Covid-19: The crisis in charities, and the response

Since the scale of the crisis became apparent over the last few weeks, we’ve been working hard to keep our members informed and to share what foundations are doing in response.

As part of this, we’ve been running a survey of ACF members. Our survey is still open but we thought it was useful to highlight the first responses now.

Firstly, it’s clear that foundations are acting quickly.

  • 92% of responding foundations say they are being more flexible about reporting and payment schedules for grants
  • 61% are already realigning grants in response, or setting up new funds
  • 43% are planning to allow grantees to convert restricted funding into unrestricted
  • 38% are inviting grantees to request advance payments to ease their cashflow
  • 22% are advocating on behalf of those affected by the crisis

We also estimate that foundations have collectively pledged hundreds of millions so far to help both those directly affected by the pandemic or indirectly affected, for instance with closure of services or loss of income, and there are further efforts to unlock philanthropic potential underway. Funding also includes research into coronavirus treatment and potential vaccines.

All this takes place against a background of severe cashflow problems for charities.

Charity sector bodies have made initial estimates that charities will miss out on over £4bn of income over the coming three months . The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s survey of their grant recipients shows that if the current situation continues, 37% of organisations who responded can survive for no more than six months, with 11% expecting to unable to keep going beyond the next ten weeks.

We know foundations are playing their part but the scale of the crisis for charities and community groups means that only the state can provide the level of mobilisation needed to meet it.

The devolved governments in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have announced some funding but nothing yet from the Westminster Government.

Losing so many charities now means not just losing essential services in the short-term, but also means losing the skills, knowledge and ability to sustain voluntary action into the future. The coronavirus pandemic’s impact won’t just be felt for a few weeks but for months and perhaps years to come. We need the charity sector now more than ever and we are backing the call for the Ministers to act quickly with new stabilisation funding for charities.

Richard Hebditch
Director of External Affairs

We support UK foundations and grant-making charities