COVID-19 Charities Fund
We were proud to be asked by the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland to deliver two rounds of the COVID-19 Charities Fund totalling £8.8 million in June 2020.
The NI Voluntary and Community Sector has played a leading role in supporting communities throughout the pandemic. Reports began to emerge about the impact of the pandemic on local charities in early April 2020. COVID-19 threatened the survival of the local charity sector at a time when they were facing additional challenges of helping people affected by the pandemic.
Following the UK Chancellor’s announcement of a funding package to support charities, the NI Executive agreed £15.5 million would be used to support charities to manage the immediate and severe financial pressures caused by the pandemic and related lockdowns.
The COVID-19 Charities Fund was set up to meet unavoidable costs for charities which had exhausted all other avenues of support and were facing imminent closure.
Eligible charities could apply for up to £75,000 to support them with financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic. The Department for Communities set out eligibility criteria which related to an organisation’s charitable status, their receipt of other Departmental funding, their financial stability pre pandemic and their current financial position.
Applications came from a wide variety of organisations and we supported 501 charities who were in severe financial difficulties. Charities that received this funding told us it helped:
- solve cash flow problems,
- gave them space to change their services and/or target new funding streams,
- provided them with the ability to continue to deliver services, saved jobs and avoided organisations closing.
You can read more about what we have learned from delivering the programme in our full report, but some key findings include:
- COVID-19 uncovered the precarious financial health of many charities – they were already in a challenging situation and the pandemic made this worse, particularly larger charities that relied on fundraising.
- A key thread that ran through the delivery of the COVID-19 Charities Fund was the fact that many charities had no reserves policy which meant that they were not prepared to deal with the financial fallout from the pandemic. This was a common feature for a lot of charities.
- The programme provided financial support at a point in time but didn’t address the wider financial challenges facing charities.
- Flexibility of funders was a lifeline but it is important that funders don’t revert to old ways of working. Multi-year funding is vital for NI’s charity sector.
In June 2020 the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland asked the National Lottery Community Fund to deliver two rounds of the COVID-19 Charities Fund totalling £8.8 million. Our report shares how the fund was administered and distributed to over 500 charities who were in severe financial difficulties.