Post-Covid community: ‘We’re more in demand but not able to raise funds’

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Post-Covid community: ‘We’re more in demand but not able to raise funds’

In the first of a two-part series on how the pandemic has reshaped our community, Sandy Rashty looks at its impact on charities

Charity volunteers deliver meals to those in need during the coronavirus lockdown
Charity volunteers deliver meals to those in need during the coronavirus lockdown

There was a time when a charity’s annual gala dinner was the focus of its fundraising committee. Often, charities could rely on the lavish sit-down dinners to raise millions of pounds to provide key facilities for service users. But since the outbreak of Covid-19, charity leaders have had to adapt to survive. 

For Louise Hager, chair of Chai Cancer Care, the impact of the pandemic is “worrying”. The charity, which provides services for patients and their families across the UK, has had to cancel or postpone its fundraising events, which account for nearly 65 per cent of its annual £3.5 million target. 

“Normally our annual fundraising dinner would raise around one-third of our income. Other successful events like a concert we were planning and a ‘golf day’ have also been postponed. A lot of income would also come from celebrations, from people donating for weddings, bar and batmitzvahs – but they have also been put on hold. The pandemic has had an enormous impact.” 

For now, individual supporters have been raising money for the charity through bake sales, bike rides and social media campaigns. While a virtual fundraising dinner in Manchester raised £120,000 for the charity in June, there is still a lot more to do. “We are doing everything we can, but it is a worry,” she said.  

The charity has also had to adapt the services it provides for 3,600 patients and their families. Counselling services are being held online and the charity intends to resume home visits, but it is expecting to see a surge in demand for its services. 

“Not only do we need to carry on supporting existing clients, but sadly we know there will be more people who need significant input because diagnosis and treatment has been delayed,” she said. “A lot of support will be needed.”  

Charities have reported a surge in demand

For larger communal organisations like Norwood, which supports children, families and people with learning disabilities, the pandemic has also had an impact. According to a charity spokesperson, it has “suffered from the double hit of loss of fundraising income at the same time as facing increased costs due to Covid-19”. While the charity is looking to adapt with digital fundraisers, it is projecting a £3million loss this year despite ongoing grants from trusts, foundations and communal organisations.  

“There can be a tendency to feel that the large charities like Norwood can manage… but the truth is we are totally reliant on support from the community to continue our vital services.” 

Still, Norwood has seen a 200-person surge in volunteers who have helped prepare and deliver meals to service users every week. And many services have been held on online forums like Zoom, Whats-App and Facebook – an element that may continue in the future “even when this is no longer a necessity due to Covid-19”.

As a result of lockdown, there has been an increase in demand for Norwood’s children and family services, she said.  “But we know that the real increase will come as restrictions ease and people emerge from what is for some, the trauma of lockdown. 

“We already have programmes in place to help the parents and children who are transitioning from nursery to school as they have missed out on activities that would have usually prepared them for this major milestone,” she said, adding that the charity was working with more than 40 schools on this initiative. 

Likewise, Jewish Care has seen a significant impact on its services since the pandemic struck. With care homes for the elderly and vulnerable across the country, the charity went into lockdown a week before it was formally imposed in March. 

Charities have reported a surge in demand

With 3,600 volunteers – a 20 per cent increase since the outbreak – the charity has been able to boost services offered to people affected by the pandemic, including the delivery of 16,000 ‘Meals on Wheels’, telephone support services, the provision of iPads for service users and the ongoing running of its helpline, which has had 40 per cent more enquiries since lockdown. 

But with the surge in demand for its service and the loss of large gatherings for fundraisers, the charity has had to turn to digital gathering to raise money for its services. While a recent virtual ‘business breakfast’ event raised more than £8,000 for the charity – it doesn’t compare to the pre-lockdown fundraisers: a business breakfast with Sajid Javid in February raised £70,000 for the organisation. 

A Jewish Care spokesperson said: “Whilst the pandemic has meant that we have had to adapt, we will continue to provide as full a service as possible for those who need us and we are incredibly grateful to those who have come forward to volunteer and support the community during this time.”

For UK charities fundraising for organisations in Israel, the impact has also been clear. Gaby Blauer, executive director of food poverty charity Manna UK, said the demand for services in Israel has surged, describing it as an “emergency situation”. 

Supporting five food centres across Israel and Meals on Wheels deliveries to people in need, he said the surge in demand was not matched by funds. “As a huge portion of our income in the UK comes from fundraising events which have been cancelled, we had to adopt new techniques,” Blauer said.  Zoom cookery classes have raised £5,000 while social media campaigns have raised £10,000. He is expecting “a very busy year ahead”. 


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