SCORES of small charities have warned the Government that without state help they could fold “in a matter of weeks” as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
In a letter published in Friday’s Daily Telegraph, the heads of 142 groups, most of whom work with the poorest and most vulnerable in the community, ask for a hardship fund in the region of £500 million.
They say that their work is threatened by the restrictions placed on movement, and the impact that this will have on their fundraising events.
They point out that 83 per cent British charities have an income of £100,000 or less. Analysis by the Centre for Social Justice suggests that a quarter of those with an income below £1 million have no reserves at all.
The letter states: “We understand the need for Government action to combat Covid-19. The Treasury has offered businesses immediate support. We are asking the Government to do the same for the charitable sector, with a £400-500 million hardship fund to ensure that small charities have a future beyond this crisis.
“MPs from all sides of the House of Commons are supporting our plea for help, and we are asking the Government to step in straight away.”
One of signatories, Dr Justin Thacker, National Coordinator of Church Action for Tax Justice, said: “An important part of the funding for our work comes from face-to-face meetings. Our team run stands at conferences and speak at churches. All of that has gone, and so like many other charitable organisations, we are facing a real pinch in our income and supporter streams.
“Obviously, there is much that can be done online, but giving often requires that personal touch, and this has disappeared.
“So if the Chancellor doesn’t want to see a collapse in the charitable sector, then support for them needs to be added to the much-needed assistance to the unemployed, those in the gig economy, and SMEs.”
Fr Nadim Nassar, executive director of the Awareness Foundation, a humanitarian charity working in the Middle East, asked on Twitter on Friday: “What will happen to charities? We haven’t heard anything about how they can survive. We’re a small charity, and if the situation continues like this, the result will be devastating for us and our programmes. We need answers.”
He said on Friday that, without aid, the Foundation would probably close by the end of April. A fund-raising event planned for May that would have provided about 30 per cent of the Foundation’s projects costs has been cancelled.
“No donations are coming in. Everybody is at home and the last thing they expect is charities banging on their doors or sending emails asking for money. But at the same time, we have projects to run, staff to pay, programmes operating on the ground, and organising expenses; staff have mortgages and expenses.
“Beyond April, I have no idea what will happen. On 2 April we have a trustees’ meeting where we will have to face the music. It is very worrying. It is very grim.”
WellChild, a charity for children with serious health problems, said it was “totally reliant” on fundraising. More than 60 per cent of its £3-million annual income comes from events. “The money we typically raise from events, now at risk of cancellation, is the equivalent of almost 80,000 hours of specialist care from a WellChild nurse,” it said in a statement.
Karl Wilding, the chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: “We need an emergency package for charities on the frontline of our communities. But this is not about the impact on charities: it is about the impact it will have on communities and individuals who rely on charities.”
He said that the Government should prioritise those that provide support services such as befriending or community transport, food banks and local homelessness organisations, and those providing care and support for older people and those with underlying health issues.
The introduction of formal social distancing, self-isolation, and quarantine guidance could also deplete Britain’s volunteers, on whom many local services rely. About 12 million people volunteer at least once a month, with the highest rates among the over-65s.
The crisis is affecting all charities, not just the smaller ones. Daniel Fluskey, head of policy at the Institute of Fundraising, said: “There will be a financial hit, and charities are already revising down income estimates for this year. No charity is going to be insulated from this.”
An Oxfam spokesperson said: “Sports events and music festivals raise crucial funds for our work fighting poverty and for other charities. However, we are facing an unprecedented situation and public health is rightly the priority.
“We are working with organisers of major events like the London Marathon to ensure our fundraisers are kept informed, and to help them adapt their plans where necessary.
“Those who want to raise funds for Oxfam could consider organising a virtual event instead or making a donation online.”
Mark Russell, chief executive of the Children’s Society, said: “Like many charities, we are concerned about our ability to raise vital funds for our work, particularly as we might expect more young people to need our help.
“The safety of our fantastic supporters, as well as our staff and the young people we help, remains paramount, so we will keep updating plans for fundraising and supporter events in line with government advice.”