Article

A challenging time for charities

We spoke to four charities based in the Midlands about how they have been impacted by Covid-19.

| 5 min read

The social impact of Covid-19 is having a dramatic effect on mental health, financial wellbeing – and society is being stretched to the limits. It’s estimated that the third sector could lose as much as £5bn in funding – and whilst the government has offered some support – the impact will be felt for many years to come.

The long-term effects of Covid-19 will force many charity leaders to make difficult choices on what services they offer, fully aware that they have become an emergency service after prolonged austerity.

As charities adapt their service and business models, we need to ask ourselves what kind of society we want to live in and how society can help and support. Charities play a vital role in delivering a broad range of outputs that help so many walks of life.

Acorns Children’s Hospice

Toby Porter, Chief Executive

Covid-19 is the largest and most complex challenge we have ever faced at Acorns. It has increased demand for our services, while making it harder to deliver them safely. It closed our charity shops and rendered so many of our fundraising events and activities impossible.

The children and families we care for at Acorns are some of the most vulnerable members of our local communities. We quickly adapted our care service, providing long-term beds for children who could not be cared for at home, taking pressure off the NHS in the process. Our family service was re-engineered to support families remotely.

Financially, the fall in our income has been offset by our ability to access several Government schemes. The UK’s children’s and adult hospices received significant NHS financial support in early April.

We have had wonderful support from our local community, from philanthropists, and from many charitable trusts. It seems many of those individuals – and entities with the most experience and ability to support charities – took a conscious decision early on to do so even more generously than usual. The response to our mailings and appeals have held up well too.

Heart of England Community Foundation

Tina Costello, Chief Executive

In March this year, we knew that the way we worked was about to change dramatically, adapting quickly to remote working whilst launching an appeal to support our West Midlands communities.

Our own fundraising appeal raised £400,000 through the generosity of both new and existing donors but our ambition is to grow this to £1m to enable us to continue to support the organisations that have been a lifeline for our most vulnerable.

As the largest independent grant maker in the West Midlands, we have seen a staggering 187% increase in applications for support, since March 2020 we have awarded 589 grants totalling more than £3.4 million to grassroots groups delivering vital services on the ground.

We are working closely with our communities, ensuring our plans align with societal needs but as ever, we are actively seeking new relationships and donors who share our love of the West Midlands and want to see the tangible difference their investment can make.

Birmingham Dogs Home

Giles Webber, Chief executive

Birmingham Dogs Home has been at the forefront of animal welfare in the West Midlands for over 125 years. We operate from two state of the art rehoming centres to ensure that every dog in our care receives the support and affection they require to maximise their welfare, quality of life and potential to find a new permanent home.

We rescue more than 2,500 dogs annually; in 2019 we reunited over 560 dogs with their owners and found new homes for over 1,600. We receive no government funding and rely on the support of donors, volunteers and a dedicated team to look after the dogs in our care.

During the last few months, we have been adapting to a global pandemic. We recognise that there will be an increased demand on our services and expertise during the next 18+ months.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Simon Fairclough, Director of Development

The CBSO felt the impact of Covid-19 almost instantaneously: on 10 March we were forced to cancel a prestigious centenary tour of Europe two days before it began – and all other activities were suspended.

Much of our work remained impossible even when the economy reopened over the summer. Concert halls were not permitted to reopen until mid-August, and when they did so the economics of performing for 15% of a regular audience made immediate activity impossible. The schools and care homes where we normally work were unable to welcome external visitors.

Our recovery plan is structured around performing again as soon as possible, expanding our life-enriching work in the community and expanding our digital output. We have therefore launched a £12.5m fundraising campaign to support the orchestra’s recovery and renewal over the next five years (£4.7m has been raised to date), and we welcomed a £843,000 grant from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund.

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A challenging time for charities

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