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UK Charities “Teetering on the Edge of Collapse” due to Decreased Donations and Increased Demand this Festive Season

UK Charities “Teetering on the Edge of Collapse” due to Decreased Donations and Increased Demand this Festive Season
24 November 2020 James Brooke
  • Almost two-thirds of charities reported a decrease in income this year, averaging a 43% decrease per charity.
  • Over half of charities experienced an increase in demand this year, and 40% anticipate further demand over Christmas.
  • 60 in 1,000 charities consider closing completely, due to the pandemic.
  • Homelessness/refuge charities saw an 81% increase in demand since the pandemic, followed closed by mental health service charities (77%).

According to the latest report by leading match-funding charity, the Big Give, one in five (22%) charities would usually secure more than a quarter of their voluntary income during the Christmas period. But this year, it’s a very different story, as nearly two-thirds (63%) expect donations this year to be lower than usual.

Christmas is a critical time for charity fundraising, this year more than ever before

The Big Give saw a 24% increase in applications for their annual match funding campaign, the Christmas Challenge, which offers the public the opportunity to have their donations matched between 1- 8 December.

This year charity income was badly impacted by Coronavirus, as high street charity shops have been closed and fundraising events cancelled. The report, in which over 1,000 UK charities were surveyed, reveals that almost two thirds (63%) of charities reported an average income decrease of 43%.

And sadly, it’s only predicted to get worse, as the pandemic puts a further strain on charity resources over Christmas. Over half (55%) of charities have reported an increase in demand for their services since the pandemic hit, while two in five (40%) expect an increase in demand for their services over the Christmas period.

“We are experiencing a notable increase in the number of new people accessing our services on a weekly basis. Over 75% of service users reported a significant increase in levels of anxiety and isolation as a result of the pandemic. Whilst demand is increasing, we’ve seen a reduction in income and significantly higher costs in terms of ensuring Covid-19 safety measures are in place.” Reported Wintercomfort for the Homeless, a Cambridgeshire homeless charity.

Charities are using a variety of tactics to cope but thousands could close

Many charities are spending down on reserves (41%), reducing service delivery (24%) and restructuring (23%) to cope with the impacts of Coronavirus.

In addition, 60 of the 1,000 surveyed (6%), are considering mothballing or closing completely. Extrapolated across the sector, this could mean the closure of around 10,000 charities. Smaller charities are particularly vulnerable.

“We are teetering on the edge of collapse if we can’t raise enough funds this Christmas” reported a London-based child welfare charity.

James Reed, Chairman and Chief Executive of recruitment company REED, and Trustee of The Big Give, commented: “The disruption caused by Covid-19 is hugely challenging for the charity sector. We are approaching an alarming crunch point where many worthwhile organizations might fail for lack of funds. Now, more than ever, both charities and their beneficiaries need and deserve our support.”

Reed added: “Charitable campaigns, such as The Big Give’s Christmas Challenge, provide a vital lifeline for charities and this report clearly highlights why giving this year, no matter how small your donation, is more important than ever.”

Homelessness and refuge charities, and those supporting people’s mental health are particularly vulnerable this Christmas

While almost a third (31%) of charities across the sector have already experienced a “double whammy” of decreased voluntary income and increased demand for services since the pandemic, homelessness/refuge charities saw the greatest demand, up 81% since the pandemic hit, followed closed by mental health service charities (77%)

Tom Kerridge, Michelin-starred chef, author and TV presenter, who is backing this year’s campaign, through the charity Only a Pavement Away, commented: “Christmas highlights how important friends and family are and this year more than ever, the idea of not being able to spend it with your loved ones is sad for everyone. So, imagine being homeless, having no close friends or family to spend it with and that sense of loneliness on what should be a day surrounded by love. This year more than ever, the plight of homeless people is so important, and charity is key at this time of year.”

The net effect of Coronavirus has been a decrease in volunteering

Over half (57%) of charities report a decrease in volunteering since the pandemic, likely linked to the lockdown and the social distancing measures put in place. Only 14% of charities have reported an increase, despite community morale being at an all-time high, the circumstances of the year has made physical support extremely difficult.

Volunteering at Christmas is likely to be affected as well. The worst-affected sector this year is Cancer, with charities reporting an 82% reduction in income), followed by hospitals/hospices (79%), animal welfare (67%) and older people (64%).

“As our schemes require face-to-face contact with volunteers, approximately two-thirds of our current volunteers have been unable to volunteer over this period. Our greatest need at present is for new volunteers without underlying health conditions who will be able to volunteer and meet the increasing demand for our services.” Reported Open Homes Nottingham, who provide accommodation for homeless 16 – 25-year-olds.

Smaller charities are hardest hit

The decrease in income has hit smaller charities hardest, with the smallest (income under £100k) reporting an average decrease of around half (51%) of their total income. With those charitable cause sectors experiencing the largest drops in income so far, being Armed Forces/veterans causes, sports/recreation, cancer and older people.

Some areas have been worse affected than others, with charities in the South West (76%), East Midlands (69%) and Wales (69%) reporting the greatest reduction in income.

The report was compiled following a survey of 1,011 UK charities was conducted as part of research for the Big Give Christmas Challenge, the UK’s largest online match funding campaign. Since 2008, the Big Give has raised over £135m for charities through match funding. At a critical time for the sector, the 2020 campaign will support over 750 charities across a broad range of sectors, geographies and size.

This year, the Big Give Christmas Challenge has been endorsed by more than 20 celebrities, including Jo Brand, Sue Perkins, Sir Michael Palin, Tom Kerridge and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, to name a few, all of whom feature in the campaign’s official video –
For further information on the Big Give Christmas Challenge, or to donate, visit:

-Ends –

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About the Christmas Challenge 2020
The Christmas Challenge is the Big Give’s annual flagship campaign and is the UK’s biggest online match funding campaign; in 2019 the campaign raised £15.6 million. It offered the supporters of hundreds of participating charities the opportunity to have their donation doubled on website.

This year (2020) over 750 charities have signed up to participate in the forthcoming Christmas Challenge, exceeding 2019 which saw 589 charities participate. The campaign supports a huge variety of causes – from small local organisations to large international charities, supporting those that need it most including refugees, children, older people and animals.

The Christmas Challenge was launched in 2008 by Sir Alec Reed, founder of Reed Recruitment.

Match funding is provided by a range of philanthropic organisations, called ‘Champions’ including the Reed Foundation, Julia and Hans Rausing, the EQ Foundation, Candis, The Childhood Trust,and The Coles-Medlock Foundation.

One donation, twice the impact. #ChristmasChallenge20

Campaign video:

About the Big Give
The Big Give is a registered charity (1136547) whose mission is to promote causes and inspire people to give through, a crowdfunding platform for charities, specialising in match funding.

The Big Give features over 10,000 charities and has worked with some of the biggest names in UK philanthropy which provide match funding including The Big Lottery Fund, Cabinet Office, People’s Postcode Lottery, ICAP TP, Candis Club Magazine, EQ Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Reed Foundation, The Waterloo Foundation, The Pilgrim Trust, The Childhood Trust and others including high-net-worth individuals such as Julia and Hans Rausing.

Since being founded by the entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sir Alec Reed CBE in 2007, the Big Give has helped to raise over £135 million for UK-registered charities through online match-funding campaigns. The Big Give ran many cause-focused match funding campaigns, including raising £2.6m following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, £3.6m to support vulnerable children in London in 2020, over £1.3m to support the National Emergencies Trust Coronavirus appeal in 2020.

The Big Give has been awarded the 2015 Third Sector Award for ‘Best Charity Partnership’, 2014 Charity Times Award for ‘Fundraising Technology’ and the 2013 Digital Giving Technology4Good Award and was nominated for ‘Best Use of Digital’ in the National Fundraising Awards 2018.
The Big Give is generously supported by, helping to provide a cost-effective service for charities aiming to raise funds, philanthropists wishing to leverage their giving and individuals wishing to donate money online.

@BigGive /