Forces in Mind Trust and Directory of Social Change publish new insights for Armed Forces charities.

Armed Forces charities show resilience despite increased challenges for the charity sector

New independent research by the Directory of Social Change provides the latest analysis of the Armed Forces charity sector, with evidence, trends and insightful case studies from both small and large charities. Funded by Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), this latest report is an important tool for charities to better understand the sector in which they operate, and to use this evidence to best support their beneficiaries.

The report explores the challenges and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Armed Forces charities, and provides analysis of how the sector continues to provide support to its many beneficiaries.

Nature of the Armed Forces charities sector

The report found that there are currently around 1,700 Armed Forces charities, representing 1% of the whole charity sector, and with an overall income and expenditure of around £1 billion.

There is diversity across the sector, both geographically with around 1 in 10 charities operating across the whole UK and over half being locally focused; and also in terms of beneficiary cohorts with two thirds of charities offering support to a single Service of the Armed Forces with one third operating on a tri-Service basis.

Armed Forces charities show resilience despite increased challenges for the charity sector

Since the pandemic, charities across the third sector have faced a reduction in income, and Armed Forces charities were not immune to this trend with income falling from 2019 to 2020. Whilst income grew again in 2022, the report shows that recent income still remains below pre-pandemic levels. The research charts how charities continued to spend in support of their beneficiaries throughout the pandemic, seeing expenditure exceed income.

This latest research shows that despite these challenges, the sector seems to have remained resilient to charity closures with no ‘cliff-edge’ in closures occurring during the pandemic. Whilst there are 10% fewer charities than in 2017, a significant portion of this trend is due to association branches merging with their overarching associations.

The report also highlights a number of distinct challenges and opportunities

Charities interviewed across the sector identified future challenges that could impact effective service delivery. Challenges included: recruiting and retaining staff and volunteers, the evolving and increasing needs of beneficiaries, and continuation of existing financial pressures.

Opportunities for the sector were grounded in collaboration, which was identified by charities as a key driver of improved service delivery, and greater resilience to future challenges.

Rhiannon Doherty, Research Coordinator from Directory of Social Change said:

“This new independent research explores the changing landscape of the Armed Forces charity sector over the past decade and highlights the incredible resilience of Armed Forces charities, that have continued to serve their beneficiaries with dedication, while facing unprecedented external challenges. This report provides the most up-to-date comprehensive evidence base about the sector, which practitioners and policymakers can use to underpin their decision-making and inform their actions, for the continued benefit of the Armed Forces community.”

Michelle Alston, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust said:

“This research shows that, despite ongoing challenges for the charity sector, Armed Forces charities have continued to deliver for Service personnel, ex-Service personnel and families. However, Armed Forces charities are also impacted by the long-term trends that shape the charity sector; and adapting to the evolving needs of beneficiaries, retaining staff, and sustainable finances will require action from the sector.   By looking to the future and considering greater collaboration, we can enhance the invaluable support that charities offer the Armed Forces community.”

Download the report here.

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