U.K. Charities Feeling Effects of Economic Downturn

Faced with significant declines in donations and an increase in demand for their services, more and more charities in the United Kingdom are scrambling for new sources of funding, laying off staff, or closing entirely, the Wall Street Journal reports.

According to a recent Charity Commission report, almost a thousand U.K. charities closed between 2007 and 2008, while nearly 60 percent of the charities in the country have experienced a reduction in income and 61 percent believe the economic meltdown will impact the work they do or fund. One of those charities, the Robert Gavron Charitable Trust, recently announced that it would cut its grantmaking this year after suffering a significant reduction in the value of its investments. Other groups, including New Philanthropy Capital, which cut four positions from its research team last month, and Oxfam International, which is letting go fifty of its seven hundred U.K. employees, are resorting to layoffs. Plum Lomax, head of intermediaries at New Philanthropy Capital, said that despite a slight increase in philanthropy-related services offered by banks and asset management companies, the biggest cuts in charitable contributions have been on the corporate side.

But even as the downturn has caused many donors to delay their giving until at least the third quarter, there has been a surge of interest in volunteer work, especially among laid off financial sector employees. "In the past few months, we have seen a 20 percent increase in the number of people offering to share their skills with the charities we invest in," said Stephen Dawson, chairman of the nonprofit Impetus Trust. "On the week Lehman Brothers went out of business, for example, we certainly got calls."

Tara Loader Wilkinson. "Charity Dries Up in U.K.." Wall Street Journal 04/07/2009.