At Thrive, we have had to stop all our client garden sessions, but I know others have been able to continue, especially those who are growing food in community settings and are accessed by people who are able to go out once a day to exercise.
It’s great the government has recognised the importance of getting outdoors and taking exercise, even giving specific guidance that visiting allotments is included in permitted exercise. However, the restrictions on travel, social gatherings and social distancing have made things very difficult for STH projects.
But there are things you can do and here are four points to bear in mind:
Be realistic when communicating with clients
Many of Thrive’s clients have health conditions that put them in the vulnerable category meaning they should be shielding for 12 weeks - that’s very tough when you are used to being outdoors and with a regular social group.
It’s also very tough on the staff and volunteers who have devoted so much time to helping the clients and now have to step back.
Finding ways to keep in touch with those people is important but it is also vital to be realistic about the help you can provide; raising expectations only to dash them could have a greater detrimental impact on vulnerable individuals.
Talk to supporters
Keeping in touch with your supporters, donors and funders is always important but ever more so at this time – our organisations will need all the friends and support we can find to see us through and out the other side of this crisis.
Keep them up to date with what is happening and how you are responding - we have been open about having to stop providing services and needing to furlough staff (accepting that there will be a negative impact on the gardens too) and have had some lovely responses from funders and supporters.
With a lack of financial support from government for charities not currently ‘on the frontline’ (other than the furlough scheme) fundraised income, whether from public donations or via grants, is vital; don’t be afraid to ask your supporters for help.
Monitor the money
Keep abreast of your cash flow situation. Make sure you have a clear picture of what bills will need to be paid when and what funding, if any, you can expect and when.
Again, don’t be afraid to ask for help – one of our regular grant funders has brought forward their payment to help cash flow whilst we are waiting for the government furlough grant to become available. Your landlord may allow you to delay your rent payments.
Get trustee help
Involve your Board of Trustees and use their expertise to guide the organisation’s choices and make sure that you are documenting the decisions you are making, be that to keep working or to reduce or stop operations.
Good governance might feel like an unnecessary burden but it is really important now.
We might well look back at this time and say that we could have done things differently, but decisions have to be made with the information available at the time and in the context of what else is happening – keeping a record of all that will help especially when things are changing so quickly.