Do Something New – Questions to ask when supporting a new charity

The reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic shows exactly how much philanthropy can achieve in the UK. We estimate that philanthropists have donated £400 million extra in the UK alone. Our surveys show that over 25% of wealthy individuals gave more than they had originally planned.

For both new and experienced philanthropists, COVID-19 is an opportunity to reassess priorities. People who were already suffering have been hit particularly hard, as well as new problems arising for others. Philanthropy can be part of a strategy to provide long-term support to help relieve this.

For all funders, the challenge is the same – responding to the COVID-19 recovery effort will mean giving more, and in new ways. It’ll involve asking tough questions to best support charities, communities, and wider society.

At The Beacon Collaborative, we’ve devised a set of questions that you can ask yourself and the charities you are thinking of supporting. They should guide your thought processes to enable you to give more, and give better.

Philanthropists should consider financial sustainability, fundraising strategy, collaboration, management, listening to lived experience and responsiveness when deciding how to give. But these factors have a different lens when applied to each stage of the recovery. We’ve divided the questions into survive‘adapt’ and ‘thrive’ stages in line with industry thinking.

Research by Pro Bono Economics suggests that small charities are at greater risk of closure in the next 6 months than larger charities. They estimate more than 50% of all charities expect to close within 12 months due to funding issues, despite reporting a 30% rise in demand – according to the National Emergencies Trust, over seven million people expect to seek charity help in the next year. While there are benefits to finding efficiencies, streamlining processes and restructuring, the charity sector needs funding to save lives.

This has thrown up a whole new way of thinking about risk and impact. Supporting the charity sector to be effective is now more important than ever. There are things philanthropists and donors can do to ensure crucial charities can surviveadapt and thrive.

We need to analyse if a charity needs to survive – what would happen to their beneficiaries if they were to close? If the result of this is catastrophic, then this charity needs short-term survival funding immediately. With 35% of charities seeing a spike in beneficiary needs, they must decide on a survival strategy. As well as this, 53% of charities have seen a drop in donations. For charities struggling to provide key services, unrestricted funding to see them through this period is essential.

COVID-19 has put extra stress on already struggling charities in some areas. Childhood poverty and domestic violence charities have seen increased demand during lockdown. Lockdown has also brought new challenges in mental and physical health. Ultimately, charities must adapt to the new landscape, and listen to the lived experience of their beneficiaries. If they don’t, they won’t be providing the best care possible. Those that adapt will need funding to strategise how they deliver services. This could involve amending how they deliver services or utilising technology. Donors can help in many ways. They could provide funding, support with change management, or support onboarding new technology. Stretched resources will mean that collaboration is more important than ever. Charities should be open to partner with others in the third sector, as well as in the private sector.

In the long-term, there are some charities whose work is so valuable that we must ensure they thrive. After adapting to the new landscape, donors can be strategic in their next steps. This may be through long-term investment, leadership mentoring, business planning, training and fundraising.

The charity sector needs to think in a new way to ensure it thrives going forward. It needs to be more resilient, more adaptable, and more targeted. Philanthropists can be a big part of positive change – as donors, advisors, trustees or supporters. As well as adaptable funding options, philanthropists can offer support and mentoring. The toolkit designed by The Beacon Collaborative gives guidance on questions to ask when planning for the future.

Matthew Bowcock, Chair and co-founder of the Beacon Collaborative said:

“Philanthropy is an important complement to private and public funds for the charity sector. This crisis has shown us that there is an unprecedented willingness to give, but donors need to know that their funds will do the most good for the most people. Now is the time to take calculated risk, as we support these most vital institutions through the next phase.”

To help new and experienced donors to arrive at these crucial decisions, we have created a detailed guide that reflects the questions they should ask both themselves and the charities that they are looking to support.”

Cath Dovey, co-founder of the Beacon Collaborative said:

“We already know that society will change radically as a result of the impact of COVID-19. The pandemic is having an impact socially, economically, and politically that is unlikely to be reversed. This is happening locally, nationally, and internationally. Just as other sectors of the economy are being re-shaped, the charity sector will also emerge from the crisis differently.”

Read next: Survive

Download our Do Something New guide here