Everyone knows that charities are important, but I don’t think that people truly understand just how important they are. For the last 10 years I’ve worked for both small and large charities and have witnessed first-hand the impact that they have to our lives and communities. There are over 168,000 charities registered in the UK and during this unsettling time they are a lifeline to so many people.

The pandemic may have put a pause on many aspects of our lives but most charities have actually seen an increase in the demand for their services. At a time when we need charities more than ever, many are at risk as they expect to lose around 48% of their fundraising income because of the pandemic.

It is hard to evidence just how important charities are. In 2019 the Charity Commission for England and Wales commissioned a report by Frontier Economics to better understand the value that charities add to the UK’s economy. As you can imagine this was a difficult undertaking. How do you quantify the value of a call to a Macmillan nurse? The joy you get from a pet adopted from a shelter? Or the food parcel that you receive when times are tough?

“People have a general understanding of the impact of sectors like manufacturing on society: they create jobs, income and goods and services to buy. However, trying to gauge the impact on society, both collectively and individually, of the charitable sector is much more complex.


The NCVO’s Civil Society Almanac 2018 suggests that the sector accounts for almost 900,000 jobs and over £15bn in GDP. But a more rounded assessment of the impact of the charity sector needs to consider the social value created.” – Charity Commission report on the value of a Charity. 

Last week the Chancellor set out extra £750 million coronavirus funding for frontline charities. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) have said that the support package is an important first step, but more must be done to protect the future of the sector. The BHF’s Chief Executive, Dr Charmaine Griffiths explains

“As with many charities across the country, our shops have closed, and scores of fundraising events have been cancelled. This means as a charity we are now losing around £10m each month during the Covid-19 pandemic – a severe threat to our mission to fund life saving research. The support charities give to medical research must not be overlooked in a crisis that ultimately research is critical in solving.”

The BHF is the largest independent funder of research into heart and circulatory diseases in the UK and they are completely funded by donations from the public. You may be surprised to learn that healthcare costs relating to heart and circulatory diseases are estimated to be more than £9 billion each year and the annual cost to the UK economy is estimated to be £19 billion.

Just imagine what could happen to vital lifesaving services and research if support for charities like the BHF decreases by 48%.

If you’re in a position to do so, please support causes close to your heart so that in the future they can be there for us. If you can’t afford to donate to charities during this time, please help them to spread awareness of their cause or volunteer if you can.

Update – May 2020

  • New research from ProBono economics estimates that charities contribute £200bn a year to the UK economy and conclude that their value to society is severely underestimated.
  • Shortly after that over 70 charities contributed to a report warning MPs that not offering them enough support will do untold damage because they underpin the fabric of our society.

Further reading

Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash

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