'We will survive': How the sector plans to recover from Covid-19

Over the course of 2020, the charity sector is expected to lose over £12 billion as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Shop closures and cancelled fundraising events have caused a significant black hole in income, leading many charity leaders to search for new and innovative ways to source cash.

We spoke to the leaders of some of the charities – large and small – behind the £12 billion to understand what these financial losses look like on an individual level and to ask the question: ‘How do you plan to survive?’

Barnardo’s: “We should work ‘interdependently’ with government and local agencies”

Barnardo’s is a children’s charity and typically has an income of over £300 million.

Financial losses: The charity has predicted losses of around £50 million over the current financial year as a result of the pandemic. At the beginning of the pandemic, the charity’s chief executive, Javed Khan said the charity’s monthly income was ‘slashed by £8m overnight’.

Survival plan: Khan said the pandemic must be seen as a “catalyst for accelerated change”, with charities embracing a digital-first approach. Khan said he is keen to work ‘interdependently’ with government and local agencies. “Only through innovative co-design and strategic partnerships will the sector be able to deliver better outcomes in the ‘new normal’,” he explains.

Plant Dewi: “We’ll be reducing our office space and reducing our travel”

Plant Dewi is a Welsh-based children’s charity with an income of just under £1 million.

Financial losses: The charity closed all projects on 19 March and moved to a totally digital setting. In 2019, the charity’s shop closed for building works and was scheduled to re-open in Spring 2020. Postponing this cost the charity £15,000.

Plans for survival: Plant Dewi is about to embark on the Pilotlight Leadership Programme, working with a team of business leaders on its long-term strategy, but it is also set to put in place a number of measures to cut back on existing costs. “We will be looking at moving into a smaller office space, reducing our travel by working remotely and will also be reviewing our fundraising strategy as our methods will not be practical for the foreseeable future,” the charity’s manager, Catrin Evans explains.

Young Urban Arts Foundation: “Our move to a more digital presence is accelerating” Young Urban Arts Foundation is a young person’s mental health charity with an income of under £1 million.

Financial losses: The charity projected it would lose around £600,000 in income during Covid-19 and has so far lost around £400,000.
Plans for survival: Part of the organisation’s strategic objectives was to launch a digital platform for young people by 2021 – something which has accelerated during the current situation and provides hope for the charity’s future. “This situation has accelerated what we already had planned, so we see this as extremely positive,” the charity’s founder, Kerry O’Brien explains.

Alzheimer’s Society: “We’re focusing on resilience and crisis management at leadership level” Alzheimer’s Society provides services to people affected by dementia. It typically has an income of over £100 million.
Financial losses: The charity’s CEO, Kate Lee, says the charity is facing ‘an extensive financial deficit’, with an income loss of up to £45m due to the pandemic.

Plans for survival: To help the charity move forward, Lee explains that a key focus will be on resilience and crisis management at leadership level, alongside contingency and scenario planning to ensure the organisation is prepared for what comes next. “Above all, it means doubling down on our core values: listening to and learning from the experiences of people affected by dementia, innovating our services, and taking the best qualities of our Covid-19 response – agility, pace, adaptability – into this uncertain future,” she says.

Ashgate Hospice: “We are looking at agile working and a more commercial income generation portfolio”

Ashgate Hospice provides specialist palliative and end of life care to patients with a life-limiting illness and their families across North Derbyshire. The charity has an income of just over £10 million.

Financial losses: The charity expects the pandemic to trigger a loss of around £500,000, as a result of closing its shops and coffee shops; postponing or cancelling fundraising events and the introduction of new infection control measures at an increased cost.

Plans for survival: Ashgate Hospice has 15 charity shops, all of which it hopes to re-open by early July, and which will help to bring in a substantial source of income. But the charity is also exploring new ways of providing services including more agile working, care across a wider range of settings and a more commercial income generation portfolio. “We have taken the opportunity to accelerate that journey and feed the learning into our strategy as we move forward,” the charity’s CEO, Barbara-Anne Walker says.

Cancer Research UK: “I’m hopeful for our long-term future. Covid-19 has demonstrated the value of science”

Cancer Research UK is the largest charity in the UK, with an income of around £700 million.

Financial losses: To date, CRUK estimates a 20-25% drop in fundraising income, equivalent to a reduction of approximately £120 million in 20/21.

Plans for survival: The charity’s chief executive, Michelle Mitchell said the pandemic is the “biggest challenge we’ve ever faced” and has hugely disrupted cancer patients and research. However, she’s hopeful for the future. “Covid-19 has demonstrated the value of science, the vital role of the NHS and the power of community volunteering. We’ve ramped up digital engagement, built new fundraising campaigns including Race for Life at Home, and dealt with a huge amount of change. Above everything, the pandemic has shown that our people are what make Cancer Research UK great - they couldn’t have worked harder over the past few months and will be crucial in the years to come to help us get back on track.”

The children’s Trust: “We are becoming more experimental with digital comms”

The Children’s Trust provides services for children with brain injury and typically has an income of over £25 million.

Financial losses: The trust is estimated to have lose around £1.3 million this year. The charity has experienced a significant drop in fundraising income at the same time as extra demand on services and an increase in costs.

Plans for survival: The charity’s chief executive, Dalton Leong says the charity is becoming ‘more experimental and more reactive with digital communications’, which he hopes will provide some relief to the organisation. “Nobody knows what the future holds. Financial markets remain turbulent and there is no doubt that the next few years will be challenging. But as the last three months have demonstrated, financial predictions are perhaps less important than our ability to demonstrate agility and adaptability. We are proud to have done this in an innovative way and expect to come out the other end better and stronger.” ■

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