By: Rebecca Harper
There is not a single sector in the UK that won’t be turned on its head by Brexit. Whether you were camp Leave or Remain, the reality is that we all have to deal with the prospect of leaving the European Union. Those who are employed by charities or non-profit organizations (also known as third sector workers) should expect unavoidable changes. From cuts to immigration to the end of EU funding, the third sector is set to be hit the hardest at a time when the world is most in need of charitable endeavors.
End of EU Funding
When the UK steps out of the EU, all EU funding to UK charities and other organizations within the third sector will be halted. This is significant, as in 2015 £189.9m was paid directly to UK charities by the European Commission. Although Chancellor Philip Hammond and other politicians promised a UK fund would be set up as a replacement, there isn’t any legislation or policy proposal in place yet to confirm this. If your organization currently receives or relies on EU funding, it might be a good time to start looking for alternative sources. The failure to deliver the £350 million promised to the NHS after Brexit suggests we can all expect to see pledges broken in the coming months and years. For the third sector, this could deliver a devastating blow to funding sources that are desperately needed.
Harder to Fundraise
With many households looking at the prospect of tightening their belts over the Brexit period, it may be more difficult to raise fund in the coming months. This will be the same for corporate and individual donors, and charities may find it more difficult to keep regular donors on board. Consumer confidence took a huge hit after Article 50 was triggered, and consumers will be reluctant to part with cash until there is more clarity about the UK’s position in the EU. Similarly, finding volunteers to help with fundraising efforts is likely to get tougher. If people have to choose between taking a second job to help keep up with the rising cost of living or volunteering with a charity, it’s fairly easy to see which way priorities will fall.
Media coverage for charities is also suffering with the British media choosing to focus on trade deals in the private sector, immigration, and a lack of funding in the public sector instead. Third sector organizations are dependent on awareness and, without it, fundraising efforts are likely to have a lower return.
Difficulties in Recruitment
Recruitment has always been a problem for the third sector, and this is only set to get more difficult once the hiring pool dries up. With so much obscurity surrounding the rights of EU workers in the UK, we have already seen a fall in the number of workers heading to the UK from EU countries. Immigration in general is a problem for third sector organizations. For workers outside the EU to come to the UK, they must be earning over £35,000 a year, which is far outside the average salary for most third sector workers. For anyone hoping to bring their partner into the UK on a spouse visa, the earnings threshold currently stands at £18,500, which is slightly more achievable, but still presents an obstacle.
Uncertainty Over Policy Changes
Outside of monetary concerns, third party organizations will be concerned over the changes in laws regarding refugee and human rights, and changes to environmental policies. When Brexit is implemented, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union is no longer applicable and the British government will be required to write a Bill of Rights. What this will include is unknown at the moment.
Much like the private sector, organizations that exist both in the UK and Europe or share partnerships with European organizations may find difficulties in operating to the same efficiency. Firstly, moving goods will be subject to new custom charges, and secondly travelling for meetings or relocating employees may now require visas. It will also complicate research as laws in the two regions may differ.
Third sector workers are used to coming up against seemingly insurmountable challenges, so while there may be challenges ahead, this isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. The rise of grassroots movements and home-grown charitable endeavors will surely bolster the sector as the political and social landscape across Europe is in flux. For those organizations affected, now is the perfect time for them to make their voices heard and help the government in creating policies that will be of benefit to those who need them. This includes childcare, healthcare, immigration, and environment policies.
Rebecca Harper is a freelance writer and social activist living in London. She campaigns passionately for women's rights and is involved with campaigning and fundraising for Refuge, an anti-domestic violence charity. In her spare time, she loves travelling and meeting new people.