Survey reveals charities’ Brexit fears

Almost two thirds of charities believe Brexit will have a negative effect on their organisation, a Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) survey of charity leaders has found.

CAF’s Charity Landscape 2019 survey found that 63% of charity leaders believe that Brexit will harm their organisation and more than a third (37%) believe Brexit will lead to a fall in donations.

A quarter (23%) of those surveyed also revealed Brexit has already impacted on their work. Of this group a third (33%) said they were finding it difficult to recruit and retain staff.

A fifth (19%) of those already affected said Brexit had caused anxiety, uncertainty and fear in their organisation. The same proportion said that the ending of EU funding has already affected them.

CAF is urging the government to ensure that charities are a key stakeholder in post-Brexit Britain, in areas such as the economy, services and communities.

Anxiety around Brexit comes as charities face an increase in demand for their services, according to the survey, which was carried out in November 2018.

This found that 83% of charities have seen an increase in demand over the last 12 months and a similar proportion (86%) expect this to continue over the next 12 months.

Friction in the charity sector’s relationship with government is also exposed in the report.

The majority of charities (92%) believe they will be expected to fill gaps in the provision of public services and more than half (59%) believe that over the next five years government will view charities as a nuisance for criticising their policies.

Just a fifth (21%) of charity leaders believe government will value charities’ advocacy role and ability to offer constructive criticism.

Repealing the Lobbying Act is among recommendations made by CAF, as this has had a ‘chilling effect’ on charities ability to advocate on behalf of their beneficiaries.

Generating more income is a top challenge for charities, mentioned by 59%, although this is down on CAF’s 2017’s survey figure of 62%.

CAF urges charities to diversify their income and ensure they are making the most of their properties and investments.

The charity sector also faces a challenge in turning around negative publicity in the media, caused by scandals involving fundraising practices and safeguarding. Just under a six out of ten (59%) charity leaders think the sector has been badly impacted by negative media coverage and seven out of ten believe that people do not understand the importance of charities to public life. Only a third think that charities are good at demonstrating their impact to the public.

“All organisations are operating in a difficult political and social landscape at the moment; the charity sector is no exception to this,” said CAF head of research Susan Pinkney.

“Charity leaders have spoken with a united and clear voice, emphasising several key points. They are fearful of the impact that Brexit will have, for example on staff retention and the ongoing funding that allows them to provide services for those who need them.”

The survey also found that 87% of charities are investing in or plan to invest in improving their IT, which shows that charity leaders are “investing in technological innovation in order to meet the evolving needs of their beneficiaries”, says Pinkney.

But improving the way technology can support fundraising is a key challenge charities face, the survey found. While 59%of charity leaders said they are using new technology and social media effectively, just 29% said they are doing this effectively to boost giving.

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