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Charities and the impact of Covid-19: Some take-aways from 2020 and moving forwards into 2021

2020 was such a tough year for us all, and charities were hit extremely hard with fundraising events and activities cancelled despite an ongoing need for services. In fact, there has been a huge demand for services due to the pandemic but because of a decrease in income nearly half of charities have actually been forced to reduce the services they provide. The charity sector is facing an estimated £10bn loss for the year from the start of the pandemic, due to the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 and lockdown restrictions.

In December I was one of the presenters at the Shropshire Charity Networking Group’s first virtual meeting (I am co-founder and an organiser of the groups), and the focus was on Fundraising during Covid-19 and Beyond. At that time, we were not in a lockdown (although things were by no means back to normal!) but we were looking forward and thinking about how we might start to able to dip our toes back into the world of more traditional public fundraising and challenge events. However, it now seems very reasonable to think that it could be some time before we are able to plan such activities, with many events being put back already from the spring to the autumn.

There were some positives in 2020 for the sector and I touched on these in my presentation, so I want to highlight them here. I will be writing about fundraising throughout the year and reflecting but also looking forward to how we can best weather this storm.

At the start of the pandemic the real focus was on how charities adapt and respond to the pandemic. At this stage only 8% of charities had found new ways of fundraising – the key focus was on remote working, setting up systems to adapt services and finding new ways to support beneficiaries and a lot of the available grants were focused on this too! (These figs come from a report by CAF, which came out in June). I am working with so many charities who adapted so well, with remote working and services being moved virtually, it was incredible to see the sector respond so well to such incredible challenges.

After this the focus was on fundraising and I found it useful to take onboard information gathered as part of the Enthuse Donor Pulse Autumn Report (relating to statistics gathered in April – June). It highlighted that there was a rapid shift in donor and supporter behaviour. The report showed that the likelihood to give has increased by 12% across all age groups in the three months. The likelihood to give in the following three months also provided a positive outlook for charities with 64% of the public stating they are either somewhat or very likely to donate. Another take-away is the rise of 18–24-year-olds as charity supporters (a growth of more than 700% in new donors), this can have a long-term impact and charities can start to think about engaging new donors and through a robust supporter journey, keeping them on board in the longer term.

One of the reasons behind this increase is likely to be the positive change in the perception of charities, which is something that will hopefully continue. The report also demonstrated that the public are fully aware there is more suffering and need at present. And that despite the sector support being provided by the government, two fifths of the public want to donate to support charities that they think are not getting enough government help. These are messages we need to continue to share, especially as there are calls for more support for the sector, with the #Nevermoreneeded campaign.

The report also covered virtual fundraising activities and events and peoples’ motivation for taking part e.g. to make them feel connected with others and to give them an activity to do. It is worth reading this section of the and thinking about it when planning your own events, although, like so many things we need to be aware that the novelty of such events wearing off might another challenge!

So, my key take-aways are that it is so important to be mindful of the current environment; read reports, network virtually, attend seminars, plan (even if these plans must be put on hold) - we all need to be proactive as well as reactive. We need to build our digital brands and communicate with our supporters. We need to share our challenges, with the public and with each other. We need to pull together. And, as best we can, we still need to think long term, as we want to do our upmost to ensure that we can continue to provide vital services long into the future because charities will be needed, now more than ever.

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