Covid-19 appeals at largest 50 fundraising charities have raised more than £60m so far

06 Jul 2020 News

The largest 50 fundraising charities have collectively raised more than £60m through their coronavirus crisis appeals, research from Civil Society News has found.

Since the crisis began in March, 28 of them have launched “emergency” or “urgent” appeals to respond to increased demand for their services as well as decline in fundraising income caused by the lockdown.

The 19 charities which agreed to share their fundraising totals collectively raised £63.5m.

Age UK and Red Cross held the most successful appeals

The £63.5m figure includes the Big Night In appeal, which was collaboratively launched by Comic Relief and Children In Need and raised about £37m. The government matched the figure pound for pound for an overall total of £74m.

Aside from that, Age UK and the British Red Cross ran the most successful emergency appeals so far. Both charities have been on the frontline during the crisis and saw significant increases in demand for their services.

Age UK raised more than £8m from a range of income channels, and is confident its final target of £10m will be reached.

Laurie Boult, fundraising director at Age UK, said: “Coronavirus put a spotlight on older people that catapulted our fundraising and brought new and impassioned supporters. We've passed £8m and we know that we'll soon pass our £10m emergency target.”

Boult also said the charity is looking to invest in fundraising and expand the team, in order to build on the appeal’s success. Age UK is currently undergoing a consultation on redundancies because of the lockdown’s impact on charity shops, and is expecting to lose about a third of its income this year.

The British Red Cross came second. Its appeal to support its frontline response to coronavirus raised about £4.5m from public donations. Corporate partners contributed with both funds and in-kind donations such as vehicle loans, personal protective equipment and hygiene products.

The charity did not set a target for the appeal. A spokesperson for the British Red Cross said that “we know needs are huge and will last beyond lockdown”.

Top 10 coronavirus appeals (£)

Other appeals smashing their targets

Given the uncertainties around income forecasting and the evolution of the pandemic in the next few months, many charities avoided setting definite targets for their appeals.

One that did was Cats Protection. Its #HereForCats appeal launched on 29 April with the aim of raising £450,000, but has recently hit £900,000.

A spokesperson for the charity said that the “warm” appeal to existing supporters performed especially well, and that the appeal united the fundraising ask with an awareness campaign aimed at preventing the birth of unwanted kittens at a time when getting cats neutered was difficult.

World Vision UK’s coronavirus appeal also passed its fundraising target, which was £300,000. Its total currently stands at £400,000.

The charity said it saw increased support from its donor base over the past few months, although the interruption of events and face-to-face fundraising activities impacted its ability to reach new givers. It also said that it is planning to resume face-to-face fundraising in August with a series of protective measures in place.

Imbalance between appeals and lost income

In most cases, data shows that while emergency appeals are a big help, they are unlikely to succeed in replacing the income that charities have been losing from retail, events and face-to-face fundraising.

Macmillan Cancer Support, for example, is anticipating a loss of 30% to 50% of its fundraising revenue this year. In 2018, according to the Charity Commission’s website, the charity made £213m from donations and legacies. Its emergency appeal launched on 24 April and has raised £800,000 so far.

Similarly, PDSA estimates an income loss of around £3m a month, and has now raised £350,000 from its emergency appeal.

RSPCA’s appeal total has passed £1m, but the charity is consulting on redundancies and is expecting a deficit of up to £25m this year.

Many charities are in a similar situation, although there are exceptions. ActionAid UK, for example, said its financial position is “holding reasonably well under the circumstances”, and is currently forecasting to miss out on 6% of its unrestricted income this year.

However, the charity also said that in the worst-case scenario the impact could reach 20% of income, and that it is seeing “a slight increase in cancellations from regular givers, which is a cause for concern”.

The charity also cited increasing difficulty in accessing funding from the Department for International Development (DfID), and some trusts and foundations undergoing their own financial challenges, as factors that could have an impact on income. Its emergency coronavirus appeal, which is looking to raise £18m across 20 countries, currently stands at £1.8m in the UK.

Different types of appeals

Coronavirus appeals vary hugely in style and messaging depending on each charity’s cause and work. Most appeals focus primarily on services, but some also mention the decrease in fundraising income.

Various charities in the top 50 did not technically launch an emergency appeal, but have still been asking for support from their donors using coronavirus-related messaging. For example, the Royal British Legion said it has raised £380,000 this way.

Cancer Research UK is the latest charity to have started a campaign of this kind. Launched on 1 July, the campaign is called Right Now and includes a television advert focusing on the impact of coronavirus on cancer research.

Philip Almond, executive director of fundraising and marketing at Cancer Research UK, said: “Our new campaign brings into sharp focus the threat Covid-19 poses to research into new and better treatments. Our message is clear; to save lives tomorrow, we need support today.

“Our mission to beat cancer has never been more urgent, and it’s only with the public’s help that we’ll be able to continue funding our vital work.”

Digital innovation

Charities said that key contributing factors to the success of their fundraising during lockdown were support from their existing donor base, and their fundraising team’s ability to innovate and adapt to the new circumstances, moving events and activities online.

Macmillan, for example, has now raised £535,000 from Game Heroes, its 24-hour gaming marathon fundraiser, which was scheduled for later in the year but was brought forward because of the pandemic.

The Alzheimer’s Society turned its signature Memory Walk into a virtual event where fundraisers are encouraged to walk by themselves or with their family. It also launched Cupcake Day, a virtual event that has raised almost £300,000 so far on JustGiving alone, with donations still coming in.

Tearfund raised £250,000 through The Climb, a fundraising challenge that encourages supporters to climb the equivalent height of world-famous mountains on their home’s staircase.

Finally, the Red Cross has been experimenting with TikTok, enlisted musicians including Ellie Goulding to fundraise through online streamed gigs on Instragram TV, and transformed its partnership with the Olympics’ Team GB in an online fundraiser called Isolation Games.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “We’ve found more remote and virtual ways to raise funds and stay in contact both with people who support us and those who need our support. 

“The constraints of lockdown have made us think creatively about alternative ways to fundraise, and it will be interesting to see how this changes fundraising across the sector in the longer term.”

The top 50 fundraising charities used in the analysis were identified using Fundraising Magazine’s Top 100 Fundraising Directors Survey 2019.

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