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The Coronavirus Crisis – how charities need our help more than ever

The unprecedented nature of the Covid-19 pandemic means charities require our support more than ever.
Mark Greer, Head of Private Clients at the Charities Aid Foundation explains how we can all do our bit
Published on April 24, 2020

As I write in the thick of the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown, it’s near impossible to come to terms with the tragedy – the tens of thousands of deaths, the hundreds of thousands who have fallen seriously ill and the billions worldwide who find ourselves in lockdown measures that have wreaked havoc in the US and world economies. For many of us, especially in the first days, it was a struggle to know how to respond, how to help, even where to begin.

But after that initial shock, I have been inspired by the many people who have leapt into action, the ad-hoc community groups that have mobilized to help neighbors, friends and strangers in short order and the outpouring of support for our health care workers in all capacities.

The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) was established over 90 years ago and our job is to champion the role that charities play in enriching our lives and our communities. To that end, we support over 250,000 individual donors and 73,000 charities in 100 countries. I am proud to say that as the severity of the pandemic became clear, I can count in hours rather than days or weeks the time it took for CAF clients who I have come to know over the years to get in touch and to start asking me how they can best lend their support.

As a former ex-pat myself, I think that finding yourself far from home and family when tragedy strikes brings added worry, added apprehension. But it has also brought to us at CAF a host of clients who are firmly rooted in two great countries and who have a strong desire to make a difference on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.

At CAF, we offer philanthropy services to dual UK and US taxpayers through our CAF American Donor Fund. It offers a smart, tax-effective way to achieve greater impact with charitable giving and we have just celebrated our 20th anniversary. Some of the benefits include expert support, fund investment opportunities and the ability to claim eligible UK and US tax relief on all giving worldwide. For me, the best part of this particular story of trans-Atlantic cooperation is that, to date, the fund has paid $583m to charities worldwide. The main cause areas are health, arts and education.

Foremost in many donors’ minds right now is how to respond to the situation created by Covid-19. In the UK it has been estimated that charities will face a £4 billion ($5 billion) shortfall in funding. The coronavirus outbreak comes at a crucial time in the fundraising calendar and charities are being forced to cancel crucial fundraising events, staff and volunteers are unable to work and other services are affected by restrictions aimed at curbing the crisis.

To lend context, from March to May last year (2019) YouGov estimates that £435 million ($543 million) was donated to charities through sponsorship. The London Marathon alone (postponed from April until October owing to Covid-19) raised £66.4m ($83m) for charity – setting a world record for an annual single day charity fundraising event for the 13th year in a row.

This perfect storm coincides with charities reporting a drastic increase in demand for their services, especially those that help the poor such as foodbanks, debt counselling services and charities that help society’s most vulnerable.

A survey by CAF carried out as the lockdown measures in the UK began found that 4 in 10 (37%) charities said they would not be able to operate in their current form for six months without extra help – either from Government or elsewhere. A majority (54%) also said their ability to operate as they do now would be impacted within one year.

In the US, The Voice of Charities Facing Covid-19 Worldwide report found that 96.5 percent of respondents reported negative impacts related to the virus and 41.2 percent anticipated a drop of at least 21 percent in revenue over the next 12 months. Organizations in the UK, the US and around the world need donations now more than ever to ensure they can continue their vital work.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched an appeal for funding specifically to tackle Covid-19 across the world. It has been estimated that at least $675 million will be needed for critical response efforts in countries most in need of help through to the end of April 2020 with more required as the outbreak continues. At CAF, we have also created a UK-based emergency fund to help smaller charitable organizations affected by the impact of coronavirus. The fund will make grants of up to £10,000 available to those in most urgent need. It speaks to that need that after just one week we have had to pause accepting applications, as we received more than 5000 applications, requesting funds in excess of £37 million ($46 million). The initial CAF fund was created with £5 million ($6 million) but it is our sincere hope that the fund will grow and we will be able to assist as many small charities as possible to weather this unprecedented storm. Tax effective donations to both of these funds can be made via the CAF American Donor Fund.

Last October, which now seems like a very long time ago, we released the 10th Anniversary edition of our CAF World Giving Index, naming the US as the world’s most generous country. Consistently high numbers of Americans say that they helped a stranger, donated money or volunteered their time – a statistic that did not surprise those of us who have worked in philanthropy with American friends, colleagues and clients over the years. I have no doubt that Americans – both at home and abroad - will once again rise to the challenge and find new ways to help strangers, be they neighbors in our cities and towns in need of foodbanks for the very first time or distant strangers in less developed parts of the globe in need of life-saving health care treatment. In desperate and urgent times, donors want to effectively manage their wealth and make the most of their charitable giving. At CAF, that is exactly what we enable them to do.

Mark Greer is Head of Private Clients at the Charities Aid Foundation

For more information about the CAF American Donor Fund and CAF Coronavirus Emergency Fund, please visit: www.cafonline.org/cadf or email: cadf@cafonline.org

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