When on 8 April the chancellor announced £750 million in funding for charities, the reception from the sector was a little more lukewarm than you might expect.
It’s not a figure to be sniffed at, and will absolutely be put to good use by the charities it supports.
But after weeks of waiting for news on the package aimed at supporting the charity sector, there was disappointment – because the proposal will do little more than scratch the surface of what charities really need.
I say “waiting”, but that is not in fact what the charity sector has been doing at all. It has mobilised, innovated, coordinated and responded to the changing needs and contexts within which it is working.
Many charities have acted to meet increasing demand while closing shops and cancelling fundraising events, which will see their income fall dramatically.
An Institute of Fundraising survey found charities are expecting to lose nearly half of their fundraised income.
Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support anticipate missing out on more than £200 million between them.
The sector’s umbrella bodies have been doggedly persistent in their determination to convince Whitehall to deliver a rescue package that will enable the survival of a sector which exists to improve the lives of people and communities, employs 900,000 people and is expected to lose at least £4 billion in the first 12 weeks of lockdown.
Coronavirus business interruption loans are only open to charities if more than half of their income comes from trading rather than grants, investments, fundraising or other sources. That means most are ineligible.
Some charities like National Trust, Barnardo’s, Cancer Research UK, Oxfam and my own charity, the Family Holiday Association, have made the difficult decision to furlough staff.
This helps in the short term, but who knows what will happen after the end of May?
The funding the chancellor announced is directed at charities that have seen demand for their services rocket as a result of the pandemic, and which are stretching their resources to meet it – hospices, healthcare charities, emergency response, food banks and local community charities.
No one in the sector feels this funding is not needed. But what about those charities whose work makes a big difference and is hugely valued by the public and their supporters, but isn’t directly related to the coronavirus
Charities campaigning for the most marginalised groups in society; working in international development; protecting and caring for animals, or yes those which, like the Family Holiday Association, support families to attain a living standard that goes beyond the absolute bare minimum.
We will all be working very hard to keep the lights on and ensure we are in a position to resume our work when the restrictions are lifted.
The charities regulator discourages the build-up of “excessive” cash reserves, so many will have had less than three months’ operating expenditure in the bank when the crisis hit; it’s likely many will fold. The loss of the public benefit they existed to deliver will be significant.
So, if you value the work of a charity and you are in a position to support it to get through to the other side of the crisis, please do.
When this is all over, we will be needed more than ever.
Kat Lee is chief executive of Family Holiday Association.