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Susan Pinkney

E: research@cafonline.org

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Demand is up, whilst income is down – how are charities adapting?

6 June 2020

Throughout this crisis we’ve been conducting short surveys with charities on a regular basis to help understand how they are faring. Early on, at the end of March, we asked charities whether there had been an increase in demand for their services, and 26% said there had been. Towards the end of May* we revisited this question and saw that worryingly, there had been a significant increase to 35%. This time we also wanted to understand the extent of this increased demand and discovered that for 6 in 10, demand had gone up by more than a quarter while one in four told us demand was 50% higher than before the crisis hit.

In other articles I’ve written since the beginning of the lockdown in the UK, I’ve commented on people across the UK having less disposable income and worrying about their personal finances. With this backdrop, it is perhaps not of surprise that more than half of charities (53%) reported a drop in donations when asked towards the end of May. Indeed, fewer than one in five charities (18%) said donations had increased.

Charities are therefore facing the nightmare scenario of increased demand at a time of reduced income. This is likely to explain why half of all charities surveyed (49%) said they had sought or received some form of emergency grant funding to get them through the pandemic.

We are, however, seeing that charities are trying to adapt to the current situation and I’ve been really impressed by the stories we’ve been hearing of how they are doing this, whether it be finding alternative ways of delivering their services or teaming up with other charities, businesses and civic partners.  When we last asked charities what changes they’d made to adapt to the current crisis, 4 in 10 (39%) said they had found an alternative or innovative way to deliver a service, and a quarter  (25%) reported that they had found a new way to reach their beneficiaries, largely by relying on technology to keep in touch.

Almost a quarter (23%) had adapted by refocussing the charity’s activities whilst 1 in 5 told us they had developed new collaborations with other organisations or groups of people.

So, whilst charities are facing a dreaded double whammy of increased demand and lower donations, they are trying to be resilient and adapt to the current situation, which is to their full credit given the pressures they are facing.

*Fieldwork conducted 21st- 22nd May amongst 416 UK charities

**Fieldwork conducted 27th-28th April amongst 438 charities

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