Wiltshire charities feeling the chill from recession

This Is Wiltshire: Katrina Sudbury Katrina Sudbury

Wiltshire charities are suffering from a drop in donations this year, in line with national trends. However one has found it is actually being given more money.

A recent national report claims charitable donations fell by 20 per cent, or £1.7bn, in 2011/12, with fewer people donating, and those who did giving smaller sums.

One charity, at least, is bucking the downward trend. Wiltshire Air Ambulance has seen a steady increase in donations over the last few years, since its police funding has come under threat.

Head of fundraising Caroline Corrigan said: “Due to new Government rules, we are losing our link to the police in 2014. We need to establish £2.5m in regular annual donations by then, or there won’t be an air ambulance.

“We are quite lucky, as we have a wide appeal. Anyone might need our services and we have been very active in getting that message out there.”

Age UK Wiltshire, based in Devizes, is one of the charities hit, with a drop in donations from individuals and charitable trusts of between 15 and 20 per cent.

Chief executive Brian Dooley said he believed the financial crisis was the chief cause.

He said: “Our donations are down, as they are for most charities across the county. We have seen a noticeable drop in the value of donations, rather than fewer people donating.

“Of course, we are still very grateful for whatever people are able to give. These are hard times, with people’s money not going as far as it did, and we have seen a gradual decline since the financial crisis started in 2008.

“We are lucky in that we have a fairly healthy financial situation and are working extra hard to ensure this won’t affect our services.

“Unfortunately, with the economic crisis and an ageing population, demand for our services is always increasing and we have had to dip into our reserves.”

For Dorothy House Hospice Care, in Winsley, near Bradford on Avon, the decline has been less marked; a fact fundraising director Katrina Sudbury put down to people feeling a personal connection to the charity.

She said: “We are just about keeping up with last year, partly because almost everyone knows someone we have cared for and what a difference we make. They want to help us and that level of giving is maintained.

“However, we expect to be down about £50,000 in income from things like our Midnight Walk. A lot of people are without the free cash they had in previous years, so we are working to reach more people and attract more casual donations. I hope we will see donations pick up. With changes in the NHS structure, we don’t know what the future will hold.”

Mr Dooley added that, with more expected of the voluntary sector, charities will have to work together more in future, to avoid duplication of services, and be more cost-effective.

The report, prepared by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Charities Aid Foundation, is based on an Office for National Statistics survey of 3,000 people.

It suggests that smaller charities are being disproportionately affected by the dip.

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