Hundreds of smaller Northamptonshire charities facing financial ruin because of coronavirus

'The authorities have a responsibility to ensure our sector not just survives, but thrives'

Friday, 6th November 2020, 5:50 am

Hundreds of smaller charities in Northamptonshire are facing financial ruin because of the coronavirus pandemic with calls for more support.

Dwindling donations, cancelled fundraising events and limited grants are causing worries for 'micro' groups providing services to some of the most vulnerable members of society.

Experts fear these organisations face a 'slow death' with few reserves to fall back on and not enough grant funding to meet the demand.

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Northamptonshire Community Foundation deputy chief executive Rachel McGrath

Rachel McGrath, the deputy chief executive at Northamptonshire Community Foundation, which has handed out £1.8 million in grants since April 1, believes more can be done to help.

"We had a package of funding from the government but it's not enough compared to other sectors," she told this newspaper.

"I think that needs to be ongoing but funders need to be flexible and cover core costs and be mindful that small groups who relied on project-based funding also need similar help to continue.

"Because, when we come out of this pandemic, those groups will be responsible for a lot of community cohesion so we can't afford for them not to be there.

"Once you lose a group, you can't just start it again really. So the authorities have a responsibility to ensure our sector not just survives, but thrives."

A charity is considered 'micro' if it has an annual income of less than £10,000, while 'small' groups' turnover is between £10,000 and £100,000.

Many have been able to access part of a £750m support package released by the government for the not-for-profit sector - or some of a further £300m released by philanthropic bodies.

But many of the grants, charity leaders say, cover just six months of operational costs so the true scale of the crisis will not be realised until early next year.

While the cancellation of all participation events since March has seen overall donations to non-NHS charities drop by 46 per cent on Virgin Money Giving.

The Small Charities Coalition chief executive Rita Chadha said: "At the moment there is a fear about the long term because there’s just not that certainty.

“In the run-up to the next financial year we anticipate people will be asking us: ‘how do we let people go?’ and ‘how do we wind down a charity?’

“The real pinch point will be next year when these charities officially start closing. It’s a slow death."

Northamptonshire Community Foundation has committed to providing larger grants and to cover an organisation's core costs, as well as helping to buy PPE or cleaning materials.

Ms McGrath said: "We can't afford to lose those small groups as they ensure no one is left behind as they are able to reach the most vulnerable people.

"As a place-based funder locally, we want to ensure we do everything we can locally to support their work financially through funding and to shout out about those needs and raise awareness of their work, especially during a public health crisis."