Just one in five small charities in the UK say they can currently provide normal services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, while half have already lost funding, the Small Charities Coalition has revealed.
The Small Charities Coalition is conducting a survey to develop a better understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on small not-for-profit organisations and charities.
Initial findings reveal that 457 small charities responded in just over 24 hours. As well as just one in five saying they are providing a normal service level, 70% say they also expect to only be able to meet payroll costs for a maximum of six months without a support package from the government, while 30% expect to have to reduce staff hours or make redundancies as a result of the interruption.
And, with 49% having already lost funding, 43% have had to create additional policies and procedures to try and manage the situation.
Respondents have also had some key messages for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), which is responsible for charity policy, the Charity Commission, and for funders.
From DCMS, charities said they want to see greater awareness of the fact that small charities delivering grassroots services in their communities will struggle financially because they are unable to fundraise or deliver their services due to the crisis, as well as assurances that small charities will receive support, just as small businesses have been promised, particularly if funders have less money to distribute.
Respondents also asked the Charity Commission to help raise the profile of small charities to help them get support, and to relax some of its rules, including around reporting and accounting for the time being.
Pleas have also been issued to funders to continue their support, but to be more flexible over how money is distributed and how it can be used.
In an interview with Third Sector, Rita Chadha, chief executive of the Small Charities Coalition, said it had been a shock to discover so many small charities had already been forced to drop or alter some of their services and that her advice to charities was to honour their contractual agreements for the next couple of months and then to negotiate. If all charities stop making payments now, she warned, the system would take too great a knock.
“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,” she said.
To enable it to provide more support for small charities during the current crisis, the Small Charities Coalition has launched its own Crowdfunder appeal to raise funds to expand its helpdesk. Currently it can only run its helpdesk two days a week but has seen demand rise sharply over the last two months. In December 2019, it answered 58 enquiries, rising to 118 in January, and 232 in February. By mid March it had responded to over 200 requests for advice and information.
It will also use the money raised to help it purchase equipment to create webinars and learning resources for small charities, and to source where appropriate technical and legal opinions to help small charities meet some of the challenges arising from COVID-19.