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Risks and opportunities faced by the Charity sector due to Covid-19

The COVID-19 Pandemic has had a damaging impact on Charities, many reporting various challenges from the inability to deliver on objectives, increase in operating costs as a result of the implementation of pandemic precautions through to dealing with possible funding gaps, to name a few. 

Risks and opportunities faced by the Charity sector due to Covid-19


We asked senior leaders in the sector how they are navigating through the challenges this COVID-19 crisis has imposed and what they see as the main risks and opportunities for the sector in the coming year. 

They will all be speaking at The Charity Financials Leaders’ Forum 2021 on 3 March 2021.


The ongoing challenges of the pandemic


“There is a risk in thinking COVID-19 19 is no longer a threat to HOW businesses operate and raise funds. Relaxing in their effort to deliver strong future financial sustainability” Nigel Arnitt, Finance and Business Advisor, Amnesty UK

“Demand is likely to continue to increase for most charities; and funding pressures are likely to remain and increase”. Craig Duncan, Deputy Chief Executive, Hospice UK

 “From our beneficiary community perspective, most people with muscle-wasting conditions are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable and have therefore been in extended periods of shielding over the past year”. Catherine Woodhead, CEO, Muscular Dystrophy, UK


The impact of remote working and furlough


 “There are many staff who will have been furloughed for a year or more which will affect their ability to engage with the charity and to retain and learn new skills. There will be a risk that many staff might look to seek work in other sectors that are perceived to be less risky, so retaining and motivating key employees will be key.” Sue Hall, Finance Director, Historic Royal Palaces

 “Reducing internal and external (stakeholder, Trustee, Board and donor) communications to Pre-Covid 19 levels because it is no longer required”. Nigel Arnitt, Finance and Business Advisor, Amnesty UK


Adapting and evolving your strategy


“Charities need to tread a fine line as they weigh up the value of long-term planning versus being more financially agile. Indeed, smaller, and medium-sized charities may be able to change and respond more quickly to evolving challenges in 2021, but at the same time they are the most financially vulnerable when income is reduced". Catherine Woodhead, CEO, Muscular Dystrophy, UK

“In order to deliver ‘best in class' internal finance function service to all its customers including Budget holders, senior management team, Trustees and the Board, a charity needs to use timely dash boards and KPI's which enable the organisation to make faster and better management decision making”. Nigel Arnitt, Finance and Business Advisor, Amnesty UK

“Charities need to become more focused – staying tight to their missions and reasons for existing, reframing their objectives and ensuring that they are efficient and streamlined in their delivery of them”. Sue Hall, Finance Director, Historic Royal Palaces


Digital Transformation


“I truly hope that many of the changes implemented this year will become the normal: working from home; virtual meetings; virtual exercise sessions; broader online shopping experiences. These have made the world more accessible for many disabled people who were previously told it could not be accommodated or done. I hope to see a hybrid way of working adopted in the future which will benefit the sector in terms of wellbeing, inclusivity and operating a more financially viable model”. Catherine Woodhead, CEO, Muscular Dystrophy, UK

There are many new digital ways that charities can interact with their clients, customers and supporters going forward – this year has seen a large increase in capability and desire to enter a more virtual world”. Sue Hall, Finance Director, Historic Royal Palaces


Turning Crisis into Innovation


“A period of change or flux potentially gives an opportunity for charities to lead with innovative solutions to problems. (2021 offers) a chance to change the way we work post pandemic and try to retain some of the flexibility and innovation, rather than go back to exactly the way things were.” Craig Duncan, Deputy Chief Executive, Hospice UK

“Being nimble and adaptive: Collaboration, rationalisation and restructuring within the charity sector could provide very real opportunities for efficiencies in operations”. Nigel Arnitt, Finance and Business Advisor, Amnesty UK


Nigel Armitt, Finance and Business Advisor, Amnesty
Nigel Armitt is a career interim CFO and coach with extensive turn around and global business transformation experience. A qualified FCMA accountant and Master NLP Practitioner, his experience in the charity and NGO sector includes Amnesty International, Cancer Research and Girl Effect. He has steered Amnesty International through the Covid-19 crisis and delivered financial recovery, doubling their level of Reserves.

Nigel will be speaking and providing his thoughts on ‘Unifying leadership during a crisis: Uniting the strategy of the board, CEO, and finance function.

Catherine Woodhead, CEO, Muscular Dystrophy UK
Catherine was appointed CEO of Muscular Dystrophy UK in 2018, two years after she joined the charity as Director of Development. Having worked in the charity sector since 2000, Catherine’s experience spans senior strategic and planning roles across a number of charities. These include The Lord Mayor’s Appeal for Save the Children, Toynbee Hall, The Prince’s Foundation for Building Communities and Help the Aged. Catherine was also previously a member of the fundraising advisory group for The Prince’s Charities. Earlier this year Catherine undertook her very first London Marathon, a challenge she had previously said she would never do! Catherine took part as a way of supporting the MDUK community, members of which were working tirelessly to help recoup lost income amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Catherine Woodhead will be amongst the panellists on the session; Responding to change: How Covid19 influenced the strategy of UK Charities.

Sue Hall, Finance Director, Historic Royal Palaces
Sue joined Historic Royal Palaces in July 2016 as Finance Director, responsible for advising and supporting all areas of financial and business decision making, Information Systems, Procurement and Governance, Assurance and Risk.
Sue was previously Director of Resources at a large Mental Health Trust in the South West and has spent ten years at senior board level positions across the NHS. Prior to this, Sue held numerous roles across the public and private sectors including higher education, car rental and local government. She was Chair of a leading Arts Centre in Wiltshire prior to moving to this role.
Trustee of The Choral Foundation at The Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace and The Reading Agency.

Sue Hall will be amongst the panellists on the session; Responding to change: How Covid19 influenced the strategy of UK Charities.

Craig Duncan, Deputy Chief Executive, Hospice UK
Craig Duncan joined Hospice UK in 2009 as Director of Finance and is now Deputy Chief Executive.
He led on the work to introduce the VAT refund scheme for hospices in 2015 and more recently managed the £200M emergency Covid-19 funding support programme for hospices.
Prior to joining Hospice UK, he trained as a chartered accountant and spent many years as an auditor and advisor to the charity sector.

Craig Duncan will be amongst the panellists on the session; Responding to change: How Covid19 influenced the strategy of UK Charities.