Charities cut costs as donations fall sharply


A NUMBER of charities have confirmed they have been forced to introduce cost savings as a result of a fall-off in donations by the public and reductions in official funding.

Earlier this week children’s charity Barnardos said it was closing its services for the week to save €400,000.

The ISPCC, which operates Childline, has made nine staff redundant this year and has asked others to take unpaid leave.

“We can’t close Childline for a week so we have asked staff to assist when they can,” director of services Caroline O’Sullivan said. Some staff have taken a week’s unpaid leave and others up to a month, she said. The organisation had made cuts to maternity leave, sick pay and payroll, she added.

This year the ISPCC saw a 10 per cent drop (€500,000) in public donations at a time of increased need. “The biggest challenge is the waiting list . . . and the inability to meet demand,” Ms O’Sullivan said.

Another organisation that has seen increased demand is the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland and the 14 centres it represents, with services up by 11 per cent in 2011 and 9 per cent in 2010.

It is 80 to 90 per cent dependent on State funding and centres have taken annual cuts in Health Service Executive funding since 2009 (up to 15 per cent). The HSE has capped this year’s cuts at 5 per cent. As a result some outreach services have closed, while a lot of the education services have been cut.

Centres have also introduced unpaid leave and cut staff hours, as well as making pay cuts.

However, organisations not dependent on State funding have also seen sharp drops.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International, which receives limited State funding, saw its income fall 18 per cent between 2010 and 2011. As a result, it cut a fifth of its workforce (10 staff) between 2009 and 2010 and reduced non-staff costs by 39 per cent compared with 2005.

However, a membership drive in recent months has seen 2,500 new paying members join the organisation.

Some charities dealing with poverty have seen overall increases in funding, but these have been outstripped by demand.

Between 2008 and 2010, overall income for the homeless charity the Simon Community increased by 5 per cent.

However, its statutory funding has been cut while demand has increased. As a result, it reduced employees and costs.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul has also seen a sharp rise in demand for services, with calls up 80 per cent in the past three years.

“We haven’t had to cut back on services yet and I don’t envisage doing that,” a spokesman said. It has reduced costs and introduced a pay freeze. Fundraising was “holding up” due to some 1,250 local networks raising money, he said. SVP’s income rose by a fifth between 2008 and 2010.

Some organisations have managed to sustain their services and income despite the downturn.

The Irish Hospice Foundation has not had to cut salaries or services in recent years.

Almost 99 per cent of its funding comes from donations and it has to raise about €5 million annually to support programmes. As a result it has always “run a pretty tight ship”.

“We have to work very hard to get the funds in and have launched a number of fundraising ventures in recent years. Thankfully the public continue to support us in these difficult times,” Caroline Lynch, head of communications at the foundation, said.

Development agency Concern has also had to make adjustments. It had a 17 per cent fundraising fall since last year and has also seen development aid cuts.

However, the agency anticipated this decline due to a boost from emergency donations for disasters such as Haiti in previous years.

It took steps early on to tackle the impact of the recession, freezing and cutting salaries (including a 10 per cent cut for its chief executive) and pulling out of some countries (such as India and Cambodia) to focus on the poorest ones.