Brexit – the news for charities

In many ways the charity sector – like every sector – is still reeling from the Brexit shock. Clearly it’s not good news for many voluntary sector organisations. And the fact that it was so unexpected reflects the fact that the views of most people in the sector don’t reflect those of over half the country – a sobering thought.

But all that aside, what can we expect? What should we be worrying about? And what can we actually do?

The panel at last week’s IoF provided some excellent opinions and insights which are worth expanding on. Here are five key takeouts, and their implications.

  • Economically, it’s not great. Charities which raise money here but spend it abroad have taken an immediate 10-20% hit thanks to a falling (and not bouncing) pound. Other charities will be hit by the withdrawal of EU funding. More broadly, a recession is likely, which may cut deeper than that of 2008. Implication: get ready to weather the storm. Be aware of risks. Consider your sources of funding and diversify, especially if you’re reliant on grants, corporate support or regular giving.
  • Politics is broken. There has been a huge protest vote which has reset the political landscape. People are no longer split along traditional party lines, and disruption to cabinets, memberships and parties will continue. Implication: Now’s the time to make new friends. There are likely to be a lot of new faces in Parliament in the coming weeks and months, and lots of new manifestos and commitments to be a part of.
  • Need will grow. A cut in EU funding, a recession and a likely lurch to the political right. It all means further cuts to basic services and local authority budgets – and could threaten DFID’s commitment to overseas aid. Which means more need for charities to provide essential support. Implication: many charities could become newly relevant – or just more stretched. It may be time to make social impact a more prominent part of your brand story.
  • The people have woken. And spoken. We’ve just experienced a massive protest vote against a politics from which half the populace have felt alienated for years. There has been a growth of political engagement not seen in decades, including the rise of grassroots movements, growing membership of political parties and the mainstreaming of political debate, campaigning and demonstration. Implication: There’s an opportunity to engage far wider sections of society in social change.
  • Change is an opportunity. Even when it’s unwanted. With the fault lines in the economy, politics, society, class, attitudes, age and education finally giving way under pressure, there’s been a seismic shift in the way the UK is made, and in the role that charities play in it. It makes planning for the future challenging. But… Implication: The renegotiation starts now. With the EU. With Westminster. With grassroots movements. With the British people. There’s a chance to rebuild relationships, and rebuild afresh.

And one last moment of perspective. As one panel member put it ‘many of our biggest charities didn’t just weather 2008, they weathered the war and the great depression. We will get through this, because that’s what we do’.

At GOOD we specialise in change. If that’s something we can help with, you know what to do.