One in three charities ‘not confident’ they will survive the pandemic, survey finds

21 Jul 2020 News

Almost a third of fundraisers and charity professionals fear their charity might close as a result of the coronavirus crisis, a survey has found.

Blackbaud’s The Status of UK Fundraising report interviewed 1,990 charity fundraisers, CEOs and trustees, and found that 29% of them are “not confident” that their charity will be able to survive the impact of the pandemic.

Many also expect that their charity will have to make significant cuts to service delivery (32%) or to make redundancies (31%).

Decrease in income

The survey was carried out between May and June. Results show that while many organisations managed to mitigate the initial impact of the crisis, fundraising professionals expect charities to take a bigger hit in the longer term. A minority thinks the pandemic will actually help their organisation raise more funds than before.

When looking at the latest full financial year, more than a quarter (27%) of respondents saw income decline (up from 21% last year), 24% said it remained the same (up from 16% last year), and 40% said it increased (against 49% in 2019). 

Some 42% of those that saw their income decrease attributed the decline to the Covid-19 crisis. Conversely, 27% of those that registered an increase in income said the pandemic caused it.

Most organisations continued their fundraising through lockdown, but more than a third of respondents (36%) said they have been somewhat reluctant to ask supporters for funds. They cited worries over donors' economic situation (61%) or their health and wellbeing (40%) as main reasons for the reluctance.

Long-term impact

Asked about the main fundraising challenges the sector will face over the next three years, respondents listed “recovering financially from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic” (70%), the “economic situation leading to fewer donations” (69%), and “adapting to new ways of fundraising as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic” (55%).

Some 62% of respondents expect the crisis to negatively impact their ability to raise income, while 13% said it will have no impact and 17% think it will have a positive impact instead.

Respondents were split on how long it will take the sector to recover, but the majority (57%) expect it will take more than one year, while one in five (19%) thinks it’s too early to say.

Digital fundraising

Respondents expect a range of fundraising channels to be hit while social distancing remains in place. Unsurprisingly, the majority (65%) expect a decrease in fundraising income from events and challenges, but a third (33%) also think direct donations will decline, and one in five (21%) is worried about a decrease in income from direct debits.

Organisations are trying to respond using digital fundraising. Some 44% of respondents said they expect online donations to increase, and 76% of organisations have used at least one virtual fundraising initiative for the first time during lockdown. The vast majority of respondents (83%) also said their organisations are either willing or very willing to innovate and try new things.

The most popular digital fundraising channels included giving through social media (used by 66% of respondents), give as you shop (45%), online streaming of quizzes and performances (35%) and virtual physical challenges (34%).

Further research needed

Dan Fluskey, head of policy and external affairs at the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, said: “Given that vast swathes of fundraising activity has not been able to take place since March, it is not surprising that fewer organisations would report income growth this year. However, the extensive effect of Covid-19 on financials will only be fully reflected in future research where we can take a longer view. 

“Unsurprisingly the challenge that Covid-19 presents for charities and the associated economic cost are front-and-centre of people’s minds when thinking about the years to come.”

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