Over the last ten years charities have lost more than £3.2bn in grants from government. More recently, public trust in the third sector has plummeted. Accordingly charities need to work even harder to rebuild trust and demonstrate the value and impact of what they do.
Need is growing. Large segments of the population require support that goes above and beyond charities' mission of care. My organisation, In Kind Direct, runs a survey with its network of 8,000 charities, social enterprises, community groups and non-profits every year. Our most recent results show that 4 in 5 charities are asked to provide basic essentials to their communities because people can't afford them.
The simple story is that society depends on charity. Without local charities, disabled and elderly people would lose access to their communities, hospital appointments would be missed, community halls would shut down and children would be forced on to the street. The list goes on. We need to fight to keep our institutions open and ensure support is available to those who need it. Our communities function because of local charities and the UK would be a poorer country without them.
Yes, we face a tumultuous funding future whilst the impact of Brexit on the economy remains uncertain. But challenges are what makes our sector survive and thrive. Social enterprises and charitable organisations must go back to the drawing board and develop ways of winning back supporters, diversifying their funding strategies, quantifying their impact more accurately and improving communication of it to their funders.
With so much innovation and entrepreneurship shaking the sector there's cause for optimism. Here are just three examples that have caught my attention recently:
- In Kind Direct has recently started working with Sported which supports thousands of grassroots organisations which work in sport for development. Sported commissioned research looking in particular at whether participants were those most at risk of experiencing social problems, whether their methods were likely to reduce those risks and whether there were quantifiable cost savings generated from preventing those risks. The challenge for Sported was to find a scalable, sector-wide method of demonstrating the impact and value of sport for development work. The result was Sportworks, a tool which estimates the positive impact of sport for development projects against outcomes such as reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, reducing substance misuse or reducing levels of your people who were NEET. Sportworks has been very effective in demonstrating the benefits of shared measurement in a very complex environment.
- One of In Kind Direct's affiliates, The Recycled Assets Company (TRACO), has found a great way of generating revenue while training vulnerable youth by responding to a key environmental challenge for companies. They remove surplus furniture and appliances generated from office moves, repairing, upgrading and selling them.
- American not-for-profit Charity: Water is pioneering a way for charities to raise funds online. Through clever branding and thinking like tech entrepreneurs, Charity: Water has created an engaging, moving and visually impressive interactive experience for their online community encouraging donations every step of the way. They share mostly video and photo content and have developed a clever piece of technology that allows a donor to track their donation from pocket to project. To date they have raised over US200 million online alone.
There are many different ways of keeping a charity going and grants flowing through the doors, despite the tight funding environment. Engagement with your local community, technological innovation and social media optimisation are just some examples of how to stay relevant and generate valuable supporters.
Last year charities which are part of In Kind Direct's network saved an average of £4,400 each by ordering their everyday essential products from In Kind Direct - another smart way to stretch charities limited budgets. Money saved enables them to focus their limited resources on what really matters: their beneficiaries. To find out more visit www.inkinddirect.org