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Tristan Blythe: What is the exit strategy for charities?

01 May 2020 In-depth

At the time of writing, there is no end in sight from the so-called “lockdown” that has changed the way we all live, and destroyed many charities’ income streams.

The UK government has extended the restrictions in place designed to combat the coronavirus outbreak. It has declined to give any guidance on how the restrictions will be lifted. Its argument is that doing so at this stage would send a mixed message to the public, which could lead to people ignoring the social distancing rules in place. However, it says that behind the scenes, plans are being made.

The counter arguments to this, are that some glimmer of hope will help people get through this challenging period, and that some signs of what to expect will help businesses and other organisations to plan to the resumption of their activities.

Many charities which have had to furlough workers and suspend activities will find that their services are in much need as restrictions are lifted. Meanwhile, those that have been working with skeleton staffing levels, will need to be ready to ramp up quickly. Across the sector, the ability to carry out face-to-face and event-based fundraising activities again will be vitally needed. Charities need to plan their exit strategy, but with no wider context this will prove to be difficult.

However, it seems impossible that the restrictions will be lifted all at once and a return to “normal life” will be immediate. This means that we can expect to continue coming to our doorways, windows, balconies and gardens to applaud the keyworkers and frontline staff every week for the foreseeable future.

During these dark times, it can be difficult to find positives. But, perhaps newly rediscovered and increased respect and admiration for NHS staff, and others working on the frontline, is one such positive.

Some of the public may have been surprised to find just how many of these frontline workers are working for charities. Charities provide vital services in the community every day, but sometimes this is not seen, or is assumed to be directly provided by local and national government.

Many people will emerge from this crisis with financial difficulties, health concerns and a feeling of being disconnected. They will need their communities and charities more than ever. That is a challenge that the sector will undoubtedly work hard to meet, despite the difficult financial circumstances it will be facing.

Tristan Blythe Editor, Charity Finance 

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