BLOG SERIES: Perspectives on the pandemic

More than a year on from the launch of the National Emergencies Trust’s Coronavirus Appeal on 18 March 2020, we have asked our incredible funding partners to share their unique perspectives on the pandemic.


Rosemary MacDonald, CEO of UK Community Foundations (UKCF) gives us an insight into how local voluntary organisations and their beneficiaries across the UK have been impacted by the pandemic.

Local Knowledge For Local Needs

Local Knowledge For Local Needs

by Rosemary MacDonald, CEO of UK Community Foundations (UKCF)

Our members reach into every community in the UK, providing funding to organisations which make a real difference in their local area, so the help we’ve provided and the issues we’ve seen fully reflect the national story of the pandemic. Many of these organisations have been at the front line in helping their communities cope with the effects of the pandemic. From the coordination of support for those shielding and self-isolating; to the provision of IT equipment to help children continue their education remotely with local partners; and to the quick transformation of face-to-face befriending and support services into online communities, our members have been providing much needed solutions to the many problems and challenges created by the pandemic.


As the demands on many of the organisations we fund increased, their ability to fundraise was severely hampered by lockdown restrictions. Consequently, applications for funding increased significantly across all regions. Our members adapted quickly, hosting additional funding panels and bringing new assessors on board to ensure that money was distributed as quickly as possible to the organisations that needed it most. It’s also been vital for community foundations to be as flexible as possible with funding so that organisations could meet immediate needs, providing core funding to enable them to keep delivering vital services. This statement from Community Foundation for Northern Ireland at the start of the pandemic typified our members’ response: “our priority is always to support you to do your best work; we recognise that circumstances change and are proud to be a flexible funder who will adapt to the circumstances you are facing.”


Put simply, funding from the National Emergencies Trust’s Coronavirus Appeal has allowed us to help more people and support more vital services and organisations than we would have thought possible a year ago. Combined with our members’ own regional appeals and initiatives, the funds from the Appeal have led to record levels of grant-making right across our network. All in all, community foundations have distributed around £70 million to over 13,000 local organisations thanks to the generosity of those who donated to the appeal and the phenomenal fundraising efforts of the Trust. The funding has also allowed us to reach new organisations that we had not previously worked with and to build new partnerships for the future to ensure we reach all of the communities we are privileged to serve.


In a recent survey our members told us they are seeing increasing need in the following service areas: mental health service; provision of food and essentials; supporting people experiencing social isolation; domestic violence support and technology and IT. Our challenge as funders is to connect local philanthropists, both individuals and businesses, with the causes that matter to them in their local communities. Our members have commented:

“We have the mechanisms in place now to respond quickly and well to crisis, but we do also need to take the time to learn our own lessons from this period and we need to listen to our charities too.”

Hannah Clay

Head of Grant Programmes, Sussex Community Foundation

“Our charities are resilient, innovative and creative, and are rising to the challenges of Covid and adapting their model to meet changing needs. For some, going digital has massively increased engagement, others are moving from a premises base to an outreach service.”

Jenny Bevan

Head of Programmes, Norfolk Community Foundation

Local organisations have really been there when it matters. There is no doubt that there are huge challenges facing the sector, but there is also a fantastic opportunity for donors and funders to offer the kind of support that will help us build on the incredible work that has been done throughout the pandemic.