As if the current recession was not tough enough already for trust fundraisers, the threat to the Lloyds TSB Foundations and the winding up of the J. Paul Getty Jr. Charitable Trust sound an altogether more worrying note for charities that rely on trusts.
I know we’re all used to hype and exaggeration when it comes to funding threats, but what concerns me is that these well known funders may just be the tip of the ice berg. I say this because in recent weeks I have been hearing about smaller trusts, not in the public eye, which are talking of mergers or closures.
Why is this so worrying? Well, last time trusts were in trouble (2001-2002), they simply reduced their giving by temporarily cutting the number or size of grants. But they survived and were able to increase their giving again when the stock markets recovered and their investments bounced back.
This time it’s different. Yes, of course we hope that most trusts will just bounce back as before, but if we lose funders due to mergers and closures, however strong the economic recovery, we will find a reduced pool of funders at the end of it, which means fewer prospects and less choice of funders.
OK, in the mean time there may be a short lived bonanza as some trusts spend their capital – but is this short term binge worth the price of the long term impact? I suspect not.
I don’t want to spell doom and gloom here, but this is a phenomenon we did not see even in the 1991-1992 recession. Let’s hope the economic recovery, when it comes, creates enough wealth to support some new trusts! I think we’re going to need them.
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