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Five reasons to be hopeful about the charity sector

Virgin Money Giving’s executive director Jo Barnett on how charities can end a turbulent 2020 on a high

Virgin Money Giving’s executive director Jo Barnett on how charities can end a turbulent 2020 on a high

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has hit charities hard. A recent report by The Chartered Institute of Fundraising and Charity Finance Group estimates that the sector is looking at a shortfall in income of £10 to £12 billion in 2020. “It has been a very turbulent year for UK charities,” says Jo Barnett, executive director at Virgin Money Giving. "At the same time, many of our charities have seen a real increase in the demand for their services. Be they food banks, mental health support, support for the bereaved or those suffering from cancer. So what charities are seeing is a real crunch between income and the level of support that's required of them." Despite the gloomy figures, Barnett believes there are causes to be optimistic. Here are her five reasons to be hopeful.

The digital opportunities

Barnett believes that the embracing of digital technology caused by changes in public behaviour since the lockdown could help bridge the gap in third sector finances. Deloitte’s Digital Consumer Trends survey carried out in May 2020 found that 42 percent of respondents were using video calls more in 2020 than in 2019, 38 percent had increased their online shopping and 22 percent did more online banking. Barnett believes that with the right tools and the right ideas, digital giving will also see huge increases. "The last year has shown us all how quickly the world can change and the charity sector needs to change with it," says Barnett. "We've spent a lot of 2020 working on new ways for charities of all sizes to embrace digital and hope they will help during this crucial time."

The young

"I think young people are really starting to step up and get engaged," says Barnett, who cites the innovative and engaging fundraising events developed during lockdown as one of the major causes for optimism. "Take the example of Run for Heroes," she says. "A 27-year-old lady called Olivia Strong set up a challenge in the spring where we asked people to run 5k, donate £5 and challenge five friends. £7 million was raised, and over one and a half million people, of which 70 percent were young people, took part." Barnett has seen other examples too, including 12-year-old Kobi from Swansea who did a virtual run to raise money to build an inclusive park for abled and disabled children and 15 children aged between two and nine who raised £35k by walking, swimming, running or cycling the equivalent distance from Lands End to their therapy base in Peckham. "Young people have really just got on with fundraising," says Barnett. "It has been really inspiring."

The Christmas spirit

Barnett believes that the sort of innovative, digital-friendly fundraising ideas we’ve seen flourish over the summer will be especially needed in the run up to Christmas. In an effort to help, Virgin Money Giving has created an e-book full of Christmas fundraising initiatives for charities. "We've got lots of ideas where you can be inspired by others," says Barnett. "All kinds of things people can do to really support charities and be quite creative in the way that they're doing it." Barnett mentions Christmas Zoom quizzes and digital Christmas cards as good examples. In an attempt to make such ideas achievable for even the smallest charity, Barnett oversaw the development of a simple e-card tool which lets charities create their own e-cards either by customising the existing cards with their own logo or uploading their own designs. These are then shared with supporters to send to friends and loved ones who donate the money they saved on cards and stamps to the charity.

New tools

Barnett also has high hopes of collaborations between charities and digital start-ups as another way of developing fundraising apps and extensions. "We've got two tie-ups that are quite interesting," she says. "One is with, where you can download the Ziffit app, and what that does is you can scan in your old books, old DVDs, old computer games, and convert them into donations to charities. And then we also have the Kindred app, which allows you to go online shopping, look for cashback deals for yourself then nominate a charity who will benefit from some of the money that comes your way."

The public

What Barnett believes in most of all is the ability of the British public to come good in a crisis. The incredible efforts of fundraisers such as Sir Tom Moore and Olivia Strong have shown that when asked for help, people can respond in incredible ways. "Christmas is the time of giving and about 18 percent of donations are normally raised in the month of December," she says. "And we don't want this year to be any different. So what we're really doing is encouraging people, young, old, big and small to do something. Charities need us to be supportive if we want them to be here to support us in the future."

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