Core Values

Charities at a crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Core Values, planet

At the start of autumn we held two successful virtual events, one for those working in charity governance and one for those people working in the employee share plans industry. While the similarities between the two sectors might not be immediately apparent, both industries are populated by people who have a desire to make a genuine difference to people’s lives and both are concerned with wellbeing.

Our Charity Governance Summit explored some of the strain that charities, like most other organisations, have been under since the arrival of COVID-19. The sector has lost about a quarter of its income, trading subsidiaries have become insolvent and staff have been lost to the furlough scheme or as a result of reduced funding. Speaking at the summit Caron Bradshaw, CEO of Charity Finance Group cited estimates that 60,000 jobs could go, and £12 billion of income lost for the year.

Many organisations are learning to do more with less, and recognising the additional mental strain on their workforce. Health concerns, bereavement, increased workloads and redundancy – these are all worries which can take their toll on mental and emotional wellbeing, not just among those working in the charity sector, but wherever we look. As mental health starts to suffer wellbeing, a key governance priority already, needs even more attention.

When the crisis hit, organisations moved very quickly to protect the health and safety of their employees. It was a, if not the, key priority. As time has gone on incidences of trauma, grief and loss, burnout, emotional exhaustion and compassion fatigue have risen. With remote working still the norm for most people the need for visible leadership is even more essential with its opportunity to acknowledge the continuing uncertainty and listen with patience and compassion.

Recognising the impact of the pandemic, Kim Shutler, CEO of The Cellar Trust, another speaker at our Charity Governance Summit, believes that struggling with mental health is the new normal. There is a need to normalise that it is okay to not be okay, particularly for those employees who have already had difficulties with their mental health or have other vulnerabilities.

Organisations need to build social interactions into the governance piece as informal discussion has been a casualty of the pandemic. It has been great to see so much good work around this, with one speaker at our summit revealing that her charity had set up weekly 25-minute Video Pal Chats in order to help employees to stay connected. Others shared a range of experiences using MS Teams, Zoom, blogs and videos and there is an opportunity here for creative solutions.

The business case for investment in wellbeing is clear. Healthy and happy staff perform better, achieve better results, work better together and adapt better to change. There is a good business case too for investing in financial wellbeing, particularly as emotional and financial wellbeing often go hand in hand.

Our ProShare conference showed the value of employee share schemes as a way to offer financial resilience and provide employees with a way to plan for a secure future. The amounts built up through these schemes help buffer employees financially at a time when many will be concerned about their income.

Our recent SAYE and SIP report showed that people may have access to several thousand pounds in share schemes, providing access to funds in the short term if they are needed. While traditionally employee share plans have allowed employees to save for things like weddings, cars and holidays, they can also act as a cushion in times of financial hardship, such as a partner being made redundant or to support further career training.

For employers, share schemes offer a way to reward employee loyalty. The financial crash of 2008 led to years of stagnating pay levels and we can expect a similar outcome in many sectors from the financial consequences of COVID-19. Where corporates might not be able to reward people for sticking with them during the crisis through pay rises, they can engage them in their corporate recovery through share schemes. It is always important to take the long view of financial security. Many employees could reap the benefits of taking up scheme offers now, anticipating the recovery of share value in their employer in the coming years. Companies themselves benefit from the increased motivation of those invested in their employer’s success through increased loyalty and productivity. Key traits to foster for business recovery.

As an Institute we are committed to supporting our members’ professional development at every stage of their career. We have embarked on an accelerated learning curve as we developed the skills and know-how to deliver our conferences with virtual and blended models this year. But the pandemic has also given us the opportunity to address a much wider range of concerns to members and the recent discussions and learning on the subject of wellbeing have enabled us all to focus on how we can support our colleagues on what really matters.

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