More than 60% of charities have furloughed staff, finds survey

07 May 2020 News

Some 61% of charities said they had made use of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, according to a weekly tracker by Pro Bono Economics (PBE). 

The vast majority of those surveyed, 94%, expect the crisis to have a negative impact on their ability to meet their charity objectives over the next six months. 

PBE is conducting a weekly tracker to find out how coronavirus is affecting charities, and this week 126 responded to the online survey, which was live for 48 hours earlier this week. 

Nearly half of the respondents (48%) said the single biggest issue they were facing was the impact of social distancing on their ability to deliver their services.

Just over one in five (22%) said that the way in which Covid-19 had affected their ability to fundraise was the biggest single issue. 18% instead pointed to its effect on their ability to plan for the future.

Taking action

Nearly all charities said they had taken some action in response to the pandemic, with the most popular option being the government’s furlough scheme, which was used by 61% of those surveyed. 

56% said they’d reduced their activity in a significant way. Just over half (52%) said they’d sought funder flexibility on their spending plans, project delivery and reporting requirements. 

More than two in five charities (44 per cent) said they had drawn on their financial reserves. Nearly one in four (23%) said they’d applied for support from the government’s £750m charity-specific package. 

'Charities are in grave danger' 

Matt Whittaker, chief executive of Pro Bono Economics, said: “The charity sector is accustomed to working under pressure, but these latest results highlight the new pressures it is now having to deal with as a matter of course. The landscape has changed dramatically and there is little sign that the challenges are going to ease: rather, more than half of the respondents to the survey say they’ve grown more pessimistic over the last week.

“The overriding message from this week’s survey findings, and from the comments made by respondents, concerns the insufficient levels of financial support currently offered to the charity sector. Many organisations, both small and large, say they are in grave danger of falling through the cracks and that their long-term survival is at threat. Smaller charities feel that financial support is only being channelled to larger organisations, while larger charities say that there is a disproportionate – if understandable – focus on front-line services dealing directly with the Covid-19 crisis.

“It is clear that, if we want the sector to survive and to continue to make a vital contribution to society, these organisations need more financial support – and they need it now. Otherwise they won’t be in a position to help the people most in need as we emerge from lockdown.”

Next week’s survey will take place on 12 and 13 May.  

Civil Society Media is a communications partner for the survey  

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