As we draw closer to the end of 2020 Brevio is reflecting on a year that was immensely challenging for the charitable sector.

When the UK went into lockdown in March, charities were forced to reassess how they work, how they raise funds and how they deliver their services. Many are still figuring it out.

Over the next few months we all adapted to new ways of operating. There’s been an incredible resilience shown across the sector at a time when charities have never been more vital. 

The good news…

Since covid there has been more than 21,000 new grants made available, totalling more than £360m, some of which has been made available as unrestricted funding for charities to spend where most useful. This is an important step to ensure that charities can keep essential services running and direct funds to where they are most needed. 

And the bad news…

With all the new grants available comes hundreds of new, complex application forms that charities must research and fill in. This is estimated to have cost the sector £442m and on average is taking charities 21 hours (three working days) a week.  

In April the government announced a £750m package of funding for charities. Although a welcome injection of support, at the time many said it was simply not enough. In August it was revealed that only a quarter of this funding had been allocated

By June reports were suggesting that one in ten UK charities would soon go bankrupt, and be forced to stop operating entirely due to collapsing funds. The report revealed that UK charities were facing a £10bn funding shortfall. Many had relied on social interactions to raise funds—the familiar fun runs, bake sales, and charity shops—but these were no longer an option. 

A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee enquiry revealed that a fifth of charity sector staff had been furloughed, equating to around 164,000 jobs. Another study by Pro Bono Economics suggested that the sector could face as many as 60,000 redundancies, while NPC’s redundancy tracker shows more than 6500 have already been made. 

Only now, as we reach mid-November, has the government confirmed that all £200m of the emergency coronavirus fund (part of the bigger package) has been allocated, with 8,000 small charities receiving a share. While this money will help keep many charities afloat, the fact that it took seven months to distribute during an emergency shows how deep the systemic problems lie. 

Lack of digital skills holding the sector back

Many charities were not prepared for the impact of lockdown restrictions and had to adapt rapidly when it came to using digital. The sector already lags behind when it comes to digital and with charities stretched to their limit, many don’t have the time, funding or resources to transition to a digital approach. 

The 2020 Charity Digital Skills report found that  as a result of covid-19, 27% of charities were forced to cancel services because they did not have the necessary tech or skills. The report also revealed that 51% of charities don’t have a digital strategy and 45% of charities consider themselves ‘poor’ at digital fundraising.

There have been countless discussions and reports about where the sector is headed. In September MP Danny Kruger published his report on how civil society can work together to recover from the pandemic. The report had many recommendations, including embracing digital solutions and better sharing of data. 

We now need to move from talk into action

There are a number of great initiatives already underway in the sector.

NPC has built an interactive dashboard to help identify the places most affected by covid-19.

The Association of Charitable Foundations recently launched the Funders Collaborative Hub – a space for foundations big and small to share ideas, strategies and best practice. 

360 Giving have published an extensive collection of data, including their covid grants tracker which shows how many grants have been made and in what focus areas or geographic locations. And GrantNav to search, filter and download data about where funding goes in the UK. Both are great tools for funders and charities to get a clear picture of the sector.

Philanthropy Impact and Beacon Collaborative are working together to map data across the board to help drive funding decisions. 

Brevio is another way the sector can embrace digital and use data effectively to drive their funding for better impact. It’s a live and ready to use solution, with many successful matches and funding applications already made within the platform. We are actively looking for innovators in the sector to signal new ways of working that save time and money. 

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