'If not now, when?' - Looking ahead into recovery

'If not now, when?' - Looking ahead into recovery

Daniel Fluskey | 5 May 2020

Daniel Fluskey, Head of Policy and External Affairs at the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, takes a look at the kinds of discussions, questions, topics that have been taking place as we look forward into the next phase of the pandemic, and what the Chartered Institute's role will be.

Nothing changes if nothing changes, right? We’re now over a month into lockdown and it’s around six weeks since big fundraising events and social gatherings were starting to be cancelled.

Charities and fundraisers are already thinking about what happens next – does this mark a fundamental shift in what we value as a society? What jobs are ‘essential’? What will be the future role of the state? What will it mean for charitable giving and fundraising.? As we pivot in some ways to look ahead to ‘recovery’, rather than ‘response’, we’ve been thinking with our members about where go next.

So, what are the kinds of discussions, questions, topics that we’ve heard, and what will we do?

  • What we heard: “The charity sector is in crisis – the financial loss and impact on services is huge. We need to be there, right now, and in the future, but need appropriate financial support from Government to safeguard our vital services and work.”


- We absolutely agree. So, we will:

Continue our work with other sector organisations to advocate for more funding and support. We are part of #NeverMoreNeeded and working closely with key partners NCVO, CFG, ACEVO, and others. The initial £750m was a welcome first package, but has to be just the first instalment, not the totality of government support. We won’t stop making the case. The Job Retention Scheme works for some parts of some organisations, but is not flexible enough.

- The initial estimate on future losses was £4bn (based on what organisations were predicting in the first 12 weeks). But we need more, and better, data to continue to make our asks credible and continue to inform government discussions, so will we be doing more research to better understand the impact and financial loss.

- The funding announced has to be allocated quickly to get to those that need it now. But we also need to ensure that funding is distributed fairly, and doesn’t entrench established relationships or decisions – that’s why we have signed up to the challenge laid out by #CharitySoWhite to call for at least 20% of the funding available to go to BAME led organisations.

At the same time we have also heard some organisations are seeing increases in donations in relation to specific types of appeal, or generally, mostly depending on the salience of the specific cause or need.

  • What we heard: “Fundraisers and charities will need help and support to get fundraising back on its feet when social distancing restrictions are lifted. We need the IoF to provide reassurance and advice.”


With it looking likely that there will start to be some easing of social distancing restrictions announced in the near future, charities will need to know when and how they can start certain areas of fundraising again. What we’ll do:

- Work with the Fundraising Regulator with the aim of putting out joint guidance on different areas of public fundraising about how fundraising can happen in a safe and responsible way, particularly in relation to mass participation events, community, public and payroll fundraising. Getting back to fundraising is more important than ever, but we will need to make sure that we put the safety and well-being of fundraisers and the public first and work to any official guidance published.

- Charity shops – it seems that retail, and some shops, will be among the first to be able to re-open. We are working with Charity Retail Association and others about how this can be done, and measures to be implemented for employees and volunteers.

- We will also promote and champion excellent fundraising across sectors, to government, and to the media/press. We want people to hear that it’s ok to be fundraising, that charities are taking appropriate and responsible steps, while being mindful that members of the public may well be nervous or anxious about elements of social contact.

• What we heard: “Fundraising won’t be the same. Once we’re through this crisis, our strategies, our targets, our teams, our way of working, will be different. We’ll also be likely to deal with a shrinking economy and possible recession. What will the future look like for fundraising?"

The impact of coronavirus is going to be here to stay, both in terms of changes of how we live our lives, but also on the economy. We will need to be thinking long-term about the future of fundraising. We will:

- Help our members be informed with relevant insight, guidance, and advice about what’s happening and the predictions of what’s ahead, including the vital insight we get from you

- Provide tools and support for organisations needing to change strategies, take new approaches, and work with their boards and teams to navigate through uncertain times

- Look at and try to understand the long-term impact on charitable giving. I’m afraid of the dead cat bounce (a brief recovery on the way to decline) - but we’ve seen remarkable acts of generosity and emergency appeals, for example in relation to NHS Charities Together, as well as events like #BigNightIn and #Twopointsixchallenge. I don’t doubt the generosity of people in the UK in giving to charity, but we really are in unchartered territory so can’t be complacent that giving will just come back to normal, when what’s normal has fundamentally changed.

• What we heard: “A time of crisis does also offer some opportunities. What new ideas can we be offering to generate more giving, maximise the value of those gifts, promote charitable giving across society, forge new relationships?"

There is indeed a chance to look at new solutions and ideas. There was a thought-provoking paper from CAF on what could be a ‘stimulus package’ for the sector, including changing the tax system, repurposing funds and opening up dormant assets. We also think that there is a need and opportunity to reframe how we see giving and the public policy that supports charities. So, we will be:

- Looking at measures to open up Gift Aid so it can provide new funding to the sector (including, making it universal so it can be claimed on every donation), as well as re-directing higher rate Gift Aid by default to benefit charities rather than the donor

- Secure match-funding at a much bigger scale. Match-funding is proven to work. Government has already matched funds through #BigNightIn. We need more match-funding, not as one-offs, but as embedded government policy to further stimulate giving.

- Recognise that we need to do more to ensure that the charity sector changes too. As our CEO Peter Lewis said, ‘let’s use this crisis to make a fairer and more equal society.’ That means not going back to how we used to do things by default, but doing things better, and in a more inclusive and collaborative way across the sector. The discussion started from Civil Society Futures must continue.

- Ensuring that we, as a newly Chartered Institute, build on the stark way that the importance of fundraising has been brought into sharp relief over the last 6 weeks, to ensure that government, partners and policy makers better understand and appreciate the fundamental role of fundraising in creating a better world.

There is a big job to do. And across the sector, it’s not just a case of having to change the tyres while the car is still moving’, but in the pouring rain, with a smashed smartphone, and one hand tied behind our back. But the future doesn’t just happen, it’s created through our actions and decisions. There is a different new future ahead than the one we may have imagined three months ago, but as a new Chartered body, and with the awe-inspiring commitment, innovation, and solidarity we are seeing from fundraisers and charities across the sector, together we can be brave, inventive, and blaze the trail we want to take. As Primo Levi said, “If not now, when?”

Daniel Fluskey is Head of Policy and External Affairs at the Chartered Institute of Fundraising

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