The impact of Covid-19 has been profound across all sectors and will no doubt continue to be felt for years to come. In the charitable arena, the financial impact on funders, especially grant giving trusts and foundations, but also community donors has been tremendous, adversely impacting charitable income streams, necessitating access to reserves where these have been available and making it challenging to plan robustly longer-term, certainly beyond 3 years. Demand for charitable services has risen exponentially across all areas, especially those targeting frontline support for people hardest hit by the pandemic, homelessness, domestic violence, mental health and others.
The impact of the pandemic on our organisation and community has been significant, with both challenging and encouraging effects, as follows:
- We were unable to hold face-to-face meetings in 2020 – especially direct support focused through OMS retreats and reunions, or Circles – local community outreach activities.
- We had to put on hold the recruitment of new Ambassadors – voluntary leaders of our Circles, thus pausing the growth of our community facing activities.
- Virtually no challenge fundraising events were undertaken by our supporters, having a significant direct impact on the charity’s finances. In line with overall giving trends, our supporters focused more on causes closer to healthcare systems in their effort to meet vastly increased demand for services. Our income in 2020 fell by over 50% compared to 2019.
- We made a significant investment in boosting our digital capability, both internal via a new Customer Relationship Management System and external – further developing our digital platform/ website in terms of content and functionality.
- We re-purposed our front-facing work to focus on digital information distribution and engagement channels, including a new webinar series and podcasts to ensure as wide a reach as possible.
- Our community members reported increased isolation, anxiety and worry about the impact of the pandemic on them and their families, and the disruption to healthcare services they were experiencing.
- There was a significant impact on the team and their wellbeing with work shifting to home-based with limited access to the office and reduced face to face interactions with colleagues.
We will look to exploit the following opportunities in the coming year and beyond:
- Ramped up focus on prevention – alleviating pressures on health systems by enabling more people with MS to self-manage their condition day to day.
- Tackling health inequalities and supporting marginalised communities.
- Boosting grassroots support in local communities via digital means and face to face when we are able to.
- Growing connections and expanding our work in new geographies – Scotland, EU, US and Aus.