Coronavirus: What Your Charity Needs To Do To Prepare
16 Mar 2020by Ian McLintock
Guest contributor Ian McLintock of Charity Excellence offers clear, concise guidance on charity operations in the current crisis.
The free Charity Excellence Framework online toolkit risk questionnaire was updated 1 March, to include assessing preparedness for the Coronavirus. I published some of this in my newsletter and it has been clicked so frequently, that I’ve published this system checklist and resource links for everyone.
Things To Consider
Healthcare and other expert advice can only come from professionals, and I’m not, so additional resources are included at the bottom of this article.
The checklist is not intended to be doom-mongering; we have enough of that already. Not everything will apply to everyone, some might, but may not be important to you and, hopefully, most will not be needed.
Prepare, but don’t panic. This checklist is intended to help you identify any issues may wish to consider, in order to help you minimise any impact and reassure everyone that you have adequate planning in place.
- Risk assess the possible impact on vulnerable beneficiaries, who may be more at risk than the general public or, conversely, may require additional support.
- The Government guidance on social or community care, educational settings and residential, supported living and home care is in the Resources section at the bottom.
- People and funding are already in short supply, but potentially setting up a Facebook chat group or calls to the most vulnerable may help to provide some reassurance and alleviate isolation.
Staff and Volunteers
- Keep everyone up-to-date on what to do to reduce risk of exposure in the workplace. Include your volunteers in your communications planning. Here’s charity coronavirus comms advice from Charity Digital.
- Ensure any closure, or restriction in availability, is communicated to everyone, particularly beneficiaries.
- If using automated social media posting, make sure that you’ve amended/deleted any posts that are now out-of-date or no longer appropriate, such as delayed/cancelled events.
Contracts & Service Provision
- Consider the potential for disruption to services you deliver, or that others deliver to you. Including any Force Majeure or similar clauses in contracts.
- I’m not a lawyer, but force majeure is essentially any unexpected circumstances outside of a contracting party’s reasonable control that, having arisen, prevent it from performing its contractual obligations.
- Ensure adequate arrangements are in place, both on a day-to-day basis and in the event you may need to deep clean.
Planning & Contact Lists
- The Government has made coronavirus a “notifiable disease”, which is required by many insurance policies. Check if you’re covered.
- If not, you could consider buying cover extension, but it’s likely to be very expensive.
- Does your insurance cover people when home working, or require specific checks to be carried out, before they do, or require you to advise them of any home workers?
Travel, meeting and event schedules
- Review travel, meetings and events that are planned, and consider contingency options that may be needed.
- For board meetings check your constitution allows remote participation (such as by phone or video link) and quorum.
- If you have an AGM coming up, consider encouraging members to vote by proxy.
- For foreign travel, check the FCO website. The Travel Health Pro website might also be useful.
Fundraising and Income
- Hong Kong has been in the grip of coronavirus, since Jan 20, 60% of NGOs in a survey report income is down by a third. The UK is not the same, but 45% of total income is from the public, with small and very large charities the most reliant on this.
- The immediate impact is likely to be on street and Door-To-Door collections and/or fundraising events. If you have retail shops, visitor attractions or deliver other paid-for services, consider the financial impact of any potential disruption. Check how critical funding bids, or grant payments might be, in case of possible delays in these being processed.
- To try and help, 2 new Charity Excellence funder lists have been created, with links to funder websites - 60+ health and 90+ social welfare. There are also existing funder lists for hospices, and those working with older people and the disabled, plus funders that support smaller charities, hard to fund causes and core funding applications.
- Not income and most of us have at least 80% mandatory relief anyway, but some good news in the budget for charity retail, museums, galleries and sports organisations - business rates have been suspended for this year.
- And, if you’re lucky enough to have investments, consider the potential risks of the recent market falls becoming protracted.
- Here’s the IoF guidance for fundraisers and events advice from the Fundraising Regulator.
- Review your income forecasts, assess any cost increases and consider reviewing your expenditure.
- This Charity Excellence resource includes 30+ ways to reduce cost, without cutting into core activities.
- The sector is already hard-pressed and, potentially, the coronavirus could trigger a recession. If you have any financial concerns, confirm that you have a reasonable expectation you will be able to continue meeting your liabilities as these fall due - pay your bills?
- Warning indicators to think about - income streams are uncertain, or may be substantially impacted by coronavirus, limited cash at bank and few assets that can easily be liquidated, heavy dependence on a single income stream that may be at risk, multi-year funding due to end soon, with no replacement funding yet in place, spending restricted income on core costs or unplanned spending of reserves, free reserves well below target, or no free reserves.
- If you do not have a reasonable expectation of being able to pay your bills, advise the Board and seek professional help. There are potentially serious personal risks to trustees who continue to ’wrongfully trade’, whilst insolvent.
- Do you have adequate access to conference or video calling, for remote meetings and home working. Has any software been set-up and do participants know how to use it.
- Before buying workspace collaboration/meeting software, check what’s available free for charities. I like Zoom, but there are others, such as Slack. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Asana is offering charities free licences to its work management tool.
- For home workers, check their broadband is strong enough and they have adequate anti-malware, such as an up-to-date virus checker and firewall. Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
- Here’s a guide to holding online meetings.
- Sadly, it had to happen. There are reports of fraudulent sellers of face masks and coronavirus-themed phishing emails. People are understandably worried and panic buying has made some resources scarce. However, don’t let those pressures blind your common sense.
Can you help?
The CEF works on a community collaboration basis. Can you help me help others by adding to this resource? If so, comment below, including any links.
With thanks to Sarah Critchley and Rebecca Curtis Moss for making this resource more useful for everyone.