FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions about coronavirus and fundraising

The pace at which the coronavirus crisis and responses to it are evolving naturally brings a lot of uncertainty about how to navigate it. We can’t tell you what decisions are right for your charity or your cause because everyone will be fundraising in different contexts, but we can offer some answers to the questions that fundraisers are asking the most.


1. Is it okay to be making fundraising asks at this time?

2. What do I need to know about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

3. Is furloughing only an option if an employee’s work is no longer possible?

4. Can furloughed fundraisers volunteer?

5. Can furloughed staff take part in training?

6. What do we know about funding from governments in the UK?

7. What other government support is there for the sector during the coronavirus crisis?


1. Is it okay to be making fundraising asks at this time?

Our causes and our communities need fundraising more than ever. It is only with the skills and experience of fundraisers that charities will be able to raise the funds they need to cope with steep declines in income and increases in demand for their services and support.

But every one of our supporters will be experiencing this crisis in different ways, to varying degrees, so it is more important than ever that our communications be honest, respectful, empathetic and appropriate for each charity’s individual context. Think carefully about who you are communicating to, what they might be experiencing, and how this should impact how you engage with them. Focussing on the experience our supporters have of our fundraising, how it makes them think and feel, is vital to help make sure they come through this crisis with you – perhaps closer to your charity than before.

Fundraisers are doing amazing work in the face of impossible challenges – pivoting quickly from campaigns that no longer feel appropriate in this new context, launching frank and urgent emergency appeals, developing innovative partnerships, and upskilling in, and adapting to, digital tools. We have seen that people, our supporters and the public as a whole, want an opportunity to contribute to the impact we make in this crisis - we must give them that opportunity. Fundraising empowers and inspires individuals to make a difference, so make sure your supporters know in no uncertain terms what their giving can do.

  • Listen to this webinar from the IoF Supporter Experience Group.
  • Read this blog on top tips for an emergency fundraising appeal.   


2. What do I need to know about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

The scheme is intended to help those employers that are struggling to pay staff because of coronavirus avoid laying off employees or making them redundant. It is open to all UK employers, regardless of sector or size – so this includes charities.

To qualify, employees become classified as furloughed workers (instead of being laid off), which means they are kept on the payroll but must not be providing services to, or making money for, their employer. The organisation can then receive a grant from HMRC to cover 80% of the furloughed employees’ salary (up to a maximum of £2500 a month, plus Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum employer pension contributions on that subsidised wage).

The full details of the scheme can be found here, but key things to bear in mind are:

  • An employer is free to top up the salary to 100%.
  • It applies to employees that had a PAYE scheme in place on 19 March 2020 (recently extended from 28 February 2020).
  • It can be backdated to 1 March.
  • If organisations receive public funding specifically earmarked for salary costs, they are expected to continue to use that funding for salary costs rather than furloughing staff. The logic here is that furloughing staff would simply replace public funding with a different source of public funds.
  • Furlough leave must be taken in minimum blocks of three weeks to be eligible for funding. This means that it is possible to rotate furlough leave amongst employees, provided each employee is off for a period of at least three weeks.

    Useful resources:


3. Is furloughing only an option if an employee’s work is no longer possible?

 “…your employer might be able to keep you on the payroll if they’re unable to operate or have no work for you to do because of coronavirus (COVID-19). This is known as being ‘on furlough’.”GOV.UK

“It is designed to help employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) to retain their employees and protect the UK economy. However, all employers are eligible to claim under the scheme and the government recognises different businesses will face different impacts from coronavirus." – GOV.UK

“…for those that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis.” – GOV.UK

It appears the scheme is intended to cover employers who would otherwise need to cut their payroll as a result of the crisis, either through lay-off or redundancy; but the Gov.uk guidance has been expanded to recognise the breadth of impact coronavirus could have. For charities, this might be because they have been forced to shut down certain operations in light of social distancing measures, for example charity shops, or because their income is severely affected by current circumstances.

While this scheme is helpful for some charities who need to wind back their services at this time, it does not work for everyone. Many services and functions provided by charities cannot be mothballed or communities and causes will suffer, and as the only substantial government support that applies to the sector, charities are under pressure to shut down roles and operations they still need in order to survive in the long-term.

HMRC have said they are able to retrospectively audit the scheme to protect it from fraud and erroneous claims.

4. Can furloughed fundraisers volunteer?

Yes definitely! But, unfortunately, not for the charity they were furloughed from, even if they were to volunteer in a completely different role:

“…when on furlough, an employee can not undertake work for or on behalf of the organisation. This includes providing services or generating revenue."

Naturally fundraisers want to continue helping their charities in any way they can, and many are wondering whether they can participate in fundraisers for their charity. For example, by raising money as part of their individual participation in the 2.6 Challenge. While the government likely did not have this kind of situation in mind when establishing the rules of the scheme, it certainly looks like this would fall in the above category of generating revenue. As previously mentioned, HMRC is able to retrospectively audit the scheme so there is a very real risk of invalidating job retention claims if organisations are thought to be operating outside the bounds of the scheme. 

That said, the government has expanded guidance to recognise that organisations can enable employees to be generous with their time and skills:

"Your organisation can agree to find furloughed employees new work or volunteering opportunities whilst on furlough if this is in line with public health guidance.” 

Although it is worth noting that there should be no element of obligation to employer-enabled volunteer opportunities. See this blog for principles to bear in mind when thinking about volunteering and furlough.

5. Can furloughed staff take part in training?

Yes. Gov.uk guidance has been updated to encourage this:

"Furloughed employees should be encouraged to undertake training."

Bear in mind that if workers are required to complete training courses whilst they are furloughed, then they must be paid at least the NLW/NMW for the time spent training, even if this is more than the 80% of their wage that will be subsidised. 



6. What do we know about funding from governments in the UK?

See here for details of UK government funding, as well as devolved support in the nations. 


7. What other government support is there for the sector during the coronavirus crisis?

Allowing Gift Aid on cancelled events

  • The Government will allow theatres and other cultural venues to keep Gift Aid for cancelled events. 
  • If an individual chooses not to claim a refund after paying to attend a charity event which was subsequently cancelled, the value of that refund would be treated as a donation and would therefore be eligible for Gift Aid if they have made a Gift Aid declaration.

Coronavirus Business interruption loan scheme

  • NOTE: Registered charities are exempt from the requirement that 50% of the applicant’s income must be derived from its trading activity. This exemption has been introduced as of the end of April.
  • The scheme is interest free for 12 months.
  • There are 40 accredited lenders able to offer the scheme.


Bounce Back Loans

  • NOTE: Registered charities are exempt from the requirement that 50% of the applicant’s income must be derived from its trading activity.
  • 100% government-backed loan scheme for small business to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000.
  • Loans will be interest free for the first 12 months.
  • The scheme will launch for applications 4 May.


Expanded retail discount scheme

  • 100% business rates relief (applied after charity rates relief) and is welcome support for charities in the retail (including shops), leisure (including sports clubs, museums, theatres and galleries) and hospitality (including charity holiday rentals) sectors.


Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme

  • To launch online on 26 May.
  • If your charity has fewer than 250 employees.


VAT deferral

  • Applies to VAT payments which are due from March 2020 to June the same year.
  • Organisations will not need to make a VAT payment during this period.
  • Remember to cancel direct debits if your organisation wants to take advantage of this!


HMRC Helpline

  • Any self-employed person or business which is having financial difficulties or outstanding tax obligations may eligible to get support from the service.


Self- employed support

  • Self-employed at eligible to receive up to £2,500 a month in grants for at least three months.
  • Eligible individuals receive a cash grant 80% of their average monthly trading profit over the last three years. 



If there are other pressing questions you or your charity have about fundraising and coronavirus, we have opened up our email helpline to all fundraisers, not just members, for the duration of this crisis. We can’t promise we’ll have all the answers, but we will try to support you as best we can. If you would like support, signposting or information, get in touch with us at policy@institute-of-fundraising.org.uk.