The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the charitable sector, and its prospects for recovery

Charitable giving Economic depressions Charities Not for profit sector United Kingdom

Major fundraising windfalls experienced by some charities – mostly supporting the NHS – obscure the dire situation faced by many others, which have been forced to cut back services despite rising demand, pause or cancel lifesaving research programmes, and make sweeping redundancies among their skilled staff.

Without urgent and targeted intervention, grassroots charity organisations risk being wiped out altogether. At the same time, public giving throughout the crisis risks being used as a stopgap to fill widening deficiencies in statutory provision. The United Kingdom is proud to support one of the most developed non-profit sectors in the world and is home to some of its most generous citizens. Yet, without urgent action, much of it will fail: at an incalculable cost to our society, and its future generations.

Key recommendations:

  • Urgently review existing COVID-19 policies and how they apply to charities, including rules which prevent furloughed workers from volunteering for their employers and by considering special status for charity shops once they can safely reopen.
  • Ensure that public generosity during the pandemic – particularly towards NHS charities – is used as intended, by clarifying guidance and actively prohibiting the use of charitable funds to provide statutory services.
  • Provide longer term investment in the hardest-hit charitable sectors, to prevent an irreversible slowing of progress – particularly in the field of medical research.
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