Unique Property Survey for the Voluntary Sector

Antonia Swinson, CEO of Ethical Property Foundation, explains the background to the Charity Property Matters survey and why taking part is important to the charity sector.

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The Ethical Property Foundation was set up in 2004 to serve the UK voluntary sector with expert, independent property advice and education. Since 2015 we have been sole referral partner to the Charity Commission for land and property advice and each year, we deliver tailored property advice and education to around 300 organisations with thousands more supported online. Most of the people who phone us are finance directors and many are CFG members: we are delighted to offer support through the CFG Helplines.

We began the Charity Property Matters Survey in 2012 and it has since developed into a unique research project. It is the only countrywide property research undertaken by a charity for charities. Usually, it is the property industry or academia which would survey a small slice of our diverse sector. We, on the other hand, cover all causes, sizes, models and regions and now, thanks to all the kind people who filled it in, have now collected valuable data on the key property trends and challenges our sector faces.

As we know, ours is an easily overlooked sector which contributes £17.1bn contribution* annually to the UK economy, more than the agriculture and fishing sectors combined. We also employ over 865,000 staff and work with 20 million volunteers. This, therefore, means that the properties we work in really matter, because unless our charities are operating out of a field or a circus tent, our premises, whether rented or owned, play a vital role in how successfully we deliver for our causes and communities.

This is important and timely research, because the more we know about charity property needs and trends, the more organisations like CFG can engage effectively with funders, policymakers, local authorities and landlords. Our sector has now reached a crossroads: soaring demand for our services is occurring just as local authorities are ceasing to be our sector’s default landlords. Never has core funding been so difficult to find and yet demand for our services is soaring. Findings in our 2018 Survey found 30% of charities said property was a barrier to delivering their charitable objectives, almost double the proportion in 2016 (17%), while more than one-third of charities (36%) believed that property poses a high or very high risk to their organisation. For the first time, more organisations rent from commercial landlords than local authorities.

So, what do your premises mean that mean for your organisation? Please spend just 6 minutes filling in our survey today and help us all understand how property is serving our sector. We look forward to working with CFG to upfront policymakers so that they can understand and appreciate just why our sector needs properly funded, decent accommodation to help us thrive.

This month property advice charity the Ethical Property Foundation launches its fifth survey on voluntary organisations’ property issues. Please spend just six minutes filling it in today and help us all understand how our property is serving our sector. Charity property matters survey 2020


Antonia Swinson is CEO of the Ethical Property Foundation. For more info about our work visit * 2019 NCVO Civil Society Almanac

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