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07 Sep 2020 News

Covid-19 and the Scottish Charities Sector

As featured in The Scotsman.

The effects of Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown restrictions have been felt far and wide and the charity sector has been particularly vulnerable in recent months.  With the reduction in fundraising opportunities as a result of lockdown, the previous appetite for events such as gala dinners, marathons and a host of other fundraising activities has all but been extinguished. The future does not look easy for this important and valuable sector .

In our experience, uncertainty remains the biggest challenge for the sector – how will fundraising change? When can charities begin to deliver services again? How should organisations deal with staff in the meantime? And crucially what will the new normal look like for the third sector?

In a recent survey OSCR, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, found that 95% of charities have had to take some type of action to counter the effect of Covid-19 on their organisation.  78% have had to cancel or postpone planned work or events due to lockdown and one in five said that they felt there may be a critical threat to their organisation within the next 12 months.

That said, the charity sector in Scotland is resilient and often, by virtue of its key activities can respond positively in a crisis.  So what can you do to help?

  • Serve on a board – do you have skills that may be useful to a charity? If so consider applying for a position on a board of a charity. Serving as a charity trustee can be very rewarding and charities require a variety of guidance from marketing and HR to finance, logistics and project management. Interestingly, I’m aware of a number of people who, having used the lockdown period to ‘take stock’, are now interested in giving something back and being involved with a charity.
  • Volunteer – you could volunteer in a shop or to deliver food parcels, or you could look to utilise the skills you have to help with a specific project.
  • Give effectively – this may be as simple as ensuring you tick the Gift Aid box (assuming you are a UK tax payer and pay sufficient tax), however for larger gifts or legacies, consider if you want to restrict them to a particular cause or if you are content for it to be used by the charity as they see fit. If you have gifted previously with restrictions, consider contacting the charity with a view to relaxing these in order to help the charity through this difficult period. If you intend to gift regularly to a charity – please consider telling them as it may be useful in their cash-flow projections.
  • Support in ways other than financially – charities often rely on public awareness to help their cause, both financially and otherwise. Follow and engage with charities you are interested in on social media – it can really help raise their profile.
  • Partnership working – some of the most effective and meaningful projects occur when charities either work together or with businesses to deliver a project which is sustainable. If you have an idea, get in touch.

It would be naïve to think that the charity sector in Scotland is somehow protected from Covid-19 and its effects, but it is equally naïve to think that it will simply sit back and surrender.  My experience of those involved in charities is that they are committed and passionate about the causes they support and, as a nation we can engage with and support this.  It is important for us to take this time to reflect on how we can build a stronger and more resilient sector together for the benefit of all.

If you are interested in helping a charity, get in touch with them directly to see what help they need and how this might align with what you can offer – you may be surprised.

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