2020: A year in review

Covid-19 transformed the charity sector in 2020. The cancellation of events, curtailing of in-person fundraising and the closure of venues, has seen the sector face significant income losses and redundancies. Many have also had to sell off some of their property portfolio while others are relying on dwindling reserves to survive.

This has come amid unprecedented demand for services, as beneficiaries cope with financial uncertainty, loneliness and other mental health challenges. Many leaders have had to make the difficult decision to let staff go (at exactly the time they needed them the most) and cut costs, while working extra hours and battling with their own personal traumas.

Meanwhile, amid the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, charities this year have been reminded to take a necessary look at their internal cultures, to ensure they are supporting all communities and are equitable in their recruitment practices. Many organisations have already started to work on becoming actively anti-racist, but there is still a long way to go before the sector can truly call itself inclusive.

While all of this has been ongoing, the sector’s income has dropped drastically. Funding has been readily available, but only to those who were in a position to act quickly and to those deemed ‘most worthy’. For many charities, there has been no option but to cease operating altogether.

It’s safe to say it has been an extremely challenging year, but it has also been one full of innovation, success and total transformation. The sector is now unrecognisable to the sector that existed in 2019. Charities have excelled towards digital transformation quicker than they ever would have done prior to the pandemic. Many have adapted to working from home overnight; learned how to communicate online; developed stronger websites; found new ways to engage with beneficiaries and completely overhauled their fundraising methods.

With this in mind, there is certainly hope for 2021. If the sector can transform so drastically in less than a year, can it do the same in 2021? By 2022, we are preparing to be witness to an almost entirely digital sector. Or, at the very least, a sector with the capacity to continue operating digitally on all levels if needed.

By 2022, we could also be looking at a sector that recruits in a totally different way; one that opens its arms to people of all walks of life and one that can boast a much more diverse range of backgrounds, experiences and skillsets.
Will the boardroom still exist? Or will trustee meetings become entirely virtual? Only time will tell, but at the very least, there is the potential for the pandemic to have triggered a much more efficient way of working at board level.

After all, this crisis has flung charities into foreign territory quicker than it ever could have imagined. If the sector can survive, it is inevitably only going to come out stronger. ■

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