Charities have been a staple of Britain for well over a hundred years. They have supported communities around the country through wars, financial crisis’s, extreme weather and in day to day living.
Each charity is doing something different to ensure that the lives of those who need support are being helped as much as possible. With that though comes with its own set of challenges and obstacles that if not overcome, could spell disaster for a charity and their beneficiaries.
Charities, like businesses, face huge amount of challenge every year and in an ever-changing world, have to keep up with what other charities are doing.
Charities and the challenges they face
Throughout the last few years charities in the UK have had to pull together to overcome a multitude of challenges.
From the turmoil that was COVID-19 a few years ago to the high cost of living more recently, charities have not only had to contend with challenges but at the same time have had to still provide the services and support to an ever-growing amount of people.
Cost of living crisis. As we have all seen, in the last couple of years energy prices have risen, food prices have gone up and petrol and diesel have continued to rise; all contributing to the cost of living crisis that is crippling the UK at the moment.
A lot of businesses and charities are still having to pay the same rates or higher rates on buildings, wages, energy bills and on goods than they ever have before. This means that not only are the general public losing out, but charities are having to also close down, relocate or refuse some people’s request for help because more money has to be diverted to keeping the charity going instead of towards beneficial work.
The cost of living crisis has also seen a sharp rise in people requesting help from charities, especially foodbanks. With the increased demand, many charities are struggling to find the resources to help everyone.
Reduced number of volunteers. Many charities have found in the last few years that the number of volunteers has dramatically decreased in all areas of charities, mostly though; in charity shops. British Heart Foundation found that throughout their 691 shops in the UK, there was a 27% decrease in volunteering levels.
It has also been found apparent that many people have stopped volunteering in activities that provide more face-to-face support. One theory is, people are needing to find the extra money to live and so a lot are forced to take up second jobs or freelance work alongside their main jobs. This is leaving no time for people to volunteer for a charity.
Volunteers are the backbone of many charities in the UK and without them a lot of the amazing work that charities do wouldn’t be able to be achieved. With the decrease in volunteering in the UK having an effect on a charity’s work, more resources are then taken away from projects, support or campaigns and given to running costs within a charity.
Charity fundraising difficulties. With the rising cost of living and rising cost of goods, not only has the increased need for charities played a part in overstretching already thinning resources, but the reduced amount of fundraising has also made things hard for charities. As mentioned, quite a lot (sorry!), more people are having to cut back on spending, including making donations through fundraising for charities.
Still though, thousands of people are fundraising and doing an incredible job at it, it is just lower than it has been in the past for the fore-mentioned reasons.
Integration of new technology. For larger charities, the integration of new technology such as AI (artificial intelligence) may not be such a challenge but for smaller charities who have to try and keep up with larger charities, it can be.
AI is being used more, some charities may find themselves unable to produce work, support and responses nearly as fast as charities that can afford to invest time and money into top-end AI systems. As the use of AI increases for more and more roles, some charities may find themselves at risk of failing if they cannot work to the same pace and efficiency that some AI programmes can offer.
That all may seem very downbeat but with these challenges, charities do have the uncanny ability to overcome and make the best out of what seems a bad situation, hopefully resulting each time in more people being supported and the charity increasing its reach.
Charities overcoming challenges
Charities are generally at the forefront of issues that arise in communities with many people relying on them so it is only natural that they aren’t immune to issues that arise in wider society. Looking to the future, charities must rise above these challenges to continue their work.
A few ways that makes it possible for charities to overcome challenges are by:
Working with emerging technology: By fully embracing technology, charities can reach a wider audience, offer online services, and host virtual fundraising events. Investing in technology and digital skills can help them not only overcome current restrictions but also future-proof their operations. Though some may not be able to afford the latest and greatest technology, the use of volunteers and donations here could help to achieve a stronger technological presence.
Diversifying income: Charities can look for new ways to generate income, such as developing social enterprises, offering paid-for services or exploring different forms of fundraising. They can also take advantage of digital platforms, if accessible, for crowdfunding or to attract both small and large donations.
Partnering and collaborating: By partnering with other charities, businesses or local government, charities can share resources, increase their reach, and strengthen their impact. Collaboration can also lead to innovative solutions to shared problems. This can also lead to longer and fruitful working relationships that will not only benefit the charity but also the community, if you can offer a service which will help to support public services through contracts.
Engaging volunteers: Charities can use digital platforms to engage with potential volunteers, providing flexible or remote volunteering opportunities. Recognising the contributions of volunteers, providing them with growth opportunities and building a community can also help attract and retain volunteers. The digital platforms used here don’t need to be the newest but can also be standard social media profiles. If charities can show that they are appreciative and the work that volunteers are doing are really making a difference, it will entice more to support the charity.
Communicating transparently: Transparency about the challenges faced and the impact of donations can build trust with supporters and the public. Regular, honest communication can also keep supporters engaged and willing to help. Trust, or the lack of trust in charities has been a large challenge. With trust in charities declining due to recent scandals in large charities in the UK, transparency and honesty is key to withholding public trust.
Engaging advocacy and policy making: By advocating for supportive policy measures and funding opportunities, charities can help shape a more favourable environment for their own work. Engaging with policymakers, local government and the public can also raise awareness about the causes they champion. The more that policies are in favour of the work a charity does, the easier it is for the charity to achieve their goals.
Increasing efficiency: Charities can look at ways to streamline their operations, reduce costs and ensure the maximum possible proportion of each donation goes towards their cause. This could involve anything from renegotiating contracts with suppliers to exploring technology solutions that reduce administrative burdens. This is especially important at the moment for charities as everyone continues to struggle with cost of living in the UK.
Charities’ next step.
What is the next step for charities of the UK? Some may grow, some may shrink and some may unfortunately cease to exist, but we do know that charities will continue to adapt to the challenges that arise.
With children’s charities reporting higher numbers of children requesting mental health support, it is likely that we will see them providing more resources into campaigns that support the mental health of children whilst addressing the nearly daily new issues that are becoming more apparent for young people and children in the UK.
From child addiction to vaping to the growing number of reports of online child abuse, children’s charities will either have to diversify what support they offer or concentrate more on just one aspect of support.
Animal charities have also found that since the COVID-19 lockdowns ended, people are increasingly abandoning animals that they bought to keep them company when they were cooped up in their homes. Animal abandonment rates have been on the rise since 2020 and rose a huge amount in 2022 by an increase of 24%!
The RSPCA have suggested that the cost of living crisis is also having an effect on people’s ability to care for pets so end up abandoning them. We would expect to see animal charities lobbying for stricter buying rules of animals and more stringent checks to be done to ensure that pets are only bought when the owner is fully capable of caring for them.
Apart from overcoming the more specific issues that charities deal with each day, we can expect to see that some charities will fully embrace new technologies such as AI programmes and a possible shift to working closer with other charities so the workload can be spread between organisations and more people can be supported.
With the emergence of new technology, which some will not be able to embrace, and the deepening living and mental health crisis in the UK, one thing is for sure, charities will be extremely busy again during the second half of 2023 and into 2024.