Attitudes to risk in the voluntary sector

  • Together with the Charity Times, we surveyed senior charity leaders to understand their perceptions of risk
  • Financial, technological and reputational risks are the biggest concerns for organisations
  • Many feel they lack the capability to deal with some of the more emerging risks, such as supply chain failure

We’ve teamed up with leading third sector journal, the Charity Times, to understand what risks concern senior leaders, and how their organisations are equipped to deal with them.

Earlier this year, 142 senior charity leaders completed the 2015 Charity Times and Zurich Municipal risk survey. Respondents represented mainly national charities, with 37% acting countrywide and 82% reporting an annual organisational income of more than £500,000.

Biggest concerns

The results revealed that senior leaders are much more concerned about financial risks than they are about extreme events, such as fire or severe weather.

Of those surveyed, 58% viewed income generation risks as having a high or very high significance, compared to only 29% for extreme events.

This is understandable, following recent reductions in government funding and increased scrutiny over charity fundraising practices. It is clear that these are some of the most pressing issues for charitable organisations, and ones that are likely to remain critical for the foreseeable future.

Please indicate how significant these risks are to your organisation

For expert guidance on how to manage financial risks and increase donor contributions, charities can read our 5 Steps for Funding Success and Simple Fundraising Ideas.

Technological risks also ranked highly, with data protection, system security, and online reputation having particular significance for senior charity leaders. Of those risks relating to fraud, it was cyber fraud, and its consequences for an organisation’s reputation, that was at the front of most respondents’ minds.

Please indicate hoe significant these technological risks are to your organisation

Following a number of high profile cyber attacks – such as the recent hacking of TalkTalkcyber security, and its impact on reputation, is increasingly important for businesses of all types and sizes.

Our previous article, Digital First Steps for Charities, offers top tips for those considering the use of the internet and social media to help achieve their charity’s objectives.

Managing risk

Encouragingly, charities seem confident in their ability to deal with the majority of risks, particularly those associated with regulatory compliance and governance.

Technological and supply chain issues, however, seem to present some issues, with a much smaller percentage of organisations considering themselves very well equipped to deal with such risks.

How would you rate your organisation's ability to deal with technological risk


This is understandable, as technology and supply chain issues remain somewhat emerging risks, meaning organisations may not be as familiar with the appropriate risk management approaches.

Read the full report

We encourage customers to read the full report and understand the diverse range of risks facing charitable organisations and strategies being used to manage them.

The report includes a number of enlightening case studies and practical examples that can help charity leaders manage risk more appropriately and cost effectively.

Caron Bradshaw, Chief Executive of Charity Finance Group, endorsed the report and said: “True risk management is the responsibility of all; it should be embedded throughout the organisation. Time spent understanding and responding to risk is time well spent.”