The Guide to Grants for Individuals in Need 24/25 - hold an umbrella over someone's head

Positive role for charities to play pre-election but NCVO also warns of culture wars

Melanie May | 22 February 2024 | News


This year will be one of challenge and change for charities in the UK, as the impact of a struggling economy continues to pile on the pressure, and the upcoming election leads to increased scrutiny and a greater appetite for culture wars, NCVO has warned.

NCVO’s annual Road Ahead report for 2024, published today (22 February) looks at the forces, issues and trends likely to shape the sector this year, and how this might impact the work of voluntary organisations. Its analysis focuses on six areas: political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal.

The three key themes for voluntary sector leaders to consider this year, as set out in the report, are: the uncertainty and opportunity presented by this being an election year; the continuing difficulties brought by the economic climate; and the need to adapt to big social, environmental and technology changes, like AI.


Why your supporters are wealthier than you think... Course by Catherine Miles. Background photo of two sides of a terraced street of houses.

As such, NCVO is predicting a need for a renewed partnership with national and local government to tackle the issues facing society; greater collaboration between organisations in the voluntary sector to help navigate the challenges; and agility and adaptability to meet technological and environmental shifts.

Impact of upcoming election

With a general election set to take place later in the year, as well as local elections, NCVO says there is a positive role for charities to play in raising the voices and experiences of the people and communities they support, including through campaigning and advocacy work. However, it also warns of the potential risks of doing so, particularly around issues considered ‘contentious’ with this period likely to see increased scrutiny and a greater appetite for ‘culture wars’.

The report also highlights the uncertainty the election may cause, such as delays in public sector funding and decision-making processes.

Economic challenges

NCVO expects continuing high inflation and interest rates to present additional challenges for charities, while increased pressure on household budgets will impact giving, and the state of local government finances will impact charity contracts and public sector funding.

These challenges mean greater collaboration between funders and voluntary organisations, and between voluntary organisations themselves will be vital in 2024.

Responding to social, environmental and technology shifts

The report predicts too that charities will be at the heart of renewed efforts to shift power to communities, and that voluntary organisations will also look to support greater civic participation by increasing the flexibility and accessibility of volunteering.

The once-in-a-generation shifts being created by AI and the climate crisis will also need adapting to, the report says. It encourages organisations to develop plans and strategies to get the maximum positive potential from AI and other technologies. Similarly, it anticipates the climate crisis will see organisations continue adapt their operations, monitor its impact on communities and services, and consider how they can ensure diverse views and voices are part of the climate debate.

Sarah Vibert, CEO of NCVO, said:

“It will come as no surprise that we’re expecting another year of considerable change and challenge for both our sector and our society. NCVO stands ready to support our sector and this report will help guide our offer.


“We believe charities will have a big role to play in this year of choices, challenges and opportunities, and we expect the resilience and innovation of the voluntary sector to once again shine through in 2024.


“We all want to make the best possible choices based on the information we have, which is what The Road Ahead is all about. Our hope is that this year’s report will help charities to feel empowered to make decisions that enable them to make 2024 the best year possible.”