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Articles > Fundraising Ideas > 3 challenges facing charities in the UK and Ireland in a post-COVID world

3 challenges facing charities in the UK and Ireland in a post-COVID world

With an estimated £4.3 billion lost in income for UK and Irish charities due to the pandemic, the outlook can seem bleak. Mitigate upcoming challenges by understanding the risks and staying flexible.

In 2019, over 4 in 5 charity leaders stated that demand on their organisation’s services had increased over the last 12 months. Charities were in trouble before the pandemic had even hit, and the challenges they now face - critical underfunding and overwhelming demand -  are exacerbated by the creeping problems that had begun to show long before. Lack of government funding, people giving less of both time and money, lack of digital expertise, and an increased demand for charity services are all potentially existential problems that, aggravated by these difficult circumstances, are very worrying to a great number of charities. Here, we consider three of the greatest threats to charities, and offer solutions to help mitigate the problems early on, even with such an uncertain future ahead. 

1. Planning new ways to fundraise

With the lockdown restrictions having put a stop to many traditional ways of fundraising, such as mass-participation events, face-to-face collections and charity shops, many charities have been concerned about the prospect of digital fundraising, and with good reason: over 50% of charities stated that they do not have a digital strategy in place. But with no certain time as to when these traditional methods of fundraising will be available, it’s important to brainstorm how to make the best of your digital assets, however limited, to diversify your income streams during this time. Our prediction is that digital fundraising, in one form or another, is here to stay, so this has provided a good opportunity for charities to fast-track their online fundraising ideas.  

Planning a virtual event can seem daunting, but with 28% of charities already developing and carrying out various virtual events, now is a good time to test the waters! Inspiration from The Drinks Trust online spirits auction as well as impromptu hero events such as Captain Tom Moore’s 100 laps for NHS charities are demonstrating that an event that brings home the message of your cause paired with an exciting idea can be extremely successful. 

In a new contactless world, with fewer opportunities for the small wins like charity collection boxes, charities will have to work harder for donations. One example of a brand showing the way forward by going beyond the traditional donor process is Goodbox, who offer tailored donor experiences to bring causes to life. With donors expecting more of charities, and a greater need for fundraising than before, offering a real world connection that surprises and delights supporters is a smart way to bring the joy back into donating.

Another benefit of this situation is the record level of ongoing digital engagement, so bringing your story to the virtual masses has never been so important. Get comfortable with telling your story in a variety of digital formats, from a 280 character tweet to a webinar, and make sure your message is clear throughout. We’d recommend making the most of your social channels, and linking to your website, with easy and obvious ways to donate. Check out our social media guide to develop your digital strategy and make the most of this highly engaged audience. 

2. Offering services while working remotely

Many smaller charities were taken off guard by the sudden shift to remote working, finding themselves unable to provide the level of equipment or training required for their teams to function as effectively. The lack of investment in technology has hampered their ability to carry out their daily functions, and has brought to light how crucial tech is to any modern organisation, particularly those involving communities. 

However, it isn’t only smaller charities that have been affected by the necessity of working remotely; in many cases, charities are having to adapt the services they provide to keep their staff and customers safe. Offering their services in a digital format is a difficult task, and would have ordinarily been planned over a series of months, if not years. Despite this, there have been positive stories of charities changing their strategies overnight to keep thousands of vulnerable people safe and well, through telephone calls, online resources and new partnerships between organisations. 

Adapting your digital offering is very much dependent on the services you provide, but sharing learnings with similar organisations during this time will help you to develop your strategy faster and more effectively, and 47% of charities report that working collaboratively in this way has helped to accelerate their ability to offer services. Additionally, ensuring that you are using systems and software that reduce lengthy administrative tasks is key to make the most of your data, time and resources. 

3. Engaging with vulnerable people

With mounting health concerns, economies deep in recession and little advice on how to proceed with the new normal, there are unfortunately a much greater proportion of people in the UK and Ireland who would now be classified as vulnerable. This is a problem for charities, as they must identify those who are vulnerable through limited contact and react accordingly, while protecting the data rights of anyone who might be considered vulnerable.

Communicating with supporters who could be vulnerable may feel like a minefield for potential breaches of ethics, but as Jenny Robertson stated, recognising a supporter is vulnerable may not require you to close the conversation, instead she offers ways to continue communicating carefully. It’s important to consider your processes for recognising and flagging potential vulnerable people, including how to record on your database without breaching GDPR guidelines. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to add a quality assessment to a record, to help guide future fundraising interactions. 

There are also challenges when deciding whether to accept donations from potentially vulnerable donors, and again you must ensure that robust processes are in place to ensure all supporters are treated fairly. Check out the three step process for accepting donations from vulnerable supporters. 

Opportunities borne out of COVID-19

Despite the challenges that charities have dealt with this year, and those lying ahead, this situation has brought about an overwhelming sense of community spirit and unified urge to help those that need support for various reasons in our society. Charities should ensure that this doesn’t fade away, by providing simple ways to help and nurturing the new collaborative relationships that started to form throughout lockdown. This may pave the way for a community-led approach to providing care and services, which could ease the demand on charities' services.

With digital providing both the problem and solution to many of the challenges facing charities today, it has become evident that finding a system and processes that work are essential to the longevity of the company or organisation. Whether you need to take the first steps into virtual fundraising, or ensure that your database can provide you with the data you need to run effective fundraising campaigns, ToucanTech can help. Speak to a member of our team to help your community and fundraising thrive through the challenges ahead. 

Stats provided by The Charity Digital Skills Report 2020

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