Trussell Trust teams ‘creaking at the seams’ as need exceeds pandemic levels, says CEO

22 Feb 2023 News

Opening panel discussion at Fundraising Live 2023

The Trussell Trust has seen greater need for its services this year than in the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, its chief executive has said.

Speaking at Fundraising Live today, Emma Revie said the charity was struggling to support the wellbeing of its staff and volunteers, who were “creaking at the seams” during the period of increased need.

Revie said the charity also faced a fundraising messaging challenge as it aimed to reduce need for its services long-term but required money to support a spike in need in the near term.

‘More food parcels than during pandemic’

As part of a panel discussion, Revie said her charity has seen an “almost doubling of the number of people coming to the banks” in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

“And we we've had to respond to that,” she said. “We ended that year, having provided just over 2.5 million emergency food parcels.”

But Revie said the Trussell Trust has seen even greater need for its services this year.

“In the first six months of this year, we provided more parcels than we did in the first six months of the pandemic,” she said.

“So that’s the context in which our food banks are operating in, which we were seeking to generate the resource to respond to that.”

Support for staff wellbeing during a crisis

Revie said that amid increasing need for its services, the Trussell Trust’s teams were “creaking at the seams like I've never seen before, from volunteers on the front line in our banks through to staff in our central teams”.

“They’ve been doing this for three years now through the pandemic, through cost-of-living crisis […] and I can't say to them, that next year’s not going to be as tough,” she said.

“I’m actually having to say to them, it’s going to be potentially worse.”

She said it was difficult to encourage staff to do less when demand outstrips resource because they want to service the need that is there.

“Their want to respond to the needs is so deeply rooted because they’re cause motivated people,” she said. “It’s very hard to care for the wellbeing of cause-motivated people in a crisis.”

Revie added: “Doing complex work, developing complex narratives, complex compositions, in that context, is really difficult.”

‘Seesaw’ of ambitions

Review said the charity sat “in the middle of a seesaw” in terms of its aim to end food poverty and need for its services long term while trying to meet the high level of immediate need for its food banks.

She said the Trussell Trust had seen “an incredibly generous response to the cost of living crisis and the pandemic” from donors but articulating the charity’s long-term plans could be challenging.

“Articulating that, for our fundraising teams is really challenging, because you don’t want to tip too far either way, on that seesaw,” she said.

“We are focused on ending the need for our services, but paradoxically we are growing our services operationally all the time because of the level of need that’s coming in, and articulating that paradox to funders, particularly when we’ve had a huge increase in support over the last three years where people have come in.”

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