They have been affected by Covid-19, every bit as much as other industries. They have seen donations drop and, in some cases, the way they administer the care that they provide has been altered during this time. All of this has emerged off the back of the previous two years in which donations have reduced, following on from high-level public scandals.
All things considered, it is a rocky time for the charity sector. Donations will be in a state of flux for years to come, with the fallout from Covid-19 and Brexit set to stay with us for the foreseeable future. A bright horizon may be around the corner but for now, charities need to look at ways in which they can make donations go further. One key way in which this can happen is through the introduction of digital technologies that will enable business savings.
The story before 2020
Between the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2018, only 57% of the public donated directly to charities, which was a reduction on previous years. The number of those sponsoring someone also fell in comparison to the previous year and why? As with every problem, there can be many reasons as to why, but one of the key issues that emerged from the research undertaken by the Guardian was safeguarding.
Being required to consider safeguarding alongside the charitable sector seems, on the surface, to be an unbelievable consideration. To think of one of the purest sectors falling prey to safeguarding problems such as those seen in the Haiti scandal is against the spirit of charitable giving.
Charities care for those who fall through the gaps and need care. They conduct lifesaving research and make a fundamental difference to society. We believe that the vast majority of those who work within the charitable sector do so to make a difference. It is the few that spoil it for the majority.
As we all understand, no sector is immune to safeguarding concerns. It is the fact that when a scandal such as that which was presented in Haiti is brought to life against a sector that relies on donations, it stretches the trust of the public. This is something that the sector has been fighting hard against for the last few years, up to the start of 2020.
We are all aware of what occurred at the start of the year. A deadly outbreak of a new coronavirus strain emerged. It spread across the world, requiring lockdowns and people to spend the majority of their time indoors. It was and still is a challenging time for all of us and for charities it meant the reduction of donations.
Whether it is through shops not being able to open or collections not being able to take place, charities have had vital funding sources reduced. This is not to assign blame, as no-one is at fault. The world has suffered a sharp shock that will be with us for years to come.
According to the Charities Aid Foundation, ‘A third of charities had seen an increase in demand for their services since lockdown, while half had seen a drop in donations…’. This will inevitably have a knock-on effect on the day-to-day operation of charities across the country. They will be trying to help as many people as possible, but with less money available, there will be shortfalls.
The hardest-hit sector within the overall sector is medical charities. These are often the recipients of donations at funerals, with families looking to support those that have helped their loved ones. In the example of the British Lung Foundation, these types of donations usually bring in around £1m a year. Since Covid-19 and the reduction in funeral sizes, this income has shrunk to a fifth of its normal size.
With the nature of Covid-19, charities that focus on care for the lungs, such as Asthma UK, have logged a huge demand in services. This demand is linked to a loss of donations. We need charities to continue their vital work but against reduced numbers of donations being counted, something will need to give.
"There is no doubt that medical research charities in the UK will all be facing serious shortfalls," said Susan Pickney, head of research at the CAF.
BBC News, Coronavirus: Charity donations tumble at lockdown funerals
The future is cloudy but where there are challenges, there are opportunities. Donations to charities have fallen. This is nobody’s fault. Business models will inevitably change throughout this process, much like the dominance that the office has for employers. This is a time of change for the world. The Covid-19 pandemic has kick-started societal change and charities will need to adapt.
The change will inevitably bring about opportunity. This could cause charities to merge resources in ways that we had not considered before. Organisations bound together through common causes such as Asthma could merge. This would open up opportunities to share services and combine donations, which would offer the opportunity for more people to receive assistance.
Another avenue in which charities can look to invest in is technology. Today’s world has proven to all of us that digital technology is essential. It has helped to keep us connected in a time when distances have been stretched. For charities, it could hold the keys to creating essential savings that would ensure that donations go further and the most vulnerable remain supported.
How technology can help
For charities that offer care, digital technology can, in the first instance, move case management to the Cloud. This will instantly lead to savings for many charities that are currently utilising paper-based case recording. On top of this, it will showcase the work that the charity is doing to improve services. With a digital case recording system, the charity in question could provide instant updates to worried relatives.
By taking the use of technology further and looking at other countries, we can see how some have looked at care and invested in appropriate tech. AI has been met with nervous excitement in the United Kingdom, almost as though it would be tempting fate and the rise of the machines would soon follow.
In China, it has been embraced. Solutions such as smart beds that can monitor sleeping patterns, screens that can promote social interactions via Skype and other communications, have been embraced. China is unafraid. Technology-enabled care is seen as complementary to promoting person-centred care and making the best possible use of the care workforce. Applications such as these, when combined with an equivalent upgrade of the case management system, can save time and money. This long-term investment will ensure that donations can be pushed further.
Greater expansion of technology has enabled greater care. Accidents can be prevented before they happen. Motion detectors and AI analysis can keep an eye on residents and alert staff members when needed. This focused use of technology enables greater use of time, saving the need for additional staff members whilst also keeping those that are being cared for, safe.
In nations such as China, the investment has been made and now with the challenge that Covid-19 has thrown to the United Kingdom, the requirement is to act now. Donations have reduced and this will not change tomorrow. By investing today rather than waiting, those who rely on charities will not be left behind. Technology can enhance life for all of us. By investing today, you can make savings and charities would benefit in terms of being able to make donations go further and prove to donors that their money is being well spent.
Covid-19 is a challenge. The virus has kick-started change across the world and charities need to adapt. Technological upgrades can help to ensure that donations are invested wisely. Investments today will pay dividends in the future and ensure that those who rely on the services delivered by charities are not left behind.
The reduction in donations is not surprising as the global virus has hit economies hard. Families are being required to live on less with some losing jobs in the process. Charities through this have unsurprisingly lost donations which will drive business plans. Investments will need to be planned and the key savings that technology can bring can no longer be ignored.
We believe that through utilising the benefits that can be afforded through technological upgrades, charities can continue caring for those who are vulnerable. Nobody wants to see brave veterans out on the streets, or vulnerable children left to fend for themselves. What we want to see are wise investments that will go a long way to ensuring business continuity for an industry that gives so much.