Coronavirus: Just one in five small charities able to provide normal services

Only 20 per cent of small charities are able to provide normal services because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey by the Small Charities Coalition.

The poll also found that almost half (49 per cent) of respondents said they had lost income in the past two weeks as a result of the outbreak, and 70 per cent said they had had to cancel key meetings with funders or fundraising events.

The SCC sent out a survey to its members at 10am yesterday to assess how small charities were coping with the restrictions in place to control the spread of coronavirus, and received 347 responses within five hours.

The umbrella body has launched a crowdfunder to enable it to support small voluntary organisations affected by the crisis because, it said, calls to its helpline had increased by 245 per cent.

Eight out of 10 charities surveyed revealed that they had been forced to temporarily alter or drop some of their services, something Rita Chadha, chief executive of the SCC, told Third Sector it had been “a shock” to discover.

Small charities estimated that they were likely to lose out on an average of between £50,000 and £150,000 in funding as a result of the crisis, and almost a third (30 per cent) said they had funding to cover only the next year.

In terms of staffing, one in 10 said they expected to make redundancies, while a quarter said they expected to reduce staff hours in the next two to three months.

And just 37 per cent said they were already set up for remote working.

Chadha said this was because many charities would lack the necessary IT infrastructure and would be dealing with beneficiaries who might be able to access services digitally.

She said she believed many charities had struggled to reroute their phone calls to allow staff to work from home.

Chadha said her advice to charities was to try to fulfil as many commitments as possible in the short term.

“Honour any contractual obligations you have for the next two months at least, where possible, and start negotiating now for month three for what you need to pull out of,” she said.

“If we’re seeing all charities stopping making payments immediately because they’re fearful of what’s going to happen in the long term, that’s going to knock the whole system down.

“Charities need to think about the short term, medium term and long term. We’re going to come out of this at some point, so bear in mind what your charity is going to look like then. And what is your charity going to need to deliver to stay relevant in its mission?”

Chadha said she welcomed the move by London Funders and other funding bodies to issue a statement saying they were prepared to be more flexible about financial, outcome and reporting requirements while charities they fund deal with the impact of the outbreak. 

The SCC survey remains open to submissions and can be found here. 

The SCC crowdfunding campaign is seeking to raise £5,000 to support charities during the crisis by expanding its helpdesk.

The campaign page says: “In December 2019, our helpdesk answered 58 enquiries. In January this rose to 118, in February 263. By mid-March we responded to over 200 requests for advice and information.”

The SCC also plans to use the funds to purchase new equipment to create webinars and learning resources, and to source technical and legal opinions for members.

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