'We recruited video star Jackie Weaver': Charity leaders share their 2021 highlights

It’s been a long year for the charity sector, with a lot of ups and downs along the way. As we head into 2022, we asked sector leaders to reflect on the last 12 months and share some of their highlights.

Mary McGrath, CEO, The Food Exchange

“After eighteen months of running Covid specific services at FoodCycle, (food delivery, cook and collect and Check in and Chat) it was wonderful to return to community dining after the lifting of restrictions in July 2021.

“It was incredibly heartening to see so many people still wanting to volunteer, and working hard to understand all the new protocols we had in place. It’s our volunteers who make the services at FoodCycle so special, so it was fantastic that 5,500 people registered to volunteer with us this year and give us 54,000 hours of their time.”

Chester Mojay-Sinclare, CEO & Founder, Enthuse

“The real highlight has been the adaptability and resilience of both the sector and its supporters. The start of 2020 was challenging with physical fundraising events still an income stream that was unavailable. Charities continued to adapt to the changing restrictions and continued to innovate with their virtual events incorporating new ideas like virtual maps and Strava integration to keep supporters interested and excited about getting involved.

“Many supporters welcomed the return of physical fundraising events, but charities enabled those who were more cautious to participate as well by creating hybrid events. This is a format for the long-term enabling charities to be less dependent upon those who can make it to a local event and being welcoming to those who don’t feel comfortable in large groups.

“It’s also been encouraging to see how widely adopted online giving has been. Our latest quarterly public research shows that 71% of people donated and 43% did so online. This was during the last three months when Covid restrictions were very limited, yet online giving is continuing to rise across all generations. The number of 65–80-year-olds who would not donate online has shifted from 27% a year ago to just 22% now.

“Finally, even though 43% say their financial situation makes it harder to donate, 73% of the public plan to donate over the Christmas period. This is the highest percentage our quarterly research has tracked since it began at the start of the pandemic. The public’s generosity even in tough times is an admirable highlight.”

Mohamed Ashmawey, CEO, Human Appeal

“Covid forced UK charities to rethink their use of digital tech and remote working. Those who adapted to the sudden need for change have been more successful in both their internal and external operations. In addition, most INGOs had to develop local UK initiatives to support their own staff, as we did at Human Appeal.

“We saw the public's sense of responsibility towards others heightened due to the impact of Covid on our lifestyles. People are more aware now of how an individual can positively affect others with simple actions like hand washing, masks, and social distancing in public etc.

“Awareness of the importance of sharing and donating PPE related items has grown. This mindset spilled over into a heightened sense of responsibility towards those who are most vulnerable. It helped people realise how one individual can make a positive difference to the lives of others, something faith-based charities encourage greatly.

“At the peak of the pandemic, humanitarian charities in the UK played an important role in supporting the NHS and other public services. The experience of closer inter-charity and organisational co-operation driven by pandemic has made the UK charity sector more resilient to adversity.”

Dora-Oliva Viol, director, Work Rights Centre

“This was an eventful year for charities supporting EU migrants and their families, with the June deadline for the EU Settlement Scheme playing on all of our minds.

“In terms of highlights, over the course of last year, we recovered over £20,000 in unpaid wages, and helped hundreds of people find better employment and secure their status in the UK after Brexit. We also recruited viral video star Jackie Weaver to help us with our Christmas campaign, which raised awareness of the employment rights violations many of our beneficiaries face, including unpaid wages and holiday pay, unfair dismissal and discrimination.”

Robert Meakin, charity partner at Keystone Law

“The main highlight in charity law in 2021 was the passage of the Charities Bill through Parliament. The Bill seeks to iron out some wrinkles in the law. It aims to simplify amendments to governing documents-making it easier to amend them. When conveying land trustees will be able to access a wider range of professionals to take advice on price and marketing. Charities will have more flexibility to spend permanent endowment, including the power to borrow permanent endowment. Trustees will have the power to be paid for the provision of goods in certain circumstances and charities will have the ability to take advantage of simpler and more proportionate rules on failed appeals.

“The other main highlight in 2021 is Covid-19 and this will continue to have an impact both in terms of funding, the way charities operate, collaborate and ultimately, in some cases, merge. This will certainly feed into 2022.”

Lisieux Trust

2021 has been a challenging year for Lisieux Trust. We are a care and support charity for autistic people and people with learning disabilities. Providing care and support throughout the pandemic has been challenging. However we are so grateful that none of the people we support have been seriously unwell with Covid-19. Despite its challenges, 2021 was a good year for the charity. Our highlights included winning the Not-for-Profit Employer of the Year award at the National Learning Disability and Autism awards in October and having two of our support workers listed as finalists for Support Worker awards.

Another highlight has been watching our residents’ and tenants’ community garden project flourish over the year; this is a project where people we support come to our Head Office each week and grow their own fruit, vegetables and flowers and have created a lovely garden space to enjoy. We have welcomed three new residents and tenants with learning disabilities and autism into our services in the last 12 months, all of whom came from difficult circumstances that included family bereavement, homelessness and being evicted from their property. All three tenants have settled in well and are now happy, healthy and living in a safe, comfortable home supported by fantastic staff. This is what we are all about.

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