Tania Mason: The work that charities have done over the past year has been nothing short of remarkable

14 May 2021 Voices

G&L editor, Tania Mason, reflects on her experience reading through applications to the Covid-19 Response Award.

Last month I had the great privilege of reading through dozens of Charity Awards applications for the special new Covid-19 Response Award, supported by Rathbones. Judging this category was an almost impossible task, and not only because we received over 300 applications. The work that charities have done over the past year in responding to the pandemic has been nothing short of remarkable, and it was a real challenge for our small editorial team to pick a winner amongst the entries. In fact, there was so much rich content in the applications that I plan to give over a forthcoming issue of G&L to tell some of the stories.

You will note that the cover theme of this edition is how charities have been affected by the crisis, and researching the lead feature was a highly instructive exercise. It is clear that just as the pandemic has affected specific people and groups in society differently to others, so it has impacted charities in diverse ways – hence the ‘same storm, different boats’ analogy. Lots of charities have shrunk significantly and some, already in a parlous financial state, were scuttled early on. But not as many as we might have expected, given all the warning bells that were sounding this time last year.

Lots have been shored up by the agility and flexibility of funders. Others have stayed afloat by drawing heavily on their reserves. The prevailing consensus seems to be that the last 12 months or so haven’t been as bad for the sector as many feared, but also that the crisis is far from over and that charities are going to be navigating stormy seas for a good while yet.

However, this rather downbeat assessment overlooks the impressive way that so many charities have responded and adapted to the crisis. The stories that unfolded as I read my way through the Covid-19 Response Award applications were nothing less than heroic – really extraordinary tales of perseverance, innovation and collaboration. They left me feeling inspired and energised, and really proud of the sector. There is a reason that so few charities have sunk in the pandemic; it’s because they are motivated by their mission and their service users, not by profit, and so they will change course, trim their sails, tack into the wind and bail water endlessly to make sure their ship keeps sailing on.

As well as recognising the sector’s response to the pandemic, the 2021 Charity Awards will also honour the 2020 entries that were put on ice when the pandemic began last spring. The shortlist for these entries can be found on p9 of this issue. All G&L readers are invited to tune in to watch the Charity Awards live ceremony on Thursday 10 June.

 Details of the winning projects will be covered in the July issue and further stories of the sector’s brilliant response to Covid-19 will appear in a subsequent edition.

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