What can your charity do to combat the impact of COVID-19?
18th August 2020
COVID-19 and, more specifically, the measures put in place to combat the pandemic have had a massive impact on charities.
The contribution their staff and volunteers can make has been restricted by social distancing, fundraising events have been suspended. Donations are dropping as household incomes become more stretched. Worse still the vital income charity shops once raised has been hit hard by closures and a general lack of shoppers.
As a result the majority of charities are finding it almost impossible to function let alone continue the good work they were set up to do. However, as giving in to the current pressures isn’t an option, trustees are doing everything they can to find new ways to operate and protect both the futures of their organisation and their beneficiaries.
While the numerous effects COVID-19 has had on charities are obvious to any trustees, we thought it may be useful to share some of the solutions we have seen being implemented by some of the charities we know.
Find new ways to fundraise
As fundraising events are being postponed or even cancelled, charities need to find new, more creative and – most probably – online fundraising options.
We’ve seen charities embracing all sorts of online activities including quizzes, auctions and even sponsored isolation sessions but if all this is a bit new, there is plenty of help at hand. The Fundraising Regulator has been quick to publish guidance and you can find out even more about possible digital fundraising solutions within the Coronavirus Tech Handbook
Obviously taking advantage of these sorts of options could well mean charities have to upgrade their IT skills. If you have corporate benefactors, this could provide a perfect excuse to get in touch with your donors as they might be able to lend you some of their expertise under the banner of Corporate Social Responsibility.
Find new ways to keep delivering for your beneficiaries
The potential benefits of going digital don’t end with fundraising. Many charities are also using technology to make sure they keep delivering for their beneficiaries while we’re unable to get out and about as freely as usual.
For example, NCT are now running their free antenatal groups online and art galleries are promoting paid for online-only viewings. Even the scouting movement has gone digital by launching #TheGreatIndoors, a series of videos demonstrating key survival skills distributed via Facebook Live.
This again will be new to some charities but help is (again) at hand.
Charity Digital offers support and discounted software and communication tools and some of leading names in the tech world including Salesforce, Slack, Facebook Workplace and Hootsuite are making their services available to charities either for free or with significant discounts.
Get closer to your donors
As there is so much uncertainty at the moment it may be worth setting up telephone or video meetings with your main donors to discuss your short-term plans and to find out about how they plan to support your charity in the future. It may be that once they understand your financial position, they make their donations earlier than expected or offer a little more in the short term. After all, they are already committed to supporting the good work you do and won’t want to see the results of the work you’ve done together hampered in any way.
Release designated funds and possibly restricted funds
This is probably the closest to a ‘proper accountants’ answer’ but If your charity has designated funds ring-fenced for specific projects, this emergency could well be the project. As trustees it may be worth reviewing the funds you have and the terms governing their use so you can make a decision as to whether they can legitimately be released or reallocated to see you through the coming months. Using restricted funds may be possible in certain circumstances.
And following on from the previous point, if your donors have placed their own restrictions on the portion of your restricted funds they have contributed, establishing a better line of communication could help you persuade them to relax those constraints.
Explore reporting extensions
The Charity SORP has publicly accepted the current restrictions will almost certainly impact on the preparation of a charity’s annual accounts, especially as the accounts will need to include narrative on how the pandemic has affected the charity’s activities and performance.
Rather than letting the need to present your annual accounts pile extra pressure on your shoulders, it may be advisable to contact the Charity Commission to ask if it would be possible to extend your accounts deadline.
Keep things going
Although trustee meetings in the traditional sense are impossible at the moment, that doesn’t make your ability to take business crucial decisions any less important. The Charity Commission has vowed to be as flexible as possible in terms of allowing the governance process to continue so explore video and telephone meeting and e-voting options so that your ability to adapt and change isn’t hindered.
If your charity is struggling to navigate the current crisis and you’d like to discuss some new ideas or new perspectives, please call Robert Radford on 0116 282 7000 or email Robert at firstname.lastname@example.org today.