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Guest Articles - Articles of interest to ACO member charities

Top 5 issues impacting the charity sector in 2020

ACO had a think as to what we believe will be the top 5 things to impact the charity sector this year. Read our thoughts below.


Despite hanging over the sector now for several years, as the results of the recent general election have given the Conservatives a large majority the UK seems set to leave the EU in 2020.

We may see a period of greater political stability in the UK due to the conclusive election result and once Brexit has happened. This will give the sector greater certainty on where they stand for the next 5 years so it can decide what they want to do in terms of standing with or campaigning against various issues. Once Brexit has happened, it will also allow the government to move on and focus on other issues, meaning the voice of charities and their concerns may be listened to more.

The government has also promised the creation of a Shared Prosperity Fund, which will replace EU funding of £500m for communities and charities, by the end of 2020. There has yet to be much information on what this new fund will include, but this gives the sector a goal to make sure the government abides by its statement to create this fund.

But this will not be the end of discussions around Brexit. In our 2019 member’s survey several members flagged Brexit, and the uncertainty around how it will impact their beneficiaries and operations, as one of our largest concerns.

Austerity and cuts to local government funding

Various politicians have come out to declare an end to austerity, but austerity is still causing significant challenges for local government and services, and for charities.  

Several of our members have reported austerity to be a large concern for them and their beneficiaries last year. Charities are finding more people are coming to them for support due to cuts to local services and in the welfare state, combined with rising living costs and low wages. 

As an example, in 2013 the Social Fund, a discretionary welfare benefit that provided financial support in exceptional circumstances, was abolished. Charities have therefore been filling this gap in support generated by austerity.

Sustainability and the environment

In the last year environmental issues have become the topic of the moment and subject to more debate than ever. Movements such as Extinction Rebellion and the actions of Greta Thunberg have thrown the growing climate crisis into the spotlight, putting increasing pressure on charities to demonstrate their environmental commitment.

Charities will be feeling the need to prove how they operate day-to-day is sustainable, and that their investments are too. This could also lead charities to think more ethically about who they are partnering with and where they are getting donations from.

Whereas before it may have been only environmental and conservation charities pushing on these issues, now we are likely to see all charities getting involved in the climate debate in some form and showing concern or these issues, and challenging politicians to do what is needed to address the crisis.

Growing use of technology for giving

We are seeing a change in the way people are giving, which we expect to continue this year. Last year we saw Apple Pay and Google Pay allowing donations. Similarly, we have seen a boom in social media platforms allowing and being used for donations. We expect this trend to continue across more different commercial platforms, reducing the need for independent giving platforms, but opening new opportunities for fundraising of different kinds.

Additionally, having loose change for bucket donations will become a thing of the past. With 73% of charities reporting street giving is down, and contactless payments now making up over half of all debit card transactions in the UK (according to figures from the banking trade body UK Finance) charities will need to invest in contactless giving solutions.

In terms of our charity members, we are seeing more and more making use of existing technologies to better meet the needs of beneficiaries, and we expect this to increase this year. Our member Turn2us recently won a Guardian Public Service Award for their Connect app, which puts people in touch with trained volunteers via web messaging for advice on benefits. We have also seen more members using chatbots to assist beneficiaries.

How to address the decline in charitable giving

Charities Aid Foundation's UK Giving 2019 report showed the “worrying trend” that the number of people giving regularly has been down the third year in a row. The proportion of the British public who either gave money to charity directly or sponsored a friend or family member fell from 69% in 2016 to 57% last year.

Research will now need to be conducted into what the underlying causes for this decline are. Some have commented that the decline in charitable giving has been caused by a lack of trust in the sector, with some recent high-profile scandals contributing to that trust erosion, and therefore trust will need to be re-established with the public in the charity sector this year.