Commission on the Voluntary Sector & Ageing publishes report

The final paper of the Commission on the Voluntary Sector & Ageing sets out the choices facing the voluntary sector and identifies opportunities to do things differently.  The ageing society of the future (23% aged over 65 by 2033) and the various changes ahead will disrupt society and also the way that charities work—"business as usual” is not an option.  If the sector fails to prepare for our changing society it will miss the chance to shape how this develops, and lose out on the dividends of our ageing population—worth at least £6.5bn in additional funding and volunteer effort alone by 2033.

 Their recommendations include:                    

  • Charities must adapt how they work with older volunteers and donors. Future retirees could be more discerning and discriminating than ever before about giving time and money, and charities should maintain more interactive, reciprocal relationship with the people who support them.
  • The voluntary sector should market itself as the ‘sector of choice’ for people shifting jobs in the last year before they retire. Charities could lead retraining for teachers, care-workers and other under-staffed professions.
  • Government can support the efforts of charities by considering incentives to volunteer. This may include piloting tax breaks for volunteers or carer credits.

They hope their work stimulates shifts in thinking and in working—the report outlines how you can challenge your current thinking, take action now and test out new ideas for the future.

The Commission was set up to put ageing on the agenda for the voluntary sector. Focused on England, the Commission has been providing strategic and long-term thinking about how best the sector can harness the potential of an ageing society and tackle the challenges in the coming decades. The private sector and even the public sector are ahead in their efforts to engage with and adapt to future demographic changes—it’s time for the voluntary sector to step up. The Commission has been funded by the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund and by Prudential.

Over the last 18 months, the Commission has been stimulating debate within the voluntary sector on the implications of our ageing society. They’ve conducted research into trends, developed discussion papers with future scenarios to provoke new thinking, held ten events and spoke at more than 15 more, published a further five publications, 27 blogs and secured coverage in publications ranging from The Guardian and The Times, to the NHS’ Scalpel magazine and Mature Times.

They outline a number of recommendations for charity leaders and trustees, voluntary sector bodies, trusts, foundations and philanthropists, researchers and media organisations in our final report: Decision time: Will the voluntary sector embrace the age of opportunity? These are informed by research and by 18 months of consultation with the voluntary sector.

• Charities should lead the charge to combat ageism—starting with their own practices. Fundraising material showing old people as lonely or needy may alienate potential supporters; limiting highly-skilled older volunteers to unskilled tasks may push them away altogether.
• Charities should not ignore the ‘forgotten middle’—middle-aged people confronting the stresses of the ‘rush hour of life’. These are the supporters of the future, but who feel charities offer little support to them
• Charities should plan and prepare for the changes in policy towards annuities, many of which come in on 1 April 2015. It is estimated that £5bn may be drawn down in the first three months alone, and the report argues both that charities have a role in giving advice to stop mis-selling but also to ensure that some of this money reaches the good causes that retirees care about most.