As we enter a new decade, should charities prepare for the glamour of the roaring twenties or for prohibition and economic uncertainty?
With the usual caveat that it’s impossible to predict the future, here is a flavour of things that the charity sector can expect over the next few months.
Brexit. At last.
December’s general election gave prime minister Boris Johnson a large enough majority, and a public mandate, to push through Brexit this month. Whether you were in favour of remaining or leaving, the political paralysis of the last couple of years has made it difficult to make space for other issues.
In theory, once Brexit is done the government will be able to move on to other things that the sector has been waiting for, such as details of the proposed Shared Prosperity Fund.
But this will not be the end of it. Negotiating a trade deal with the European Union and others is likely to take up as much, if not more, political energy, so we may just end up with more of the same.
There will also be a number of practical issues for charities that operate in Europe, have European members of staff and receive supplies from EU countries.
Let the healing begin
Just about the only area of consensus in politics at the moment is that communities are divided. Politicians of all stripes have been promising to do more to reconnect with the concerns of those “left behind”.
Charities should have some of the answers here. Though making the case that volunteers are not the free or cheap solution may be slightly tougher.
On 1 January a number of charity leaders including Matt Hyde from the Scout Association, Karl Wilding from NCVO and Lynne Stubbings, chair of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, joined faith and culture leaders to sign an open letter calling for a "decade of reconnection".
Tough times ahead
But many charities will not be expecting an easy ride today. According to a Charity Bank poll released at the end of last year, 85 per cent of charities expected demand to grow, and at the same time, similar percentages were concerned about the future of grant funding and whether they will be able to sustain donations.
NCVO mark II
Last year was a big year for NCVO. It celebrated its centenary, and said goodbye to long-standing chief executive, Sir Stuart Etherington, with Karl Wilding ascending to the post. But 2020 could actually be a more pivotal year for the umbrella body, which is undergoing an in-depth strategic review.
NCVO's previous strategy period came to an end in 2019, and it began consulting on a new one at the end of last year.
Whether this will lead to any branding or name changes is anyone’s guess, but there have been hints that there will be some big-ish changes.
Abolition of the Charity Commission?
Theresa May’s former chief of staff, Nick Timothy, flippantly called for the abolition of the Charity Commission in a newspaper column.
Scrapping things is something that is much easier to call for than actually do, so it seems unlikely, but there is widely expected to be a shake-up of the civil service, and it is worth keeping an eye on how the Commission fares in this.
Similarly the future of the Department for International Development has been placed in doubt (again), and there’s no point even trying to guess where the Office for Civil Society might end up.
The end of pennies
Well, probably not. Every time it is mooted that 1p and 2p coins should be phased out, there are immediate concerns about the impact this will have on charity giving (which is actually not as big as you might think).
But it is clear that the consumer trend is moving away from cash and towards digital payments.
Contactless payments now make up over half of all debit card transactions in the UK, according to figures from the banking trade body UK Finance.
For charities that carry out traditional bucket collections now is the time to investigate ways to accept digital donations, if you haven’t already.