As we come out of a tumultuous period for the sector and as formal Covid-19 restrictions are lifted in the UK, there are a number of new challenges and, as ever, opportunities for fundraising charities.
With major flagship events such as the London Marathon suffering more delays, charities and trustees will need to consider how to fundraise successfully throughout the year.
The Fundraising Regulator has indicated that whilst the virus remains a serious concern, careful planning and risk assessments must be undertaken before carrying out any fundraising activity to ensure stakeholders remain protected. To that end, the regulator (which marks its fifth anniversary this year) has set out a framework to aid good decision-making:
- Keep up to date with and follow government guidance and any continuing or new restrictions (including regional or local ones) that are in place.
- Carry out a thorough risk assessment of all fundraising activity to identify the steps you will need to take to protect the public, fundraisers and volunteers.
- Consider the public mood and the attitudes of supporters.
- Ensure all decisions are thoroughly considered, carefully evaluated and regularly reviewed.
Charities will also need to consider additional costs with respect to lateral flow/PCR tests at face-to-face events as restrictions ease, and any other potential costs which may arise as a result of changing requirements.
A large proportion of fundraising disclosures are not being reported correctly within annual trustees’ reports. The reports contain too little information on areas such as who carried out the fundraising, what regulator code the charity has signed up for, the number of complaints lodged, how third parties are monitored and how the charity protects vulnerable people.
We are also noticing a trend away from just compliance in the trustees’ report. Many charities are using it as a fundraising opportunity as well; a chance to showcase impact and highlight any funding gaps. This element will be all the more important for charities which have struggled during Covid-19 and are now seeking to galvanise their donor base.
The report presents an opportunity to explain how the charity has adapted its’ work and operations to meet new demands. Covid-19 caused many charities to delay strategies and change their messaging at short notice, and the trustee’s report is a great vehicle to review those decisions in a more nuanced way.
We have seen a split between charities that find themselves in a position of reforecasting and communicating a worse-than-actual outturn and charities that instead struggle with reporting better-than-expected accounts as a result of government support and delayed expenditure. For the latter, there is the additional challenge of communicating a positive result while also predicting more challenging circumstances in the next financial year. For both types of charity, the balance of messaging within the report will be essential in order to convey reassurance and confidence.
Finally, as the models of fundraising events change, so too does the risk of charities falling foul of tax compliance, and charities must remember to review these changes as well as corporate agreements for specific events, how well optimised Gift Aid is and events’ VAT treatment.
Vikram Sandhu is director RI at haysmacintyre