'Which charities can we not afford to lose?' asks NPC guidance for funders

The document warns that philanthropists must act quickly if vital civil society organisations are to be saved from oblivion

Voluntary sector funders should ask themselves which charities they believe cannot be lost amid the coronavirus crisis, according to new guidance from the think tank NPC.

How Philanthropists Should Respond to Coronavirus: Consequences, crises and opportunities for charities warns that philanthropists must act now to prevent vital civil society organisations from going under.

It advises grant-makers to fund beyond the current crisis and consider what the needs of the sector will be once the long-term effects become clear.

It calls on funders to redefine their relationships with charities and communities and base them on trust. It also asks them to rebalance the power in philanthropy, focus on equity and fairness, and collaborate more and better.

The guidance, published last week, outlines the issues facing charities, such as a rise in demand and problems with fundraising, and looks at how different cause areas could be affected by the virus.

“The coronavirus outbreak will have profound and lasting implications for charities and the people they work with,” the publication says.

“Funders need to think beyond the short-term crisis response to ensure the survival of the community groups, charities and local social enterprises that not only provide vital services, but are integral to the social fabric of our communities.

“This means acting now to prevent charities from going under.”

It warns that for charities “already on the knife-edge of survival”, the challenges posed by Covid-19 might be more than they can cope with, and funders need to factor this into their decision-making. 

“Philanthropists should always ask fundamental questions about effectiveness, but in the current climate they might also ask ‘which charities can we not afford to lose?’” the guidance says.

This could lead organisations to fund grantees they have not supported before, but whose work they recognise as important, it says.

And, it adds, the disruption could create positive shifts in the funding ecosystem, with great trust between charities and funders, and mutual respect for each other’s expertise.

“Philanthropists and foundations should take time to consider where they sit in an ecosystem of funding and charitable work and how they can complement, coordinate and collaborate with others so that it is easier for charities to navigate the system,” the guidances says.

It adds that more ambitious funders can join forces around a cause to amplify their collective impact.

Dan Corry, chief executive of NPC, said: “The country is in a very deep crisis. Our number-one priority is rightly trying to avoid as many deaths as we can.

“But at the same time we must do our best to minimise the decimation of the rest of our economy and society as we struggle through this process.

“At NPC we are working with philanthropists and partners on how they can more effectively fund charities now. And we want to hear your ideas about what more can be done.”

The guidance document will be added to as the situation unfolds, and Corry said it was a “collaborative effort to help philanthropists give as effectively as possible”.

Charities have been calling on the government to take urgent action to address the loss of an estimated £4.3bn of funding over the next 12 weeks because of the pandemic.

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