[Kealie Mardell | Print Editor]
One in seven UK charities are struggling to survive, says a recent report released by the Charities Aid Foundation and the Association of Chief Executives for Voluntary Organisations.
Their survey of 572 charities showed that a third had dipped into their reserves to cover an income shortfall in the last year.
“Charities are resilient and do adapt to a changing world,” said John Low, Chief Executive of the Charities Aid Foundation. “But it is very worrying if a significant proportion of charities, especially smaller organisations, feel they are reaching breaking point.”
Charity chief executives cite their most pressing issues as generating income and achieving financial sustainability. One of the ways in which charities are tackling this is to team up with other voluntary groups or private companies, in order to cut costs and work more effectively, with 55% collaborating with other charities in the last year.
One source of collaboration comes from the student community. Carly Benton, Assistant Student Activities Manager at Hertfordshire Students’ Union, said that student volunteering and fundraising gets “bigger and better” at Herts each year. This includes student led projects and the student fundraising team, Raise and Give (RAG).
Carly Benton | Image by Kat Clements
“We’ve increased the number of challenges and international volunteering trips we supporting, meaning that more students get involved, and more money is raised through Raise and Give,” she said. In the last academic year, RAG raised just under £100,000.
Benton feels that there are “barriers” to student fundraising, as opposed to the struggles suggested by the report. She said: “There are so many charities out there so I could see how financial issues are a concern, but I think communities and high levels of support for charities will always remain, either from a close connection or a positive belief in what they do.”
The barriers faced by students who wish to support charities include time commitments, creativity in events and getting others to engage. Some of the most successful events organised at the university are the RAG Zombie Chase and Jailbreak, where groups of students try to get as far from the university as possible, without spending any money.
Jailbreak 2015 Winners in Morocco | @GeorgiaGinny
“I think it’s important for the students who are fundraising and volunteering to continually get the message out there about what the charities do and how money they raise supports them,” said Benton.
Taking a topical issue in advance of the General Election, the majority of chief executives said they were pessimistic about government support for the charity sector.
“As another General Election fast approaches, surely it is obvious that politicians of all parties must recognise and do all they can to support and sustain the work and value of charities which do so much to underpin society in Britain,” said Low. “Charities play a central and essential role in UK society, working closely together with the state at a national and local level to enrich our communities, carry out vital support work and deliver services.”
With many charities concerned about the British public understanding the importance of charities, Benton said: “I feel awareness is a big part of fundraising and charity work. If you can tell someone more about a charity so they go away knowing more than they did before, even if they haven’t donated, that’s a great step to keep charities afloat.”
For those who aren’t actively fundraising themselves, Benton suggests that they can support by donating, volunteering their time to help spread a charity message, or suggesting events and ideas for student fundraising groups such a RAG.
A full copy of the report, “Social Landscape: the state of charities and social enterprises in 2015,” is available on request from the Charity Aid Foundation.
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