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Charities face crisis during UK shutdown as sports fundraising dries up

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By Richard Martin

(Reuters) – The postponement of major sporting events during the coronavirus pandemic has left some British charities concerned about their survival, representatives have told Reuters, while others are worried about delivering services to vulnerable people.

The London Marathon last year raised over 66 million pounds ($81.21 million) for more than 750 charities but its postponement from April 26 to Oct. 4 has left charities facing a shortage of funds at a time when services are under pressure.

The postponement of other major sporting events such as the Premier League is also hitting organisations hard at a time when charity shops have been forced to close during the lockdown to fight the virus, which has infected 47,806 people and killed 4,934 i the United Kingdom.

The concern in the charity sector is widespread, with 50% of respondents to a survey from the Directory of Social Change reporting that their organisations would go bust within six months without additional help.

Seventy percent said they would go bust by the end of the year without financial assistance if the lockdown continues.

Daniel Fluskey, head of policy for the Institute of Fundraising, said charities were facing an “unprecedented crisis” due to a lack of activity, with some 550 saying Britain’s shutdown would see them lose 48% of voluntary income.

Organisations that rely on community events and collections at high profile sporting events would be in “severe trouble”, he added, with services being hit as organisations are forced to make redundancies and are unable to fill vacancies.

Fluskey said the government’s furlough scheme was of little use to charities that needed staff to provide support during the crisis, and suggested the administration provide a stabilisation fund to help organisations through this period.

“It’s a very worrying time for the sector, no organisation will come through this untouched,” he added.

“At the moment all income has dried up, but we’ve got to meet increased demand because of charities stepping up to respond.”

SERVICES IN DANGER

Catherine Bosworth, director of income generation for Hospice UK, said the organisation earns around 500,000 pounds each year from the London Marathon, over 70% of its annual income from fundraising.

She added that hospices had reported a dip in income worth 70 million pounds since the start of March and many would have to start cutting services if fundraising events continued to be cancelled.

“We really are in crisis mode,” she said.

“If events cannot run later in the summer I fear we’ll see services closing so we won’t be able to help all the people who need it at a time that demand is increasing quite dramatically. There will come a point when funds are just going to run out.”

The indefinite postponement of sporting events is also having a knock-on effect on organisations that provide services for Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) such as St John’s Ambulance.

A representative for St John’s Ambulance said it had been affected by the absence of the Premier League, which provides it with 1.27 million pounds per year for first aid cover.

The organisation recently launched a 6 million pounds emergency appeal.

“We are pulling out all the stops to help tackle COVID-19, but there are harsh financial realities to switching off our two main sources of income – our first aid training courses and the first cover we provide for events all over the country,” said chief executive Martin Houghton-Brown.

“Our fundraising activity is ramping up and I hope people will dig deep to support St John’s Ambulance, so we can keep helping them and supporting the NHS through this crisis.”

(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ken Ferris)



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