One in five UK charities 'struggling to survive'

Jane Dudman
UK charities are less confident than they were a year ago about achieving financial sustainability. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

Almost one in five UK larger charities and more than a quarter of smaller UK charities are “struggling to survive” in the face of growing demand and a tough financial climate.

A survey of UK charity chief executives (pdf) published on 28 February by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), has revealed that 18% of all UK charities fear for the future of their organisation, rising to 28% of charities with an annual income of less than £1m.

John Low, chief executive of CAF said charities are facing ever-growing pressure on resources that are already being stretched. “They are less confident than they were a year ago that they’ll be able to meet this demand.” he said. “In some cases they are being stretched to breaking point.”

The research, carried out with the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo), shows that more than a third of charities had to dip into their reserves last year to cover a shortfall in income, with 34% of the charity leaders in the survey saying that reductions in public and government funding is their biggest challenge. More than half (57%) see achieving financial sustainability as their biggest challenge.

Charities are less confident than they were a year ago about their ability to meet these challenges: over a quarter (26%) of the leaders in the survey had little or no confidence their organisation would be able to do so.

Charities are making changes to try and cope, through restructuring, cuts and reducing services. Three in five (61%) say they either have restructured in the past 12 months or will be doing so in the next 12 months.

Most also plan to increase their social media presence, invest in new digital and online systems and introduce new methods of giving .

Vicky Browning, chief executive of Acevo, said the invaluable contribution made locally and nationally by charities is not always recognised by the public or fully appreciated by government. She said the report provided evidence that charities are facing a perfect storm of rising demand and decreasing funds in a time of challenging economic conditions and volatile public trust.

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