As we all attempt to cope with a post-pandemic economic crisis driven by soaring energy prices, a quite shocking social indicator reveals that three-out-of-four charities are currently falling by the wayside. Latest figures from a Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations' The Lifecycle of a Charity
report make for a sober read.
Of around 800 new charities set up annually in Scotland, 600 are currently winding up and dissolving. I had to read such a statistic more than once in order for it to sink in. Ranging from small community groups right up to big household names, not one is immune to the trials and tribulations of establishing a charity, taking on staff or renting a building.
On a positive note, the SCVO's Tracey Bird says that irrespective of size of a voluntary organisation there are universal lessons to be learned. She plays a support services multi-role by managing pro bono legal and VAT advice, content and information pages on SCVO's website and blog, plus providing governance training, having developed the Scottish Governance Code for the Third Sector. SCVO has called on a post-pandemic 'digital call to action', especially with an anticipated recession ahead.
It must be all about turning recognised pandemic innovations into positive, long-term gains. In tandem with such an objective is an array of clever tech-based solutions specifically aimed at easing the burden on hard-pressed third sector organisations and the wider society. Thankfully, there appears to be no shortage of bright ideas.
One organisation, Capability Scotland, delivers high quality care, support and education for disabled children. It found that a heavy reliance on manual data collection and collation resulted in staff spending far too much time on repetitive admin tasks and in keeping information up-to-date.
Cloud solutions and digital transformation outfit, Exception, stepped in to help, providing the right tools and technology, especially Office 365 to 're-engineer' and digitise processes. This reduced the precious time staff spent on innumerable handwritten tasks and re-entering of data. A full digital rollout is all but complete, enabling staff to work from anywhere, easily and securely, with more time to focus on providing care. Exception's expertise has also supported Young Scot, Help for Heroes, Crohn's and Colitis UK, Social Bite, Children 1st, Children in Need and The Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice.
Inspiring Scotland CEO, Celia Tennant, says the commitment to provide support from Scotland's business community is 'staggering', where 500 specialist volunteer teams last year provided more than 2,000 hours of free support to charities right across the country. It's all centred on being connectors and facilitating collaboration by bringing the right people around the table to nurture great ideas and innovations. The body gives an example of 20 volunteers from Wood Mackenzie supporting six charities in what is a prolonged engagement.
Volunteering is described as an 'essential glue' bringing together people from different sectors working together to make positive social change. Last year, more than 400 requests for support were matched by an average of 33 specialist volunteers to charities each month.
Elsewhere and mindful Covid is still very much with us, EVOC, part of the wider Third Sector Interface (TSI) Scotland Network, is involved in health foundation micro-grants, of up to £300, to community organisations across Edinburgh and the Lothians, who are in turn supporting groups and communities experiencing vaccine and testing inequality.
Another example is ENABLE Scotland joining forces with global professional services firm EY and Edinburgh Napier University to create equality across those accessing higher education opportunities. A 'Breaking Barriers Programme' is working with young people with a learning difficulty to ensure that they get the support needed to access university life, undertake work experience opportunities with a leading global employer, and graduate from a world-class academic institution.
Participant Anna Taylor, aged 17, says: 'It's been really refreshing to meet different people who have the same anxieties and barriers as I do and who understand how I feel... to pursue something that was previously outside my comfort zone'.
At Stirling Castle, a grouping of art collectors and crypto enthusiasts gathered to raise £13,500 and counting for Maggie's Edinburgh independent cancer charity. The event marked the recent death of crypto artist Phillipe Fatoux aka Alotta Money. Sponsors included NFT whisky marketplace Metacask, Nova Finance digital assets investments, Tokenframe digital frames, Saga cigars, Apollo NFT and Buck & Birch. It was organised by Canadian-Scots artist Trevor Jones.
A final example is IT services and solutions provider, Capito, who found it had a stock of used tech devices that would normally be recycled but instead launched an appeal for equipment going unused. Once a device had been donated, its team arranged to collect, recover and securely data wipe it for redeployment to a digitally disadvantaged organisation in need.
Capito brokered the free service for both donor and recipients alike at the company's cost, helping people recovering from trauma to continue to access counselling remotely; final-year nursing students to finish their studies and get out in the field supporting NHS efforts; supporting the education sector; enabling agile working and/or training for front line emergency services workers; and supporting children with their education whilst in hospital. Recipients include Scottish Fire & Rescue Service, Ayrshire Hospice, the Manda Centre and Dumfries and Galloway College.
In the final analysis, plotting a way forward must involve voluntary organisations adopting a digital building block approach. There's lots of evidence of those who do, rapidly finding a welcome boost in engagement, involving folks who have never shown an interest before in charitable causes. Add to this one group reporting how 'digitally upskilling' their staff has led to a real appetite to engage online along with more traditional face-to-face services. The bottom line is better care all round involving those who matter in these difficult times.
Former Reuters, Sunday Times, The Scotsman and Glasgow Herald business and finance correspondent, Bill Magee is a columnist writing tech-based articles for Daily Business, Institute of Directors, Edinburgh Chamber and occasionally The Times' 'Thunderer'