BVSC is asking for your input into an important piece of work for Birmingham's Voluntary, Community, Faith, and Social Enterprise sectors: the 2021 State of the Sector Survey. We are currently in the planning stages, developing the content of our next survey and are hoping to get some input from you about what needs to go into the 2021 survey.

A year ago, as the coronavirus pandemic was fully underway, we asked you to provide information for Birmingham’s 2020 State of the Sector Report - and in doing so, you supported us in advocating for you as powerfully as we possibly could. We are now asking you to tell us what your priorities are – what do you want the 2021 State of the Sector Report to tell us? What do you as a VCFSE organisation need to know? And what does BVSC need to find out in order to support the sector in the best way possible, building upon the work undertaken since the 2020 State of the Sector Survey.

When you spoke to us last year, the crisis was far from over. Even at that point, 56% of VCOs said that they had lost income due to the pandemic. And 25% of VCOs said that they considered their very survival as being at risk. You wanted then, and still want now, a community recovery approach that is built on and acknowledges the full range of supportive activity the VCFSE sector can deliver for the citizens of Birmingham, as well as the needs of the VCFSE sector itself. There is much to build upon:

27% of organisations said they wanted support with building partnerships and strategic relationships In order to support their recovery.

  • We continue to support the pandemic response and recovery effort through the C19 Support Brum Partnership and its associated thematic and geographical networks (children, young people and families; and the over 50s). This partnership – which remains in place - has given us all greater reach across the sector, and enabled exceptionally effective new partnerships and activities to develop.

Nearly 90% of organisations interviewed said that they had been forced to make fundamental changes to how or what they delivered due to the pandemic.

  • We have kept you updated with critical information, by providing you with a clear set of Covid guidance every time the regulations have changed.
  • We have supported voluntary sector engagement with the vaccination programme. This has been done by providing information and access for your workforce - but also by working with the NHS to engage you wherever possible to reach into communities.

In 2020’s State of the Sector Report, you asked us to concentrate on supporting your ongoing funding challenges.

35% of organisations interviewed said that the sector needed support with fundraising, making it the second most popular area of concern

We have picked this up in several ways:

  • We have negotiated, on your behalf, significant investment from funders around the city which has meant people have been fed as well as being supported physically, medically, and emotionally.
  • We have directly secured investment into the sector through the Early Help Partnership, Holiday Activity Fund and Micro Grants programme for smaller community groups.
    Following your input, we have supported strategic conversations around the pandemic; investment, engagement with the health service, VCSE pathways, safeguarding and multiple disadvantage.

Over a third of VCOs interviewed said that they had increased their activity during the pandemic and nearly a quarter said they were already operating at 100% of their capacity

  • We have supported capacity building programmes to help organisations across the city with their business development, bid writing and ultimately to successfully secure funding.

When asked what their communities needed in order to recover:

VCOs mentioned a number of areas of concern, such as mental health support and social isolation, food and PPE, as well as uncertainty about reopening in a way that it is covid safe.

  • We have successfully advocated for resource going into many key parts of the sector around food distribution, PPE and mental health support.
  • We have secured guidance and specialist support to enable you to do open up your premises again in ways that are as safe and secure as possible.

A majority of VCOs (56%) said that they had lost volunteers as a result of the pandemic, and nearly a quarter (23%) said that volunteering was an area in which they needed support as an organisation in order to recover.

  • We have advocated for the channelling of volunteer effort directly into your organisations (and have argued against the creation of centralised lists of volunteers disconnected from needs on the ground.)

In total 33% of VCOs said they wanted support either with assessing impact, reporting on social value, or conducting research or analysis

  • We have worked with you to articulate the value of current programmes to make sure critical activity receives ongoing resourcing. Much of this investment has gone to grassroots organisations at the heart of our communities.
  • As well as helping you get both investment and build capacity, we have been engaged in providing evidence that what you do really works. Working on impact assessments, social value reports, and data analysis, our newly-established BVSC Research function has been ‘beating the drum’ that what you do makes a huge difference.

Whether these initiatives have come directly through the work of BVSC and the C19 Support Brum Partnership, or as a result of our ongoing advocacy for the sector, the profile of VCSFE activity in Birmingham has never been so high. We intend to keep it that way. We want to ensure that the sector is ’hard-wired’ into the recovery. We are now engaged in supporting the city to develop its community recovery plan. Cllr John Cotton and I now chair a newly established Community Recovery Programme Board - which you will be hearing more about very soon. This is critical to not just building back ‘better’, but also ‘fairer’.

For us, as for you, it has been a busy year. None of what we’ve done would be possible without your input. It is only by understanding your priorities, and what is facing you in 2021-22, that we can understand where to put our efforts in the year ahead.

So please take the time to fill in the attached scoping survey by clicking the link below and let us continue to place voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise sector efforts at the heart of life in Birmingham – where it belongs.

Complete a short questionnaire

Photo by David Clarke on Unsplash