West Norfolk charities struggling to cope with drop in public donations

PUBLISHED: 10:50 14 November 2012

Mike Taylor, founder of The Bridge for Heroes. Picture: Ian Burt.

Mike Taylor, founder of The Bridge for Heroes. Picture: Ian Burt.

Archant © 2011

Charities in West Norfolk are desperately seeking different ways of boosting their income to secure their short-term future as public donations continue to fall.

The rise in the cost of living is being blamed on the decrease in money given by the public with one organisation urging charities to make sure people gift aid their donations.

It came as the founder of Lynn-based charity, The Bridge for Heroes, said unless more funding is found, its centre to support traumatised ex-service personnel could close on December 1.

It also came as a survey revealed public donations to charity fell by 20pc last year with good causes nationally receiving £1.7bn less.

Heather Farley, the chief executive of West Norfolk Voluntary and Community Action (WNVCA), said: “Every charity is feeling it. The general opinion is we are getting fewer people donating and those people donating are giving less. We are all seeing an increase in our shopping and utility bills at home and people are starting to make hard choices on who they give their money to.

“There are some people who are even questioning if they can actually afford to give, say £5, to charity which is something they might not have done before.”

WNVCA supports, promotes and develops voluntary and community action in the borough and acts as a voice for the local voluntary and community sector.

Ms Farley continued: “What I would like to see is people asking charities for more information before handing over their money, particularly where their donation is going.

“I’d also like to see people asking charities how they gift aid donations because there are some charities who are missing out on this easy extra income.”

The Bridge for Heroes has provided more than 2,500 counselling sessions since it opened its centre in King’s Lynn in June 2011.

But its founder Mike Taylor has said a decline in public donations is one reason the centre might have to close next month.

Meanwhile West Norfolk Riding for the Disabled Association announced last month it faced closure without urgent financial support including public donations.

But the charity has now said its future looks brighter after it received donations of more than £27,000 recently – including £800 that was raised at an open day on Sunday.

Richard Shaw, chief executive of the Norfolk Hospice, Tapping House, last night said the decline in public donations had affected his charity over the past two years.

But he continued: “In order to compensate for this we have invested in expanding our retail income which has been a great help and allows our supporters to donate unwanted clothes and not just money.

“Income is very tight and every penny does count for us and every penny donated also stays in Norfolk. I would urge people to support local charities and question where their donated money is spent.”

But Michael Foot, who co-founded the Robert Foot Leukaemia Fund which supports the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Lynn, said the charity has been unaffected by the fall in public donations.

Mr Foot said: “We have never stood on street corners to get funding. Our funding comes through organised events which are continually well-attended because we have a number of local supporters who remain very supportive.”

The survey for the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) and National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) released yesterday found that the number of individuals giving to charity fell in 2011/12 and amounts donated also declined, from £11 to £10 a month.

CAF and NCVO warned that charities are now facing a “deeply worrying” financial situation, with some forced to cut back frontline services and make staff redundant or even facing closure because of the fall in income.

They launched a Back Britain’s Charities campaign, urging individuals and businesses to give what they can and calling on the Government to modernise Gift Aid and to ensure that public bodies do not disproportionately cut funding for charities when seeking budget savings.

Data from 3,000 people, collected by the Office for National Statistics, suggested that total giving to charities by members of the public in the UK fell from £11 billion to £9.3 billion in 2011/12 - the largest one-year decline in the Survey of Individual Giving’s eight-year history.

When inflation is taken into account, the £1.7 billion reduction is the equivalent of a £2.3 billion fall in donations - more than 20% of total UK giving by individuals.

The survey found that 28.4 million people gave to charity during 2011/12 - more than half of all UK adults. But the proportion of people donating to charitable causes in a typical month fell from 58% to 55%. A larger proportion of women (58%) than men (52%) gave to charity.

Medical research, hospitals and hospices and children and young people were the most popular causes among donors, but religious causes received the largest average donations.

CAF chief executive John Low said: “The drop in giving shown by our survey is deeply worrying for those charities which rely on donations to provide vital frontline services. Combined with public spending cuts this represents a potentially severe blow for many charities.

“We hope the fall in giving shown in our survey is a temporary decline and not the start of a damaging trend. If donations continue to fall, many charities will face profound difficulties carrying on their work and the people and communities they serve will suffer.

“Britain remains one of the world’s most generous nations. But cash is tight for everyone and people are finding it harder and harder to find money to give to charity.

“It is vital that Government, businesses and the public Back Britain’s Charities so they survive and carry on their work in these tough times.”

NCVO chief executive Sir Stuart Etherington said: “I am very worried that fewer people are giving to charity. Charities are already being squeezed by greater needs, cuts in funding and rising costs.

“I know people want to help when they can and I know that they can make a difference. If I could ask one thing, I’d ask people to commit to regular donations through direct debit, and give using Gift Aid, so charities can plan properly. We cannot afford to lose the services charities provide.”

A Government spokesman said: “Britain is a generous country and despite the recent economic difficulties people have continued to give both their money and time to support charities.

“It’s too early to tell if these findings are a trend, but we are working hard to stimulate giving through initiatives such as new tax incentives, committing £50,000 match-funding to encourage people to support local charities and our £100 million transition fund, which is helping them to adapt to the new economic environment.

“We have also introduced new ways for the sector to finance itself through Big Society Capital, capitalised with £600 million, which gives charities access to affordable loans and investment to grow, so they can do more.

“The Government gives significant support through the tax system to encourage giving - over £1 billion went to charities last year through Gift Aid.

“We are also introducing a new Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme, which will deliver an extra £100 million a year for charities. And we are making it easier for charities to claim Gift Aid, and will shortly bring forward proposals for the reform of payroll giving to encourage more people to give out of their salaries.”

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