Nobody was unaffected by the unprecedented events of 2020 and 2021. However, charities were hit particularly hard. While most sectors are now able to work on recovery, the uncertain financial landscape means that in the charities sector, there is no obvious light at the end of the tunnel.
Earlier this year, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) published its annual paper entitled the Road Ahead Report, which looks back on the events of the year gone by and the factors set to influence the months ahead for the charities sector.
Unlike the previous year, 2022 arrived with an air of optimism as far at the pandemic was concerned. However, its effects, and those of other macro events such as the war in Ukraine and inflation hitting a 30-year high are having their own impacts.
Let’s begin by looking at those economic factors. The exponential increase in electricity, gas and petrol prices has had everyone reeling in the first quarter of 2022. The new tariffs announced on 01 April combined with continued blocks on Russian oil and gas in the western world would suggest the coming months will bring little relief.
Escalating fuel costs hit households directly but also have a knock on effect on everything else as retailers put up prices to meet their escalating overheads. All these wheels in motion lead to the exacerbation of economic inequalities and more demands placed on the charities that provide help to those hit hardest.
It doesn’t stop there, though. As well as facing greater demand, charities find that donations go down in difficult times due to everyone needing to tighten belts. The fact that charities own operating costs inevitably increase is the third factor making this the perfect economic storm.
These are strange times culturally. The rise in social media use over the past couple of years has led to more opinion-sharing than ever. That’s never a bad thing, but some charities have found themselves pressured when opinion-sharing becomes opinion-imposing and viewpoints are represented or perceived as facts.
Charities are reliant on public good will to provide them with the resources they need to do what they believe in, whether it’s providing aid to thee terminally ill, training guide dogs or planting trees. High profile incidents, accusations and headlines can be immensely damaging to a charity’s reputation and therefore harmful to those it is aiming to help. Recent examples have included the National Trust “woke agenda” outcry and Nigel Farage criticising the RNLI for saving the lives of immigrants and calling the charity a “taxi service for illegal gangs.”
Charities have a duty to do what’s right and what they believe in. But it is vital to be mindful of public opinions and perceptions, and to be ready with damage limitation strategies in cases like these.
Despite the tumultuous world events all around and some harmful publicity of their own to counter, the government is reasonably stable at present and no general election is expected before 2024. Here, at least, there’s a clear and visible road ahead, and it is important that charities leverage all they can from the Levelling Up plan that was finally unveiled by Michael Gove in February.
To date, the NCVO says the vast majority of levelling up funding has been dedicated to what it calls “hard infrastructure projects” and more must be done for civil society. It’s a view echoed by New Philanthropy Capital (NPC). A recent report from the charities think tank warned that just two percent of levelling up funding has gone towards social infrastructure projects.
A positive future
These are just some of the challenges that the charities sector is facing in 2022. Clearly, there are difficult times ahead, but it is also important to recognize that despite the genuine hardships so many are continuing to face in these difficult times, about 37 million people in the UK regularly donate to charity.
That amounts to more than half the population. It’s a statistic of which we can be justifiably proud. Please continue to visit our blog pages over the coming months for updates on the topics we have covered today.