The Charity Sector has now been living with Covid-19 for the best part of 5 months, and after a confused start, the unique challenges posed by the pandemic on our industry can clearly be seen, and hopefully met!
It’s probably fair to say panic set in early on in some quarters as emergency funding only trickled through. There then followed a frantic period where funds opened and closed in record speed. Now, as the emergency funding flurry slows it may well be the time for charities to take a step back, breathe deeply and consider a more strategic approach on how best to prepare for the uncertain future ahead.
A Slow and Confusing Start
On April 8th 2020 Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak announced the Voluntary Sector would receive three-quarters of a billion pounds to help them through the Covid-19 crisis. With roughly half of the funds allocated via Government departments and the remainder (approx. £200m) to be channeled through the National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF). It was a sizeable figure and welcomed by most in the sector. The delay in the funding reaching its intended targets however caused much frustration throughout the sector, with the NCLF bearing the brunt of the criticism.
Turbulence brought about by Covid-19 also saw the sector experience a rollercoaster few months with several twists and turns which can be summarised as the good, the bad and the ugly.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
- The Good – The period saw UC deeply absorbed in supporting clients to bid for emergency funds, with several much needed grants received for clients. It also saw charities taking the plunge with innovations in digital fundraising, a welcomed relaxation of reporting requirements by Trusts across the board, and an increasing willingness from funders to support core costs. Therefore it’s fair to say Covid-19 has resulted in some clear fundraising positives, and it is hoped at least some of them are here to stay.
- The Bad – The quarter also saw funders being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of applications received from charities fighting for survival and several funders taking the unprecedented step of closing applications before the stated deadlines, with little or no notice. Hopefully a trend that is not here to stay.
- The Ugly – And perhaps even worse the same period also saw government contracts being awarded without adequate publication, as recently outlined by George Monbiot in the Guardian. Furthermore recent surveys suggest that charities are struggling to keep afloat, with no sign of a lifeline in the near future. Indeed this weeks’ host of job loss announcements across the sector only serves to reinforce this.
A Glimmer of Hope
The good news, however, is that we at Underwood Consulting are now seeing positive early signs of recovery. Commissioners have slowly begun to release tenders again and with contract deadlines looming and some contracts being out of extension options, it would be fair to predict a flurry of tenders being released in the next quarter.
In addition, whilst some emergency voluntary funds continue to be announced the surge appears to be slowing, and the road ahead for challenge events, community and corporate fundraising looks likely to be a long and difficult one. So perhaps now is a good time for charities to take a more strategic review of their fundraising activities, with support from Underwood Consulting.