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    Managing the impact of COVID-19


Charities and COVID-19

07 October 2020


The charity and not-for-profit sector plays a significant part of our society, providing support to the most vulnerable across all aspects of life; health, sports, social, education, the arts. According to the latest NCVO Almanac data, the sector employs over 900,000 people and has a combined income of more than £53bn. 

In June, Pro Bono Economica estimated the sector was facing a £10.1bn funding gap. Since then, almost half (47%) of the UK’s charities have revised down their financial forecasts in anticipation of a tough winter ahead*. At the same time, as the health and wellbeing of people is of utmost priority, charities are facing huge increases in demand for their services. Combine this with the closure of over 9,000 charity shops at the end of March until mid-June and the cancellation of many key fundraising events, the resulting impact is financial uncertainty. 

In addition to the cross-sectoral economic support measures and the £750m targeted funding package announced in April to support the sector, the Secretary of State announced on 20 May that a further £150 million was to be unlocked from dormant banks and building society accounts to help charities, social enterprises and vulnerable individuals. Further, on 5 July, the Government announced a £1.57 billion support package for Britain’s art, cultural and heritage organisations.

This latest package includes:

It was also welcome news when the terms of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme were amended earlier in the year, so that charities are eligible without having to evidence that half their income comes from trading. 

However, there is still a gap. Few charities have cash reserves available to get through a likely three to six month (or more) downturn in donations and funding, so understandably financial viability and sustainability remains a key focus for trustees, management and beneficiaries. Our own research based on the largest charities also suggests that many charities are over reporting their reserve levels and may be less resilient than the accounts suggest. 

The resulting impact on financial reporting will be significant. To help you navigate and manage the impact on your charity’s reporting, we summarise some key areas for Trustees and Management to consider

Charities are encouraged to disclose the implication of COVID-19 in their annual reports. To assist with this, we have taken the Financial Reporting Lab of the FRC’s helpful guide for companies - which suggested that company reports should address the five key concerns investors may have – and adapted it for larger charities preparing annual reports under the SORP. We also include guidance on some of the accounting issues which may arise.

Many charities will include in their risk report the implications of a no deal brexit and of future waves of COVID-19. Our own research suggests that businesses consider the a second-wave of COVID-19 as a bigger threat to their existence than a no-deal Brexit.

As with all things COVID-19 related, things are fast moving. We will update our guidance periodically as relevant announcements, guidance, experience and best practice emerges.

Given the diversity of the sector, organisations will be affected to differing degrees. We have, therefore, only noted the Government or sector initiatives of more general application, so it’s always worth taking professional advice relevant to your own specific circumstances. 

We hope you find this guidance helpful and please do get in touch with any questions you may have. 

*Covid Charity Tracker published by Pro Bono Economics, in partnership with the Institute of Fundraising and the Charity Finance Group.  

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