Achieving more than expected despite the financial difficulties of lockdown

07 Oct 2021 Voices

Today’s case study from the Charity Awards marking Charity Finance Week, tells the story of how one charity took on more opportunities despite the difficulties of operating during lockdown

The Wave Project, a Cornish charity which works uses surfing and the sea to improve the life chances of vulnerable children and young people, took a three-step approach when lockdown started, its submission to the Rathbones Covid-19 Response Award said.

Firstly, it thought about how we could reach its beneficiaries while not being able to take them surfing.

Secondly, it looked at how it could deliver its service with social distancing requirements in place.

The third element was to conduct a financial forecast to address the financial risks to the charity from the lockdown.

On the first point, it told the judges: “We created a Wellbeing Guide to give them some tips and reassurance and circulated this via email and through our website. Our staff also came up with a series of activities that children could do during lockdown, and we compiled these into activity books, which we circulated weekly via social media and on the website.”

In order to address the difficulties of delivering its services under the social distancing rules, the CEO appointed a small team to research and develop a set of Covid-safe normal operating procedures (NOP) based on the latest government and scientific guidance. As the guidance changed, so did these procedures.

“We worked directly with our national governing body, Surfing England, to ensure that the NOP were in line with the wider directives about sports delivery, and also had them checked by our trustees, who brought their own clinical expertise to the new guidelines to ensure we could deliver our sessions safely,” the charity said.

To mitigate the financial impact, it placed 75% of staff on furlough – leaving four managers and one project coordinator who stayed on full time and worked from home.

This core team “liaised with our key funders and donors to ensure grants could be extended beyond lockdown rather than withdrawn”.

In addition, the charity looked to maximise income by engaging with staff and volunteers in fundraising activities that they could do from home.

New opportunities

Given the restraints and challenges lockdown created, any charity could be forgiven for not doing adding to its workload, yet the Wave Project actually took on a number of new opportunities.

This included bidding for and winning a £200,000 contract with Barnardo’s, funded by the Department for Education, to deliver “Wellbeing Catch Up” sessions for children affected by the pandemic. The charity also signed a partnership agreement with Cornwall Council to provide surf therapy to children once lockdown was over. 

Elsewhere the charity created  a new course called Surf To Work, which was commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions, and uses surf therapy to help young people aged 18-24 on Universal Credit feel more motivated and work ready.

“Throughout the lockdown the charity’s management team also worked closely with trustees to prepare contingency plans against different possible outcomes, to ensure we were as prepared as we could be against different eventualities,” the charity’s Award submission said.

“As it happened, we ended up achieving far more over the year than we could have ever expected.”

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