Small international charities facing ruin

Covid

With no government help, many of the world's poorest will suffer most

7th August 2020 by Robert Armour 1 Comment

Worrying research says half of charities supporting poor people across the world are set to close in the next 12 months, with many of them based in Scotland. 

A survey by the Small International Development Charities Network found that despite nearly three quarters seeing demand for their services increase, opportunities for funding are few and far between.

Many of these organisations are not eligible to apply for the UK Government Coronavirus Community Support Fund, and many trusts and foundations have amended their giving criteria to only support UK-based projects.

The charities feel forgotten, undervalued, poorly represented and concerned for their future - and ultimately for that of the communities they support, the network said.

Jane Salmonson, CEO of Scotland’s International Development Alliance said small international charities in Scotland faced a perfect storm. 

"There is no funding available for them through the Third Sector Resilience Fund which supports domestic but not international groups," she said. "There is no emergency funding available through the Scottish Government, nor through the Department for International Development (DFID), nor through the National Lottery Community Fund which has ceased all international funding. Trusts and foundations which can give grants both nationally and internationally have been focusing more of their funding at home. Fundraising has been decimated by lockdown. 

"Public events cannot be held and faith-based organisations have lost support through closure of places of worship. Few charities hold reserves beyond three months running costs. Trustees understandably choose to direct donations to the front line rather than bank them. Reserves are running out, many small charities risk closure and Scotland’s place in the world as a good global citizen will be diminished. 

"So we will all suffer, but most of all those people deprived of the support they would have received to tackle poverty and injustice in their own communities overseas. It’s a tragic situation, but we could build back better with support from the public and from institutions in Scotland.”

The Department for International Development (DfID)’s merger with the Foreign Office and the subsequent £2.9bn cut to the 2020 overseas aid programme have left little room for small charities to function, said CEO Rita Chadha of the Small Charities Coalition, which supports more than 100 small NGOs.

“There are over 10,000 small international charities with an income of under £1m in the UK,” said Chadha. Their work rarely gets noticed beyond those that they directly work with, but their impact is huge.

“Helping young girls get an education, providing micro grants for businesses, and investing in clean drinking water is what makes us collectively safer and better. Covid-19 has proven we can no longer afford to think just local.”

The majority of income raised over the last three months has come from individual giving (79%), followed by trusts and foundations (45%).

Only 4% have been eligible for UK Government related funding.

One charity said: “The lack of any support for international charities has been debilitating. We have had to close the office and cut staff and staff hours but the demands on our, now-reduced, team have only increased.

“The amount of funding for immediate partner Covid needs is paltry. There has been a steep increase in unemployment, and therefore people going hungry. We’ve had to significantly increase our provision of the basics - food, hygiene and healthcare.”

Some 68% have received no support from the UK Government during this period. 34% have used, or are using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough).

“We have cut our costs by half and secured funding to survive for the next year at this reduced rate from trustees and co-founders, etc,” one charity said. “The government has provided nothing to help us continue our work - only furlough funding to reduce it.”

Sophia Moreau of the Small Charities Coalition said that losing half of the UK’s charities overseas would have a devastating effect on global development. “Small international charities may be small, but they have a huge impact,” said Moreau.

“They are often the ones building the relationships on the ground with local partners and there won’t be anything to fill those gaps if they are forced to close down. Even the big international organisations are facing redundancies and cuts, so there will be a void where these small ones once were.”

10th August 2020 by Helena Richards

Awful situation. It's bad enough for us based here in Scotland. Heartbreaking for you - I hope a solution is forthcoming, but I don't know what it will be.