Policy, campaigns & research, Armed Forces charities research

#CharityFact 6: Armed forces charities are diverse

The final weekly instalment of evidence on the armed forces charity sector, this week’s #CharityFact looks at diversity.

There are many myths and misconceptions about charities. Unfortunately, armed forces charities are no exception. At the Directory of Social Change (DSC), we believe you need two things to combat this: the facts and the evidence to back them up.

That’s why we’re bringing together the facts in short, weekly instalments. These facts are based on our new research, funded by Forces in Mind Trust.

This week, we’re looking at the final #CharityFact in our series: Armed forces charities are diverse.

Do all armed forces charities ‘do the same thing’?

You might have heard people say that there are too many armed forces charities. Often, this is because people believe they all ‘do the same thing’.

In fact, armed forces charities do not all do the same thing. To demonstrate this, in this week’s blog we take a look at just two dimensions – out of many possible others – along which armed forces charities differ. These are how a charity supports its beneficiaries and who their beneficiaries are.

How do armed forces charities support their beneficiaries?

At DSC, we classify armed forces charities into different ‘types’. These provide a birds-eye view of how a charity supports its beneficiaries.

The largest group of armed forces charities is association branches. Association branches are local organisations that organise social gatherings and membership activities. Their goal is, primarily, to maintain and foster comradeship. The umbrella organisations which oversee these branches are called associations.

Another prominent group of armed forces charities deliver welfare support. Welfare covers a broad range of areas, including housing, health, education, and employment – topics covered in DSC’s Focus On series of research reports. These charities support their beneficiaries by providing services or grants.

Meanwhile, with a focus on Serving personnel and their families, Service funds are charities that provide facilities, services, and grants to improve morale and wellbeing.

Finally, heritage charities have a distinct focus. They concentrate on preserving armed forces history and carrying out remembrance activities.

Who are the different beneficiary groups?

There are many ways that different beneficiary groups could be defined. We could look at, for example, the geographical area of support, or whether beneficiaries include armed forces families, too.

Here, we focus on charities’ Service affiliation. This refers to a charity’s focus on beneficiaries from one (or more) of the armed forces Service branches. Charities may support beneficiaries from the British Army, the Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy, or, in the case of tri-Service charities, all Service branches.

Where do charities fit along these two dimensions?

We can now bring together how a charity supports its beneficiaries and who their beneficiary group is. This can help us understand diversity in the sector.

The interactive data below draws on our Armed Forces Charities Interactive Database. Using this, you can see the composition of the sector in terms of charity type on the left-hand chart, and service affiliation on the right-hand chart.

Clicking a charity type, you’ll see the breakdown of Service affiliation change on the right. This shows that, for example, almost half of association branches are Air Force charities. Meanwhile, the majority of welfare charities are tri-Service charities.

Alternatively, by choosing a Service affiliation, on the left you can then see the ways in which these charities support their beneficiaries.

What to make of this?

Exploring the data above, there is typically a spread of Service affiliations within each charity type, and vice versa. This tells us that, within each ‘type’ of charity, there are different beneficiary groups. From the other perspective, within each beneficiary group, charities support beneficiaries in several different ways.

This short article provides a snapshot view of diversity in the armed forces charity sector. But it’s important to keep in mind that are many other dimensions to consider.

Yet, even with this broad approach, there was evidence of diversity. Rather than duplicating each other’s work, the evidence suggests armed forces charities occupy various positions with respect to how and to whom they provide support.

Find out more

Don’t forget to download the full report for free. You can also share our accessible infographic with those in need of the facts.