New report reveals vital role of Greater Manchester’s VCFSE sector during COVID-19 pandemic but warns of challenges ahead as demand for support increases

There are 17,494 voluntary organisations, community groups and social enterprises making a difference in Greater Manchester
Published date: 
Thursday, 29th July 2021

A report by the Centre for Social and Health Research at the University of Salford has revealed new insights into the role of Greater Manchester’s voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The State of the Sector research has been commissioned through a collaboration led by Salford CVS. This collaboration has included: Action Together in Oldham, Rochdale and Tameside, Bolton CVS, Macc in Manchester and Salford CVS (as the 10GM partnership); other local infrastructure partners (Sector3 in Stockport and Bury VCFA); GMCVO; and Trafford and Wigan local authorities.  The research was undertaken by the Centre for Social and Health Research at the University of Salford. 

The reports analyse the significant social and economic contribution the VCFSE sector makes in each of the city-region’s 10 local authority areas and across the whole of Greater Manchester and follows on from previous research conducted in 2010 in Salford and in 2013 and 2017 across Greater Manchester.

The data and evidence in this report are clear: the VCFSE sector makes a significant contribution to our city-region – preventing need, reducing hardship, supporting those in crisis and driving social value. A particular focus on the sector’s response to COVID-19 highlighted the VCFSE sector as a key player in revitalising and rekindling social and economic activity following the pandemic. Many organisations have adapted to new forms of work, mobilised increasing numbers of volunteers and developed creative solutions to the challenges of the pandemic.

However, the report warns that despite increased entrepreneurialism, VCFSE sector income is in decline and many organisations have needed to use their reserves in order to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, many are weathering uncertainty about the long-term future of their contracts and grants, which enable them to do their vital work and support their local communities.

The report launched at a virtual event on Thursday 29 July that was attended by a host of key figures from across the public, private and VCSE sectors including Andy Burnham Mayor of Greater Manchester and Cllr Arooj Shah, Leader of Oldham Council and GMCA Political Lead for the VCFSE sector.

The report illustrates the amazing size, reach, spread, scale and diversity of the VCFSE sector, with key findings including:

  • There are 17,494 voluntary organisations, community groups and social enterprises making a difference in Greater Manchester
  •  71% are micro organisations, with an annual income under £10,000
  •  19% of the sector identify as being a social enterprise 
  • £1.2 billion is the total income of the sector (2019/2020)
  •  75% of organisations have at least one source of non-public sector funds, bringing significant value to the city-region’s economy
  • 32% of organisations have used their reserves in the past 12 months 
  • 496,609 volunteers (including committee/board members), giving 1.4 million hours each, a 7% increase from 2017. This bounce is largely due to COVID-19 and we would expect this to slowly drop away in the future
  • Volunteer time in Greater Manchester is conservatively valued at £692 million per annum (based on the real Living Wage £9.50 per hour) but in reality is likely to be much higher.
  • 74% of organisations who employ staff indicated that they paid the real Living Wage to their employees
  •  85% of VCSE organisations have had some direct dealings with other VCFSE organisations across Greater Manchester. This includes 70% with local VCFSE organisations, 51% with local Councils, and 63% with private businesses

Read the full report at

Cllr Arooj Shah, Leader of Oldham Council and GMCA Political Lead for the VCFSE sector said:

“This report illustrates the critical role that the VCFSE sector played during the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to take this learning and ensure VCFSE organisations are in the room from the outset when we are trying to solve problems that our communities face. As organisations with deep roots into their communities, VCFSE organisations know more than anyone what people are facing. We need to work in partnership to find solutions, reduce inequalities and improve outcomes for people in Greater Manchester.”

Alison Page, Chief Executive of Salford Community and Voluntary Services (Salford CVS), who acted as the project lead for the research, said:

“The VCFSE sector is increasingly being recognised as a key strategic partner and a vital delivery partner within the Greater Manchester landscape. During the COVID-19 pandemic voluntary organisations, community groups, charities and social enterprises did what they do best - supported their communities (of place and identity), were a vital partner for the public sector’s emergency response, and practically turned their hand to whatever needed doing. What this report demonstrates is that the VCFSE sector is doing more work than ever before, but for less income! We therefore encourage our partners and funders to read the report and respond to the recommendations we have made”

John Hannen, Incoming Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation (GMCVO), said:

"This report evidences that we have an enterprising, adaptable and responsive VCFSE sector in Greater Manchester. However, we must not assume that it is indestructible. Before and during the pandemic communities expended a vast amount of energy, resources and love in order to support those of us who have needed help. We will need to rebuild and strengthen in order to face the challenges we will inevitably face in the future and to be there when the next crisis hits."

When we refer to the VCSE or voluntary sector we mean voluntary organisations, community groups, the community work of faith groups and those social enterprises and community interest companies where there is a wider accountability to the public via a board of trustees or a membership and profits are reinvested in their social purpose.

Greater Manchester State of the VCSE Sector 2021 - Briefing.pdf (click to download)

Greater Manchester State of the VCSE Sector 2021 - Full Report.pdf (click to download)