Charities rethink fundraising efforts and activities in a post-pandemic world

Some of the items donated to Isabel Hospice.

Some of the items donated to Isabel Hospice. - Credit: Isabel Hospice

When times are hard, sometimes the things that have to go from the long list of outgoings are those little extra bits, whether it be a night out with friends or a donation to a favourite good cause.

Most charities seem to have felt the impact of the financial instability brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We spoke to four charities across Hertfordshire to discover more about what it is like for them as they try to get back to some sort of normality.

St Albans-based Youth Talk has seen a huge rise in the uptake of young people accessing its services through multiple lockdowns.

CEO David Barker said: "We had to adapt fast, taking all our counselling online, to be delivered via a video or telephone call. 

"And to add to this, it became clear very quickly that community fundraising events were no longer possible in the format we had always enjoyed them - so we had to look at other creative ways to continue to raise the money to keep the service going.

"Our 2.6 Challenge in April 2020 saw people doing a whole load of amazing things in their homes and gardens - all to raise money for the charity and people have been so creative in their virtual fundraising efforts."

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David said that the biggest challenge now is to be able to meet demand by continuing to raise necessary funds.

It has also been an extremely tough period for the Stevenage Community Trust as they have had to contend with a time of extreme hardship and balance this with the difficulty of raising much needed funds.

Spokesperson Darren Isted said: "We are grateful first and foremost to our supporters in the business community of Stevenage and the surrounding area who have stuck by us and allowed us to provide funding where it has been needed the most.

"There have also been some remarkable examples of joint work with other agencies to both raise funds and also pinpoint people and groups in most need in order to make sure that we have got them through this tough time."

In 2010/11 the Trust gave out 38 hardship grants. Just 10 years on and during the pandemic this figure has rocketed to 378 while the amount given out to hardship cases leapt from £2,986 to £51,378 per year in the same 10 year period.

St Albans charity Youth Talk is calling for fundraisers to help them provide support to young people.

St Albans charity Youth Talk is calling for fundraisers to help them provide support to young people. - Credit: Youth Talk

Darren added: "Our biggest success over the pandemic was in setting up Stevenage Helps which took little over 24 hours to create and which was based on a simplified application process.

"Requests and funding were turned around in a matter of hours and in excess of £70,000 was raised. Groups which we worked with include The Foodshed, Stevenage Borough Council, Stevenage FC Foundation, Stevenage Citizens Advice, The Chauncy Charity, Beko and Man and Van. 

"The trust also set up a School’s Fund to improve the mental and physical well being or educational outcomes of pupils affected by the pandemic. In the end after 37 applications were made more than £80,000 was awarded."

Stevenage Community Trust has been providing fresh fruit and veg to those in need.

Stevenage Community Trust has been providing fresh fruit and veg to those in need. - Credit: Stevenage Community Trust

Isabel Hospice, based in Welwyn Hatfield, saw a 25 per cent decline in people donating their unwanted goods, a 30 per cent decline of footfall in theirshops, and a 50 per cent decline in volunteer numbers during the pandemic lockdowns.

Chief executive Helen Glenister said: "“As a hospice, the pandemic forced us to change the way that we deliver our care and services. As you can imagine, it had a direct impact on how we ran our In-Patient Unit, how we delivered our day services and how we supported those that we care for in their homes.

“As a hospice, the pandemic forced us to change the way that we deliver our care and services. As you can imagine, it had a direct impact on how we ran our in-patient unit, how we delivered our day services and how we supported those that we care for in their homes.

"As a wider business, the lockdowns meant that we had to close our shops and cancel our fundraising events, and this created serious implications for our retail and fundraising financial plans.

"To help overcome these challenges, we have taken a number of steps, which include extending the opening hours at our Welcome Centre in Welwyn Garden City and introducing mobile collection days, where we go to other towns in the area with our team of trucks and volunteers.

"We have reviewed our shop layouts and pricing to make sure that we offer the best value for money, while ensuring that our staff, volunteers, and customers continue to feel safe. In terms of volunteers, we are holding a series of volunteer recruitment events, the next being on Tuesday November 16 at our shop in Stonehills.”

Home-Start helps families in need in Royston

Home-Start helps families in need in Royston - Credit: Andy Aitchison/Home-Start UK

Events and community development manager Cathy Coulthard of Home-Start in Royston said: "We found during the first year of the pandemic that people and funding bodies were amazingly generous, far beyond our expectations!

"This year, 2021, fundraising has been a lot harder, with fewer successful applications to sources of funding and less engagement in our fundraising activities. Everyone is waiting to see what happens over the winter, I think!

"We are so grateful to the wonderful people who have supported us this year, and we're really looking forward to seeing all our amazing supporters at our events over the next few months."

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