The vast majority of charities expect demand to be higher next year while also expecting income to fall, according to the latest edition of the monthly Covid Charity Tracker.
The report, by Pro Bono Economics in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Fundraising and Charity Finance Group, surveyed 216 charities in November, and shows financial pressures are set to continue during 2021 with 75% of charities expecting higher demand next year, and 83% forecasting income decline.
The survey showed a dual source for the ongoing increase in demand: firstly, people turning to charities’ services for the first time, and secondly, existing service-users seeking more support than previously. 4 in 10 (39%) of the charities that reported an increase in demand this year attributed it to both these user groups.
Five fronts of demand
It identifies five ‘interconnected fronts of demand’ that charities have seen increase since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
A majority of the charities surveyed have seen long-term rising demand for their services, with many of the trends they were responding to pre-pandemic, such as homelessness and housing insecurity, intensifying this year.
The pandemic and its associated lockdowns have also caused greater demand, such as for technology to tackle loneliness and to support those with mental health problems.
It has also caused build-ups and backlogs with a quarter (27%) of charities cancelling services this year because they or their users didn’t have the skills or technology needed as a result of the pandemic and its impact.
In addition, the ongoing and accelerating knock on demand coming as a result of the worsening economic situation is also putting extra pressure on charities, such as foodbanks and those supporting people experiencing domestic violence.
Some charities are also anticipating extra demand due to others closing or their services folding.
Matt Whittaker, CEO of Pro Bono Economics, said:
“Charities have demand for their support coming from every direction, and it shows no signs of dissipating. Challenges that existed before the pandemic have not gone away. The fallout we see today in terms of isolation and mental ill health is expected to continue. Then there are backlogs to tackle, while economic consequences worsen. At a time when resources are diminished, it all adds up to charity crunch where need outweighs the sector’s ability to meet it next year.”
“As the government considers how to soothe the social scars Covid has created, charitable organisations can be a core ingredient of the balm the country needs. But the sector can only play that crucial role if ways are found to urgently inject more resource.”
Caron Bradshaw, Chief Executive of Charity Finance Group, added:
“Our communities are struggling with the direct and indirect impact of this pandemic and 2021 is expected to be another difficult year for many. Charities are the backbone of society and have proved their value time and again during this crisis. What Charities offer and deliver is essential to those people who rely on them.
“Our research shows that charities are seeing rising demand from both existing and new beneficiaries, while their capacity to meet that demand is becoming ever more constrained. However, more than two-thirds of charities say they expect it will take at least a year to see income levels return where they were before the crisis and we know it took them over 10 years to recover from the 2008 crash. Relatively modest investment to support charities to meet those demands now could make the difference between permanently losing what they offer– depriving generations to come – and preserving their services.”
The charity view
Eight in ten charities (83%) are braced for a continued decline in their income over the next 12 months, relative to their pre-crisis expectations. Just over a third expect their income to decline by more than 25%, while two thirds of charities (69%) think it will take more than a year to return to pre-crisis income levels.
Ian Redding, Development Director of charity Ashford Mediation Services, said:
“It’s going to get worse before it gets better. During the lockdown in Spring, the pressure on the communities we serve was building up like a shaken lemonade bottle. Neighbour disputes, family problems and child access issues weren’t resolved. Then once it was released, the top was taken off the bottle and exploded, landing in our laps. And with essential hubs like community centres closed, we’re just not getting the same leads we normally would so we can help nip issues like anti-social behaviour in the bud before it becomes more serious criminal activity.”
Shirley Scotcher, Director of Fundraising and Marketing at DeafBlind UK said:
“We support people with sight and hearing loss and whereas they usually are able to access face to face befrienders or our social groups, many of them are completely isolated now. They’re struggling to access to food, prescriptions and it’s affecting mental health. When your hands are your eyes, feeling your way around in a pandemic is incredibly difficult. So our members are coming to us more and more, for advice, support, and just a friendly voice sometimes. Where we were taking 300 calls per month, we are now taking over 1400.”
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