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Coronavirus - coping with the crisis

At the moment we are all under a great deal of pressure, particularly the charity and not for profit sector. People are concerned about their jobs, and there are ongoing doubts about where the funding is going to come from. Charities are already seeing income streams disappear overnight so how is a charity going to survive in this climate?

The first thing is not to panic. This is easier said than done but a great deal will depend on both the trustees and leadership team to provide both information and reassurance to both beneficiaries and staff.

Let us take the issue of staff first of all. Very few contracts of employment would have dealt specifically with the issue of a pandemic and the resulting health crisis, so the first thing must be to work together with your HR advisors to ensure that you are not precipitate in your actions.

It may well be that you are forced into immediate staff reductions or shorter hours, either on a temporary or a permanent basis, but you cannot do that without some thought. Whilst nobody knows how long this crisis is going to last, we are being told by the government that a period of 12 weeks from now is likely to see the crisis peak. Even if it is slightly longer, we are talking months rather than years. That means later on in the summer or early autumn we would be hoping to get back to some sort of normality. Many of the beneficiaries that your organisation serves are going to need your help and you are not going to be able to give that help without staff and volunteer resources. Those resources are much more likely to be available to you if you have been as fair to them as circumstances may allow. Consequently, consultation with both staff and volunteers across the board is absolutely essential once you have taken advice from your HR specialist. Some good news has just been announced by the government about a job retention scheme aimed at small businesses and not for profits which will cover a significant proportion of wages for a minimum of three months (backdated to 1st March). The details of this scheme will be forthcoming over the next few days so keep an eye out for that as it may influence your decisions.

By the same token, good communication with your beneficiaries is equally vital. They are going to be as concerned as you about the vital help that you give them being removed almost overnight. This therefore is a golden opportunity for the sector to work together on a local basis to provide help to those most in need. The nature of this help will need to be communicated to the beneficiaries as quickly as possible. This may well be via your website, telephone call, email or, if circumstances permit, by outreach if you can . Fortunately, modern systems will allow teams to work from home and even for those charities who have helplines, to divert them remotely. In the latter case there are companies available in the telecoms world to assist you in this sort of crisis.

Of course, income is going to be a major problem but perhaps not as drastic as some are currently experiencing. Clearly individual donations from people who are themselves experiencing funding issues are going to be significantly reduced or not available in the short term. Those charities with substantial reserves will be challenged to use them wisely. Again, this is where cooperation between charities on a local level may well prove useful in getting the best out of limited resources.

This will be a particularly stressful time for many charities who live hand to mouth and have little in reserve. In their situation in the short term they may well have to consider reducing services significantly or indeed possibly ceasing to trade on a temporary basis to protect the remaining assets of the charity for the resumption of activity later in the year. For this to work those charities are going to be highly dependent on the cooperation of their staff and a genuine belief by the trustees that the charity can have a future going forward.

For those charities who feel they have no future, this is a more difficult decision. They may well have to consider shutdown so that they have enough resource is to pay any consequent redundancy costs. Alternatively, a further consideration may be a merger with a similar charity with better resources where at least some of the existing services can be maintained with perhaps fewer job losses. None of these things are easy to deal with and the trustees and the senior leadership team need to make sure that their actions are reasonable and proportionate. Some of the charities and not for profit organisations may well have sufficient experience internally to manage this process. If not, we at In the Round Advisors would be happy to assist in any way we can.

Any initial meeting will be free of charge and in the current climate can be by telephone or video link. Whatever help we can give; we are happy to do so. For an initial chat please telephone 0116 478 2871 or email us at info@intheroundadvisors.com and one of our advisors will come back to you.

Remember we can get through this crisis if we work together. Stay safe and stay at home.

Other useful sources of information

www.gov.uk/coronavirus

www.ncvo.org.uk/practical-support/information/coronavirus




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