THIS week I had the honour of being a judge on a business quiz run by local charity Diverse Ability Plus.

Diverse Abilities Plus is an amazing organisation providing invaluable care and support for children and adults with (often profound) physical and learning disabilities.

Diverse Abilities Plus provides life-changing support to both the children and adults they care for as well as their families and carers.

I was able to meet many of the team and was struck by their passion, belief and clear love for the work they do. I was delighted to have been involved and be able to contribute in a very small way to such a fantastic organisation doing incredible work.

This made me think about the challenges charities and the third sector in general faces around fund-raising.

The impact of the recession on charities and the voluntary sector has been well documented. Reduced spending power of businesses and individuals has led to a major reduction in charitable donations.

Combine this with the additional strains placed on charities due to cut backs in public sector spending and services and it’s been a very difficult few years for the third sector.

In 2013 the Institute of Fundraising reported that year on year increases in demand for services have continued with 67 per cent of respondents to a major survey reporting an increase in demand for services in 2012 and 72 per cent expecting this to continue.

Ninety-three per cent of respondents reported that fundraising has got much tougher.

As individuals and businesses we have a collective responsibility to support the charitable sector where we can – the services they provide in our community are vital.

But it’s not just about money; volunteering provides essential support for charities and is extremely rewarding. Volunteering opportunities exist across all areas and can be found on the national volunteering website There is advice for charities on areas such as fundraising but in the business community I believe we have numerous opportunities to support local charities – and we can do much more.

This is extremely rewarding work and has benefits such as really motivating your team and as well the wider business benefits including PR opportunities.

We have a number of charities as members of DCCI and I would urge you to make the most of the services we offer, particularly our marketing and PR services to raise your profile.

It’s my intention to ensure we continue to have a clear and specific focus on the third sector in the chamber and we look forward to working with our partners such as the Councils for the Voluntary Sector and Dorset Community Foundation.

If you are a business that would like to support and get involved with local charities please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.