Photo of Beth BreezeBy Beth Breeze.

Charities in the UK are facing an existential crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Estimates suggest £4.3 billion (CAD$7.5 billion) in lost income and one in ten charities closing, as well as mass staff layoffs and assets being sold off. Therefore, the top policy issue is the need for a comprehensive emergency funding package, rapidly distributed, that reaches all parts of the sector.

Income from both fundraising and trading have been severely affected during lockdown conditions. The biggest fundraising events include marathons, bike rides, group coffee mornings and events held in schools and workplaces, none of which can happen when people aren’t allowed to gather in public. The cancellation of the London Marathon alone resulted in the loss of £50 million ($87 million) in fundraised income. There are many other important changes needed to create an enabling environment for charities and their donors, but ensuring the sector survives the current crisis must be the priority for now.

What does change look like?

The government provided extensive, uncapped support for the private sector and needs to take a similar approach to the charity sector, using existing knowledge and channels to get the money out swiftly and fairly. Larger sums have been distributed to the culture sector in a £1.6 billion ($2.8 billion) rescue package, but the entire charity sector, comprising over 100,000 fundraising charities and 500,000 small community organizations, received only £750 million ($1.3 billion) in April 2020. Not only was half that money essentially paying for new work, rather than a rescue to plug lockdown-induced gaps, the funding was slow to be distributed and included a £1.4 million ($2.4 million) contract to a private-sector accountancy firm to oversee the scheme.

A new package needs to be more generous, related to the scale of need in the sector, rather than a figure pulled out of the air by policymakers, and it must be distributed efficiently and effectively by collaborating with nonprofit grant-makers and infrastructure bodies who know and understand the sector. Charities are playing a key role in providing essential relief during lockdowns, and they need and deserve support to survive and rebuild.

Beth Breeze is a Reader in Social Policy and Director of both the Global Challenges Doctoral Centre and the Centre for Philanthropy, University of Kent, the UK. Breeze is on Twitter and LinkedIn. Photo of Bakewell, the UK, is courtesy of Tom Podmore & Unsplash.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2021 in ,
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