Lifting lockdown: What you need to be thinking about

20 April 2021
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The Chartered Institute’s Head of Policy and External Affairs Daniel Fluskey looks at where we are as many fundraising activities make a welcome return, following the government’s most recent announcements, and runs through what charities need to be thinking about as restrictions ease.

Alongside haircuts and pub gardens returning last week in England (I’ve had neither, which seems ironic given that I’ve never been more sober, and yet never looked less so), there was also the really welcome return of public fundraising and a clearer timeframe set out for the community and events fundraising. Coupled with some spring sunshine, it feels like the parts of fundraising that were in enforced hibernation are starting now to be able to wake up again and put in place plans and activity for the weeks and months ahead.

(I know for some of our members this feeling may not be shared all across the UK – as at the moment this is specific to England where the roadmap and stages of easing lockdown restrictions have been set out earlier. We are in contact with other national Governments to try to get the same clarity over return of fundraising all across the UK.)

Like the line from Ernest Hemingway about how bankruptcy happens ‘gradually, and then all of a sudden’ when things start really moving after a long period of pause or suspension, sometimes you can start to suddenly think that things have changed in a matter of days and that you’ve missed what’s been going on. So, while there are things that we at the Chartered Institute have been working on for months around this, I thought it would be useful to just run through where we are, what’s happened, and what’s next:

We are really pleased that we were able, alongside the Fundraising Regulator, to work with government over the previous months to ensure that fundraising was included in the stages of easing lockdown. This meant that ahead of Stage 2 of the easing of restrictions, there was public clarity and reassurance that public fundraising could resume, and some very welcome words from the Minister of Civil Society about the importance of people supporting charities at this time. To accompany this return, we have also been working with the Fundraising Regulator to update and publish refreshed guidance on public fundraising to help support those going back out and interacting with the public safely.

While it was great to get the clarity for England, that does not leave people asking questions about where it leaves them in terms of returning to public fundraising in other UK nations. It has always been our working assumption that it is a reasonable benchmark for public fundraising to return at the time that non-essential shops open. This was the approach taken when the initial lockdown lifted, and is what the Minister confirmed last week for England. We hope to be able to get that same public clarity for members all across the UK. 

At the same time that there was confirmation on public fundraising, we also got some really welcome news on the timetable for when events can restart (again, for England).

Want to do a car boot sale as a fundraiser in the open air? You could now do that, as it’s part of the range of outdoor events that are able to happen in Stage 2 (as long as you follow all requirements, staggering entry for people, it taking place outdoors, and that people aren’t congregating together for a certain activity or performance (like sitting down to watch a performance.

Want to put on a charity auction, quiz night, or gala dinner? You could plan to do so at Stage 3 (no earlier than 17th May). At this point events some events can happen indoors, with capacity limits.

This week we have published new guidance with the Fundraising Regulator to help you be aware of key considerations for putting on in-person events while we are still in COVID-19 restrictions.

For all and any events, planning and preparing are going to be really key. Not everyone will want or be ready to be putting on in-person community and events fundraising activities as soon as they can, we are likely to have ‘first-movers’ who are chomping at the bit, ‘fast-followers’ who will be looking on to see how those first events go, and others who may have taken a strategic decision not to go back to physical events for a few months yet.

The most important thing is that any and all events you do in-person are done when you are ready and prepared – going back out comes with risks and responsibilities. There are clear rules and restrictions to follow which you need to get right: risk assessments need to be done, and you also can’t give a 100% guarantee that further down the line restrictions will once again change and you may have to cancel planned work. Everything that you plan from now on will need contingency built into it from the earliest stages.

We also of course have to remember that charity supporters (and the public) are not one homogenous block. We will have some supporters who are hugely keen to do all and any events they can, that want to join marathons and runs, and those that crave the social events they have missed such as dinners, cultural performances, and group activities. But we will also have people who are more anxious, that are suffering from long-COVID, who have experienced bereavement, who may have lost their jobs during the pandemic.

Our blend of events (physical and virtual) and the way we communicate with our supporters has to be sensitive and reflective of the situations, emotions, and circumstances of people. Many supporters have been so generous and positive during the pandemic, we have to take them with us and return in step with them as they are ready so that we can keep that generosity and closeness to the cause in the months and years ahead.

Daniel Fluskey
Daniel Fluskey
Head of Policy and External Affairs
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