I was quite pleased with the media coverage that we got yesterday for our press briefing on the effects of the economic downturn on medical research charities.
I felt that we had got the difficult news out but had also managed to convey some positive messages about what our members are doing and what the public and policy-makers can do to support them at this time.
I was struck by The Guardian’s piece in particular though – if only because it had gone to the trouble to ask around some charity sector watchers for their view.
I agree with Professor John Mohan from the Third Sector Research Centre that charities should be careful not to ‘cry wolf’ and hope that no one felt that this was the case yesterday. But the bare fact is that some charities are facing an extremely challenging time at the moment.
I also wonder whether the evidence on how charitable giving has held up during previous recessions is only informative up to a point. After all, isn’t this economic downturn different in its causes? Is it not also unique in terms of its speed of onset, depth and scale? Finally, is not the level of exposure of charities so much greater now than it ever was? But I’ll certainly check out John’s book on The Great Depression.
The fact is that I would like nothing more than for John Mohan and others to be proved right and for us to be proved wrong. And finally, while I am not levelling this accusation at yesterday’s commentators, I do feel that there is an air of complacency about the eventual impact of the recession not just on our pockets but also on the way future Government’s will think about public finance in general.
So we’ll continue to press the case responsibly that, while our members are committed to doing all the right things just now to weather the storm, the support of donors, Government and others is going to be crucial if they are to emerge strongly on the other side.
I leave the final word to CORE – one of our members who has the following on their website:
‘Our income is being seriously affected by the downturn in the economy. We need your help to continue funding research to find cures and new treatments for digestive illnesses. Every donation counts. We receive no money from government or the NHS. We must raise another £100,000 to maintain our research programme.’