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Research shows COVID challenges for Scottish charities

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Scottish charities have made a significant contribution to Scotland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. From national organisations to local voluntary groups, charities have often led the way in connecting communities and helping those who need the most support as our lives have been turned upside down over the past year.

The results from our first COVID-19 impact survey in May 2020 set out how the experience of Scotland’s diverse charity sector differed across different groups. When we surveyed Scotland’s charities again in November 2020, our findings were stark.

Today, we are releasing the full data from this survey so we can help others understand the challenges charities are currently facing.  Charities are concerned about the people they support, the continued disruption of their services, and the income they have lost since the start of this global crisis.

Our November research clarified the impact of the pandemic further, telling us:

  • Small charities are more likely to have stopped operating than larger charities.

Nearly one in five charities (18%) had suspended all operations but this figure rose to over one in four (27%) for smaller charities whose annual income is less than £25,000. Less than one in twenty (4%) charities whose annual income is £100,000 or more had suspended all operations

  • Larger charities are more likely to have suspended some of their operations.

Around two fifths (39%) of all charities had suspended some operations, but this was 50% of charities with income of £100,000 or more, compared to 24% of charities with income under £2,000

  • Larger charities and those supporting older people, people with disabilities and people with mental health issues had their services most disrupted.

A third of charities (33%) reported disruption of services to beneficiaries, but this was reported by 54% of charities with 11 or more employees, 50% of mental health charities and 49% of social care charities working with older people and people with disabilities

  • Four out of five (79%) charities who receive income from donations and fundraising have seen a decrease in income.

Older charities and religious charities were most impacted by this decrease, which affected 87% of charities established for 50 years or more and 85% of religion and belief charities

  • Similarly, over four out of five charities which relied on trading income have reported a decrease in this type of income over the pandemic

Lower trading income was seen by 83% of charities with this income source. This was 88% for charities in the culture and arts sector and sports and recreation sector.  90% of charities established for 50 years or more experienced decreased income from trading.

This situation has resulted in a deteriorating financial situation for charities across Scotland, with 83% now reporting a threat to their financial viability in the next two years. For 12% of charities, the threat is critical - and this figure rises to 18% for mental health charities and social care charities working with children and families.

Over the coming weeks we will be publishing detailed additional analysis from the survey which will explore some of the key challenges in more depth.

Scotland’s charities have demonstrated resilience throughout this public health crisis, and many have continued to provide essential services to those in need. Our research shows that many now face significant financial challenges if they’re to continue this essential work when we start to rebuild and recover in 2021. I hope that by releasing the full data from our research, sector leaders and policy makers can begin to take the steps required to ensure a more stable future for this vital sector.