Gala postponed over coronavirus as sector leaders warn of risk to charities' income

10 Mar 2020 News

Winners of the 2019 Dream Fund at last year's People's Postcode Lottery Charity Gala

A large event to celebrate charity work has been postponed due to public health concerns over coronavirus, as sector leaders warn of a “negative impact on fundraising activity”.

The People’s Postcode Lottery’s Charity Gala was due to take place tomorrow in Edinburgh, but on Friday the organisers announced they would not to go through with it.

Meanwhile, representative bodies have published advice for charities about how to prepare, and today wrote to the chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, with their concerns and to call for an emergency support fund

Government guidance still says events do not need to be cancelled, and most organisers are planning to proceed with them. At the moment this includes the London Marathon.

Both the Institute of Fundraising (IoF) and NCVO have advised charities to have contingency plans in place if things were to change.

Sir David Attenborough was to attend the gala

The People’s Postcode Lottery’s Charity Gala is an event that celebrates the work of charities supported by the lottery. Winners of the Dream Fund, which awards £3m for charities to fund their “dream project”, were to be announced during the night.

The organisers had previously said that the gala would be attended “by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and representatives of some of the 7,500 charities and good causes which have benefited from player funding since 2005”.

Sir David Attenborough was to be the event’s guest of honour and give a speech on climate change.

In a statement published on its website, the organisation said: “This year’s People’s Postcode Lottery Charity Gala, which was due to take place at the McEwan Hall, Edinburgh, on Wednesday 11 March has been postponed.

“The decision was taken due to current public health concerns relating to large events and travel.

“People’s Postcode Lottery will always treat the health and wellbeing of its guests and team as its top priority.”

Last year, celebrities George and Amal Clooney attended the event.

London Marathon to go ahead

A number of major fundraising events are currently going ahead as planned. Among these is the London Marathon, which is scheduled for 26 April.

The event brings hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets of London and raises six-figure sums for a number of charities. Last year, the marathon was completed by over 42,000 runners and raised more than £66m.

Hugh Brasher, event director of the Virgin Money London Marathon, said: "We are monitoring closely the developments relating to the spread of Covid-19 and noting the updates and advice given by the UK government, the World Health Organisation and other UK public bodies.

"The government’s current advice is that all mass events should still go ahead. There are many mass events scheduled in the UK before us and we are working closely with the DCMS (the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) and other mass event organisers to coordinate and agree appropriate advice to the public." 

IoF and NCVO publish coronavirus guidance

Both the Institute of Fundraising (IoF) and NCVO have published guidance for charities on coronavirus.

The IoF’s guidance, which can be found on the organisation’s website, says that while it anticipates that events will still go ahead unless official guidance changes, “it is sensible for each charity to review their plans, put in place contingencies, and provide appropriate information to participants/volunteers/attendees ahead of, and at, the event”.

NCVO also published thorough guidance on how charities can protect staff, volunteers and visitors and how to support vulnerable beneficiaries and communities. The guidance includes a list of helpful resources and advises to keeps plans for upcoming events “under review”.

Sector leaders call for emergency fund to help charities through the crisis

In a letter to the chancellor, representatives from NCVO, Charity Finance Group, ACEVO, the Association of Charitable Foundations, the Small Charities Coalition, IoF and others called an emergency grant fund to help the sector. 

They said: “The charity sector is facing serious economic challenges including the impact of local government funding cuts over many years.

“The coronavirus is already having a negative impact on fundraising activity and fundraised income around the UK, with event cancellations and potential travel restrictions looming.

“Fundraised income and trading income are the bulwarks of many charities’ business models. Disruptions to both represent real risks to solvency for many organisations, and more widely a loss of funds to invest in charitable activity at a time when they may be more needed.”

They called for either light-touch grant funding or interest-free loans to help charities that find themselves at risk of insolvency due to coronavirus and for the use of use tax deferment or waivers to help those with facing financial difficulties. 

They also said charities and social enterprises should be explicitly considered in “economic stimulus packages and measures offered to support the business sector”. 

Full list of signatories: 

  • Vicky Browning, chief executive, ACEVO
  • Carol Mack, chief executive, Association of Charitable Foundations
  • Emma Chaplin, chief executive, Association of Independent Museums
  • John Low, chief executive, Charities Aid Foundation
  • Caron Bradshaw, chief executive, Charity Finance Group
  • David Holmes, chair, Children England
  • Debra Allcock Tyler, chief executive, Directory of Social Change
  • Peter Lewis, chief executive, Institute of Fundraising
  • Jane Ide, chief executive, NAVCA
  • Karl Wilding, chief executive, NCVO
  • Rita Chadha, chief executive officer, Small Charities Coalition
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