Over half of charities don't expect pre-pandemic fundraising to bounce back

More than half of charities are pessimistic about the potential for public fundraising to bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic this year.

Social distancing measures have eased since April, allowing some public fundraising events to take place under restrictions.

A further easing of restrictions was to have taken place this month but will be reviewed again in July following the emergence of the Delta variant of Covid-19 and to allow more people to receive two doses of the vaccine.

But over half (54%) of charities say they do not expect to be back to pre-pandemic levels of fundraising events by the end of 2021.

The findings have emerged in the latest Covid Charity Tracker by Pro Bono Economics, in partnership with Charity Finance Group and the Chartered Institute of Fundraising.

This also found that one in five charities have cut fundraising event spending in the last year due to cost constraints, furloughed staff and uncertainty around further restrictions.

Just under two third (62%) of charities that have organised in-person fundraising are reporting take up of places for 2021 is worse than a typical year. The proportion of those reporting lower levels of bookings is worse among small charities.

Seven in 10 small charities are reporting low take up, compared to six in 10 larger charities.

“With all the positive talk of the economy bouncing back strongly as the country moves on from the worst of the pandemic, the very real challenges facing the social sector risk being overlooked,” said Pro Bono Economics research and policy analyst Jack Larkham.

“Charities have seen demand for their services rocket during the pandemic, with the long-lasting impact of the crisis meaning that situation is set to persist even as the country recovers.

“But elevated demand comes alongside a sharp squeeze on charity resources. Lockdowns and social-distancing rules have made in-person fundraising events – a key source of income for thousands of charities – impossible, and more than half of charities do not expect to return to pre-pandemic levels of events in 2021.

“To overcome these challenges, it is vital that more resources make their way into the social sector from government, existing funders and members of the public. In the long-term, there needs to be a complete re-think of public policy to reverse the neglect the sector has suffered from over many years.”

Charity Finance Group chief executive Caron Bradshaw added: “It’s a great relief that charities are once again able to fundraise through events and other face-to-face activities and that the general public continue to give generously.

"However, those who have had to make redundancies and other cuts no longer have the same resources at their disposal and this will inevitably reduce their ability to deliver for the people and causes they support.

"At the same time, we expect demand for services to continue rising and therefore the gap between income and demand will continue to widen."

Charity shops key to face-to-face fundraising

Meanwhile, separate research released this week suggests that charities should focus face-to-face fundraising around their shops and community centres, even though some social distancing restrictions remain in place.

Consultancy About Loyalty’s COVID-10 Sentiment Tracker surveys the public for trends in optimism and charitable giving.

This found that since lockdown eased in April the public is “now more comfortable engaging in-person with charities, most of all with charity shops”.

The consultancy’s director Richard Spencer said: “Our advice to charities is to create simple opportunities that enable people to reconnect with friends and family.

"So, for charities with retail outlets, visitor or community centres, this might mean creating events or activities that fit within the current restrictions, but can help fulfil some of that need to engage.

“What’s more, when staff and volunteers are friendly, sociable and helpful, this really can be a critical part of the supporter journey, building loyalty.”

Spencer added: “Charity shops remain crucial as both a form of fundraising and awareness-raising for supporters and prospective supporters alike. There is a real opportunity for charities with retail outlets to make the most of direct conversations and engaging shoppers with other ways to support.”

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