How philanthropists can lessen the effect of COVID-19


Rosemary Macdonald


For many charities, the effects of coronavirus have been catastrophic.

Organisations that are, at their very heart, reliant on spending time face-to-face with people – both to raise funds and deliver charitable initiatives – have had to uproot their ways of working and begin again. That’s no easy task for even the biggest, best-funded charity, let alone the many small charities and foundations with small staff numbers and little technical infrastructure.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many UK charities facing an imminent collapse, with dwindling funds and growing demand for services. Since the virus’ peak in March, the country-wide lockdown has seen hundreds of charity shops close, events cancelled and fundraising activities postponed, resulting in charities losing a significant proportion of the income they rely on to deliver.

…the coronavirus has acted as a stimulant for the mobilisation of resources…

But even as lockdown lifts and businesses reopen, charities continue to face shortfalls in funding. The abundance of emergency funding has been a relief for some charities, but still leaves many battling to meet increased demand and unmet need despite dramatic declines in income. The recovery for many charities may mean closure. As such, many have issued coronavirus emergency appeals to recoup money lost and ensure they are able to continue providing beneficiaries with support, but confidence is not high.

Philanthropy’s power to make a difference

There is no doubt that private donors play a key role in resolving the long-term consequences of coronavirus. Beyond the strain on healthcare, there are a myriad of serious problems that have arisen, including food insecurity, the loss of jobs, and various challenges related to education and mental health.  Without private donor support the future will be bleak for many.

Private donations – big or small – have the power to help tackle such issues by helping struggling charities to emerge from the crisis phase and look to the future. The effectiveness of mass fundraising and one-off major donations has been demonstrated by individuals throughout the pandemic – a prime example being Captain Sir Tom Moore whose fundraising for NHS Charities Together totalled an astounding £32.8 million.

Community philanthropy

However, not all philanthropists have time to research the multitude of fantastic local organisations that are supporting vulnerable people in communities all over the UK. In these instances, working with an organisation such as UK Community Foundations – a national network of 46 community foundations which provides help and advice to those who want to give at the heart of their communities – can instil philanthropists with confidence that their money is going to the communities that need it most.

Experts in quickly getting money to where it is most needed, community foundations work with a range of partners and undertake needs analysis to build a clear picture of what the issues are at local level. These insights inform the way we make grants and ensures that our donors’ money is spent in a way that really addresses the different issues and challenges facing communities impacted by the coronavirus.

Through the donations made to the National Emergencies Trust (NET) Coronavirus Appeal, community foundations have supported over 9,000 local charities and grassroots organisations that have been at the forefront of the community-led response to the pandemic. The fact that our network was able to respond so quickly and precisely is testament to the relationships, trust and knowledge that have been built over time.

As the pandemic continues to spread, the opportunity for philanthropists to provide support and relief to the ever-expanding list of coronavirus-related issues and challenges accelerates. With the pandemic expediting an increasingly cashless society, philanthropists have the power to not only provide disaster relief in the short-term; but equip charities with the means to fundraise virtually, collect digital donations and future-proof their organisation and its’ beneficiaries in the long-term.

Certainly, the coronavirus has acted as a stimulant for the mobilisation of resources. With philanthropists galvanising to support those in need and charities even more so, perhaps, in time, we will look back on this period as the crisis that was a catalyst for change.

Rosemary Macdonald is the CEO of UK Community Foundations.

Tagged in: Covid-19

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