, investments, subscriptions, charging for services or delivering contracts. Only rarely can charities earn enough on their own to keep going. Grants provide a bedrock of additional funding for civil society.

More than 50 charitable trusts and foundations inject financial resources into civil society in North East England. Each year, well over 4,000 grants are awarded with a combined value of at least £50m.

Charities tend to be ambitious and competitive and demand for grants outstrips supply. They must make ‘claims’ on what they regard as important priorities and ‘promises’ on what they can do to tackle these issues. And because so many voluntary and community organisations work in the same areas, on similar or inter-related issues, clear sector-wide priorities are hard to discern. Foundations face a difficult task. In the face of high demand they must make choices. So, they do not merely ‘serve’ civil society – they ‘shape’ it too.

Community Foundation serving Tyne & Wear and Northumberland commissioned this research in 2019. It involved in-depth work on 25 national and regional charitable trusts and foundations. Its purpose was to ask this question: ‘Should foundations work together much more closely, with shared strategic objectives in mind, to maximise the benefit to North East England from their collective effort?’

This report argues against too much formal and shared strategies because trusts and foundations achieve more by retaining their autonomy but working together in complementary ways or as good neighbours to one another.

The strength of weak ties: how charitable trusts and foundations collectively contribute to civil society in North East England, by Tony Chapman was published on 5th February 2020

All Third Sector Trends reports are available on the Community Foundation website which can be reached here

Here is a link to the full report: CFTWN Strength of Weak Ties (Full Report) February 2020

And you can read the summary report CFTWN Strength of Weak Ties (Summary Report) February 2020

A blog on the key findings can be found here

Over 4,000 organisations and groups take part in Third Sector Trends 2019

The Third Sector Trends study has been running in the North of England since 2010.  In 2016 over 3,000 responses were received. In 2019 we’ve achieved that again. North East England has been very supportive this time with over 1,100 returns. In Yorkshire, we have over 850 and in North West England, well over 1,000.

This time we have also collected a sample from the rest of England and Wales. Over 900 charities responded. That brought the survey total to 4,010 when it closed on 10th December.  We’ve never tried to assess what’s going on at a national level before – and to see how the North compares – but this time we can.

We will show what organisations and groups aim to do, who they help, what impact they have and how they get hold of their people and finance resources to get things done.

The triennial study was funded this year by Community Foundation serving Tyne and Wear & Northumberland, Power to Change and Garfield Weston Foundation. Results will be published from February 2020.

Sport for Development: making sense of inter-organisational relationships

Following their recent Commonwealth Books publication on how sport can contribute to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, Iain Lindsey, Oliver Dudfield and Tony Chapman have published a conceptual article on how to understand the way relationships are configured between state and non-state actors.

The article considers new ways of looking at inter-organisational relationships through the lens of public policy and politics.  In so doing, it explains how power relationships frame the way organisations can work together or limit the options for formal or complementary working relationships.

The article focuses on sport, but it has wider relevance to those who study interactions between the state, business and non-profit organisations in a local, national or global context.

Lindsey, I., Chapman, T. and Dudfield, O. (2019)  ‘Configuring relationships between state and non-state actors: a new conceptual approach for sport and development’, International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics:



Why do community businesses choose to take on below-cost contracts?

A new study for Power to Change, published this week, reveals that community businesses often sign up to deliver public service contracts in the knowledge that they will make a financial loss. The authors of the study, Professor Tony Chapman and Dr Tanya Gray of Policy&Practice at St Chad’s College, Durham University, said the trend was driven by the community business sector’s commitment to social and financial success when judging contract values. One CEO said:

‘We’ve gone for certain contracts that we feel are crucial to our community. We provide services to people who have quite complex needs. We might not be making any money on it, the reality is that we’re contributing about 12 per cent. But we think it is so important, that we’re prepared to do it because nobody else could do it properly at this price.

’Professor Tony Chapman, who co-authored the report, said:

“The trend is not down to acts of financial desperation, nor that community businesses are complicit in a ‘race to the bottom’ in contract pricing. But community business leaders knew that if profits on contracts were out of the question, then they’d have to make up the difference from other aspects of their trading to sustain vital services.”

Resolving these pressures is virtually impossible for community businesses. So the onus is on local public sector organisations to be more realistic about contract values. But that is easily said in the current fiscal climate. And even though Chancellor, Sajid Javid, announced in this September’s Spending Review that ‘austerity is over’, what this really means is that, at best, things will get no worse.

Suzanne Perry, Research Officer at Power to Change, said: “This research gives us excellent insight into the extent to which community businesses are sacrificing in order to keep local services open in their neighbourhoods. Additionally, the report reveals what adept business people they are – utilising their income to make the place they live better.”

There’s little to be gained by pointing at Public Services (Social Value) Act of 2012. The reality is that public sector bodies need an enormous boost in funding to bring them anywhere near back to where they were in 2010. In the meantime, local public bodies should be applauding community businesses which keep services going in their communities – rather than to assume that they’ll continually be willing and able to do ‘more for less’.

Striking a balance: How community businesses build effective working relationships with public, private and third sector organisations, by Professor Tony Chapman and Dr Tanya Gray. Published 18th September 2019.

Click here for Tony Chapman’s Blog on the report

Click here to download the report


Valuing small charities for what they are, not what they should be

Small charities make a big contribution to personal, social and community wellbeing. So it’s not surprising that governments and big charitable foundations have been attracted to the idea of helping build their capability to do things better and their capacity to do more of it.

Over the years there have been plenty of initiatives of this kind. Evaluations tend to produce pretty positive findings – suggesting high percentage satisfaction amongst small charities with the support they’ve been given. But the extent to which they made a deep or lasting impression is open to question.

After all, small charities tend to remain small, independent minded and focused on issues that they feel that bigger organisations have ignored, neglected or even caused. So they’re often not minded to listen to the good advice of outsiders – however generously it may be dispensed.

Just because most charities are small, does not mean that they lack complexity. They may not have specialised divisions of labour, hierarchical command chains or bureaucratic procedures. But that does not mean that their internal dynamics are simple. In fact, small charities – especially when they are collectively governed and run – are complicated entities.

A blog for Small Charities Week.


Valuing small charities for what they are, not what they should be