NGOs predict rough future over next couple of years

Cuts to official development assistance combined with Covid-19, Brexit, and a UK-wide recession could lead to the closure of many international development charities over the next two years, new research suggests. 

A poll of 93 organisations by the international development network Bond found that 48 per cent of NGOs were at risk of ceasing operations that deliver aid such as healthcare, water and sanitation, and food to marginalised communities. 

Nearly two-thirds of medium-sized and 29 per cent of small NGOs reported they might need to close by 2023. 

Only 74 per cent of larger organisations were confident in their ability to operate beyond the next two years.

Bond defined small organisations as those with an annual income of less than £2m, medium as those of between £2m and £20m, and large of more than £20m a year. 

Sixty-five per cent of respondents said they expected their income to fall in 2021/22, with more than a quarter of all organisations surveyed anticipating falls of more than 20 per cent in 2021/22.  

Just over half of organisations said they had experienced cuts as a result of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office cutting the overseas development aid budget this year.

Job losses across the sector look set to continue as 46 per cent of respondents said they had either made or were likely to make staff redundant. 

Jobs that appear to be particularly vulnerable are those involved in programme delivery, cut by 53 per cent of organisations, followed by admin and finance, and public fundraising.

Despite just under half of organisations making use of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, only 11 per cent said they would use its replacement once the furlough scheme finished at the end of October.

Stephanie Draper, chief executive of Bond, said small NGOs were particularly vulnerable. 

"We would ask that the government set up a £10m relief fund to help small NGOs so that they can continue to support their local partners and the communities they work with," she said. 

“If we don’t, we risk losing both specialist organisations [and] charities that are the heart of local communities across the UK.”

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