Why Charities Have Always Been Better At Adapting

Why Charities Have Always Been Better At Adapting


This time next year…

What will a typical day look like in 12 months? Constructive examines why charities have always been better at adapting to new situations than their mainstream counterparts.

Say what you like about charities and NGOs, few can deny their resilience, especially the smaller ones.

Organisations who’ve culturally been able to find a ‘work around’; to ride out a lack of any permanent location, or a lack of consistent income will characteristically be better equipped to ride out lockdowns and pandemics. Long-term restrictions the like of which we’ve experienced since March 2020 are for the most part ‘business as usual’ for them, or perhaps ‘business as unusual’.

That said, no one has a crystal ball and the longer the situation continues, the more the past will become less and less relevant; less and less applicable.

New situations, by their very nature engender new behaviour. All of our ‘work arounds’ have quickly established themselves as standard practise and they will continue to evolve… rapidly, however long the situation lasts.

These changes, as they emerge will be permanent.

In the City of London real estate owners themselves are shifting focus, as they look to change vast quantities of office space into premium residential and affordable housing, depending on the postcode. This was already happening of course, but like so many other changes, the pace has greatly accelerated.

So, what could 2022 and 2023 look like?

Well, with what little foresight is available, not so different to now apparently. The sector has done what it’s always done and ‘just got on with it’.

If you’re an office-based worker, your daily commute will slowly re-establish itself, albeit unlikely every day as previously.

Which is just as well, as the price of public transport is unlikely to come down (sorry). In fact, the number of trains and buses may actually reduce, as those companies look to reflect a measurable drop in demand… and cut their costs accordingly.

I doubt we’ll see a sudden jump in the number of bikes on the road, though it’s not impossible. Local authorities won’t be investing in new bike lanes and traffic management any time soon… not that it was a priority before.

As for your office space itself, landlords don’t usually want empty buildings. So, if your lease is subject to a break or review, chances are you’ll find the agents and owners a lot more ready to engage in negotiation.

Really any ‘not-for-profit’ needs to embrace (exploit) this ready enthusiasm the markets demonstrate for being seen to be doing the right thing. For paying lip service to the support of good causes.

It’s not quite “the ends justify the means” but survival is an endemic characteristic of charities and staying focused on the main objectives is a critical feature.

Also, 2021 is no time for subtlety.

Those that have survived multiple financial crisis, war zones, unimaginable operational challenges, not to mention political interference are unlikely to be phased by a pandemic, even one on this scale. Rather many will expand operations. There will almost certainly be new initiatives established to meet the challenges of the post Covid period, along with a new, as yet unspoken narrative as to what everyone should be doing to support them.

Another feature of this resilience is arguably the way in which Not-For-Profits’ are far less impacted by media. The critical business of their daily activities is such that few make time to be distracted by the rhetoric and white noise of tabloids or on-line news platforms.

Which paradoxically, (depending on where you are and what you read) has actually adopted quite a positive tone, in recent months.

In the US the talk tends to be a general reserved sense of optimism. The Non-profit Times of New Jersey, reports fundraising to rise to over 4% in the latter half of 2021 and over 5% into 2022.

Similarly, the Charity Finance Group based in London featured a report after the government spending review in late 2020, which similarly suggests a better than 5% growth in fund raising forecasts for 2022.

Quoting the Charity Commission directly:

“The Charity Commission will see an increase in funding from £24.9m in 2019/20 to £28.3m in 2021/22”

Which of course has no bearing on either an organisation’s own fund-raising activities or indeed any relevance for those who don’t benefit or qualify.

Again, we’re reasonably assured that that’s most of the smaller ones, hence they plough on, regardless.

One detail that won’t have escaped senior financial people is the issue of grants and TAX.

In March this year, Charity Tax Group published a very important guide, on financial support packages and the restarting of grants.

It seems everyone is talking up, the next 18 months.

It’s not all positive of course. As of 28th April 2021, The Guardian reports that the Foreign & Commonwealth Office have announced a 66% cut in aid to African countries. A further cut of 68% has been announced for Indo-Asia countries.

It’s unlikely that all the NGOs combined could counter that deficit.

So, what will a typical day look and feel like in 12 months’ time? Really it depends on what you mean by typical.

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Resources quoted or referred to in this blog: Low Income Tax Reform Group, The Charity Commission, Charity Tax Group, Charity Excellence Framework, Charity Finance Group.