Voluntary organisations - including charities, self-help groups and other community organisations - make significant contributions to social, economic and political life. Their impact can be local, national and international. Recent years have seen increasing recognition of these contributions from all tiers of government, the media and the community at large. Over the same period there has been parallel growth in the availability of information on the financial position of voluntary organisations, and the scope and scale of paid and unpaid workers' efforts. Yet there is relatively little data on the voluntary sector's actual performance. Does the sector use its resources effectively and efficiently? Does it address the needs and promote the welfare of vunerable individuals and disadvantaged communities? How successfully does it pursue other aims and causes
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