Peter Lewis: I've never seen so much collaboration among the sector

Two months ago, charities scrambled into action to deliver services and support to their beneficiaries. In a matter of days, we saw fundraising operations radically changed because of coronavirus, and in other areas – halted completely.

Regardless of where or how you work – for big or small charities, self-employed or freelance, face-to-face or a trust fundraiser – we know that everyone will be feeling the strain of this crisis.

Fundraising has been hit incredibly badly over the last month or so. Our best estimate remains a £4.3bn reduction in income over the first 12 weeks of the pandemic, a 48% drop in voluntary income for the year ahead, and a 32% drop in overall income as trading and investment income has also been hit badly.

And in response I saw the charity community overwhelmingly come together. Fundraisers, funders, corporate partners, springing into action to support one another through the uncertainty – and as the weeks go on, more and more examples appear.

Personally I have never seen such collaboration amongst the sector – but also between the umbrella bodies and engagement with government. All with the shared goal to get everyone through the crisis.

The government finally announced its emergency package for charities on 8 April, comprising of £750m across the sector and from a variety of government departments. But despite the measures put in place by the government, we know that it’s not enough.

It has always been about the bigger picture – making sure that we can fulfill our objectives. Furloughing fundraisers when they’re needed the most is not going to help us in the long-run, but organisations haven’t been given much choice.

I wanted to share some examples that particularly struck a chord with me: pet charity Blue Cross donated ventilators to NHS hospitals; Acorn hospice in Birmingham temporarily handed over its Birmingham site to the NHS to help with capacity; and mass participation fundraisers coming together to develop the ‘2.6 Challenge’ – events fundraising in the time of social distancing.

I want all fundraisers, from across the sector – regardless of whether or not you are an IoF member – to know that you are not alone. We are doing everything we can to support you.

As well as lobbying, we’re continuing to collate and provide evidence to DCMS and the Treasury on the impact of coronavirus on charities and briefing media appropriately. We’ve also opened up our member-only policy helpline to everyone, and continue to update our guidance pages and blogs with up to date advice. There’s also an amazing level of support from the fundraising community – sharing resources, ideas, offering mentoring and pro bono work.

In the meantime, we want to hear your stories to understand how you’re responding to the crisis, and how your income and services have been hit.

Continue to share how your organisation is experiencing the crisis, and together with the sector, we can get those stories out and continue to ask for what we need.

Peter Lewis is the chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising

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