There’s been lots of news about the charity sector in the last few weeks and rightly so. The impact of COVID-19 cannot be understated – seismic is probably about right.
It’s a shockwave that’s already decimated income particularly from retail operations, community fundraising challenges and major donor events. Estimates put the loss at up to £4bn for this quarter. And the damage won’t be confined to this timeframe; unlike the rest of the economy which might bounce back, the charity sector is going to remain wounded for some time to come. Some suggest that total income for the year will be down 24% or £12.4bn.
Of course, those working in charities have been doing what they always do: going beyond the call of duty, except that now many face the ludicrous challenge of doing more with less. They already knew what resilience meant but even this surely has its limits?
As if we needed reminding, this is the sector that fills the gaps the state can’t. And those gaps just became chasms. So, when we do eventually emerge completely from lockdown, the task for those charities still in business will far greater. They will be the ones picking up many of the pieces from the coronavirus fallout. Couple this with the massive jump in those unemployed, huge numbers of business failures and an economy on life support, it’s understandable that many in this sector are ashen-faced about the prospects of having the funding needed to meet this much-enlarged brief.
In such a climate, hope is a rare commodity. For sure, the £750m assistance from government was a good step, though late and inadequate. But it’s a shame that it hasn’t inspired a major philanthropic matching fund initiative: a total of £1.5bn would have delivered for the sector. If only we had leadership like The Giving Pledge because the cataclysmic drop in income isn’t going to be bridged by the supporters of Sir Tom. Indeed, it’s a little embarrassing that he’s the only beacon for fundraising right now.
Life after the lockdown is hard to predict but it’s reasonable to assume that the coverage given to the charity sector will fall back again. After all, everyone will yearn to return to some sort of normality. But now, more than ever, this sector needs to project a strong voice that not only those working in it can hear but, crucially, those beyond it.
For a long time, many have looked fondly across the pond at the charity environment in the United States. For sure, not everything there is hunky dory – the motives for support are not always good – and there are greater incentives to give, but the fundamental difference is cultural: to paraphrase Tom Cruise, ‘giving is good’ and boy do they celebrate it. The energy and momentum this produces is what we need.
Here, the charity sector is rarely feted for the enormous contribution it makes; even less so those who are supporting it. This has to change if we are to engender a culture of greater giving, particularly amongst those who will remain far more able to do so after this crisis and whose support will be needed more than ever.
We’re not naive. The road to this is long but the conversation has to start somewhere, which is why we are launching a unique online initiative called Hope.Magazine. We’re creating the first public-facing channel to celebrate the vital role played by charities and showcase initiatives for doing good better. We want to shine a bright light on the challenges, the opportunities, the ideas (especially the disruptive ones), the campaigns, the individuals… anything that offers hope for increasing charitable giving in this country.
We’d love you to join us in this (ad)venture. Frankly, we can’t do it on our own (we’re gifting our time), nor would it be right for us to do so. To be a true reflection of the sector, it needs to have a broad group delivering it. We’re very fortunate to have David Hillman, D&AD’s most awarded designer of all time, collaborating on the magazine, together with members of our Collective and friends in a number of charities. So, if you’re interested in being a part of the editorial team or acting as an advisor to the project, please email us here. If not, we hope you will enjoy the experience of Hope.Magazine and encourage others to look at it as well.