2020 – Good year or Bad Year for the Charity Sector?

The not-for-profit sector has been praised for being in the forefront of the response to Covid-19 but 2020 also saw several negative headlines where charities’ reputations took a bit of a dent, and there were also some significant issues for fundraising.  So, was 2020 a good year or a bad one?

This time last year those of us in the charity sector were thinking about the start of a new decade, new opportunities, and new challenges.  In this very blog I wrote about climate change and Brexit as being two matters which charities should be considering.

But as we all know, ‘the virus’ came along and fundamentally shifted our focus.  We have locked down, zoomed, and distanced in an unprecedented year.  A year which has changed our sector in fundamental ways.

The biggest headlines have been the cancellation of major fundraising events and the closure of charity shops, leading to lower incomes and resulting in cuts in personnel and services across the charity sector. Job losses have been indiscriminate, with losses from household names as well as unknown local heroes.  Some charities were protected by healthy reserves and timely government and donor support, but others have really struggled.

At the same time, the sector has been in the forefront of helping with food deliveries for the vulnerable, providing mental health support, and even now there are new charities springing up to support the elderly in getting to vaccination centres.  The year has proved once again that the UK is full of kind and generous people who are willing to give their time and money to support others.  A real public benefit.

There are always winners and losers but on the whole those charities which were well run and on a sound financial footing, while they may have been dented in the storm, will still be able to weather it.  We will also come out the other side with new and innovative organisations fulfilling new needs.

The sector has had its share of headlines for other non-virus reasons as well with matters such as the ongoing fallout from the Oxfam and Kids Company scandals still rumbling along.  There was also a major data breach from one of the leading sector data service providers resulting in charities having to explain to their donors that their data has been compromised.  The interesting thing to note about these negative stories is how the charities involved have dealt with the issues.  Some are stoically defending their position while others are open and transparent about the problems and seeking to resolve them.  Indeed, one charity which suffered from the data breach has enrolled all its regular givers (some 30,000 of them) onto a ID monitoring platform to flag if their data is used in an unexpected way anywhere.

Those charities who have suffered financially in the pandemic are on the whole not clamouring to donors for cash as they appreciate that they too have had it tough – again a measured response.

2021 is going to be a year of review, refresh and re-establish for the sector.  One thing we certainly know is that whatever happens, charities will be adaptable and ready to react to whatever is next on the horizon.

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