Looking back at my March blog, I realise how much has changed in just one month.
Brexit, which seemed so important then, has now virtually disappeared from the news – along with much else. Coronavirus is the issue – for page after page in all the main national dailies and on news websites.
Understandably we’re all concerned about how charities are going to keep going during lockdown – how to manage financially, and how to carry on providing their beneficiaries with the services and support they need. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the small charities which Minerva supports: most lack the reserves to carry on as normal when income from charitable and/or trading activities is suddenly cut off.
But in all our preoccupation about the present, what about the future post-coronavirus? And what should be we doing now to assure that future? Few commentators have raised this question; but one exception to this is Michael Wegier, writing in the Jewish Chronicle last week. At a time when many charities are laying off or furloughing, Michael takes a different view:
I am aware that there is some waste and duplication in our community eco-systems and this crisis will force us to enter long needed conversations about cost-cutting and mergers. But at this time of global crisis, our own employees must be as much in our minds as our beneficiaries.
The laying off, of hundreds if not thousands of people from the community network of professionals will have drastic implications, not just for their families, but also for the long-term flourishing of the beneficiaries they serve. We risk losing the skills and experience of people who have dedicated careers to serving the community.
However, keeping employees on during a coronavirus epidemic which no clear end in sight would surely seem a pipe dream ? Not so, says Michael:
“Now is the time for foundations with capacity to work together with communal charities to ensure that we simultaneously support the most vulnerable and also ensure the survival of our charity system….Additionally, major donors and foundations alike should communicate clearly with their charities that restricted/ring-fenced donations can (with agreement) become “unrestricted” and gifts that were due to be given later in the year will be given now.
Responsibility does not only lie with the major donors and foundations. Each of us who is able should make our gift to favoured charities now and not wait until later in the year. If you cannot give as much as you gave last year, give less.”
A small number of grant-making trusts have been pro-active in telling the charities they support that restricted grants can be used for core activities during the coronavirus crisis. But not very many.
We need our charities – especially our small, local charities – not only to survive the current crisis, but also to emerge strong and able to meet the needs of their beneficiaries. This will need planning now in parallel with measures to deal with the current problem. In this country government and industry were planning for peace long before the Second World War came to an end. We need to take a leaf out of their book.