Region's charities weathering the economic recession

East Anglian charities are weathering the storm of recession thanks to local support but fear for the future it was revealed yesterday , as a national report says one in three has already taken steps to combat the impact of the economic downturn.

East Anglian charities are weathering the storm of recession thanks to local support but fear for the future it was revealed yesterday , as a national report says one in three has already taken steps to combat the impact of the economic downturn.

Charities face a double whammy as many find a higher demand for their services while donations are likely to drop - with six months from now likely to be the critical period for finances.

Experts believe prudence in the past is the saving grace of charities at the moment but fear donations could dry up as the recession tightens its grip.

Brian Horner, chief executive of Voluntary Norfolk, an umbrella group representing the sector, said: 'Locally we think the recession will hit voluntary organisations in a few months time. I am certain some national charities have already seen a drop in funds from things such as direct debits. A lot of local organisations rely on a mix of grants and fundraising events but grants might not be given out in the future.'

A Charity Commission report of more than 1,000 charities in England and Wales shows about 52pc had been affected by the credit crunch, up from 38pc when similar research was carried out in September.

Nearly two-thirds of charities with an annual income of more than �1m also said that they were concerned that the economic problems would impact on the work they did.

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One in three charities said they had taken steps to try to combat the impact of the downturn, with 14pc reducing their costs, 11pc increasing fundraising efforts and 6pc drawing on their reserves.

About 5pc also said they were holding off from offering new services, while 2pc had cut their staff numbers.

But only 3pc of charities said they had considered collaborating with another charity, and the same proportion had thought about merging.

Dame Suzi Leather, chairman of the commission, said: 'Clearly the impact of the financial downturn on charities is widening and deepening.

'Some charities still face that double whammy of a drop in income as well as an increased demand for services.

'However, not all charities are putting measures in place to protect their work and their funds. It is very surprising that more charities are not considering collaboration with others, as this can help them share expertise and costs.'

A snapshot of charities working in this area shows that most are managing but many are worried for the future.

Paddy Seligman, chairman of the EDP We Care Appeal, which has raised almost �900,000 since it was launched as the county's Millennium appeal to help make life easier for unpaid carers in Norfolk, said: 'We have had two big donations recently, one from an organisation and one from a charitable trust. As far as individual donations go, one never knows what you are not getting. We do not have any, what I call, very regular donors but one or two that give us handsome cheques from time to time. The rest are spontaneous gifts from people who clearly just find out about the charity and want to support it in some way.

'I suspect that our dividends will decrease because all the money we raise is invested and, of course, with interest rates and the state of the stock market they will diminish but we haven't heard anything too drastic at the moment.'

A spokesman for East Anglia's Children's Hospices (Each) said they had not seen a significant downturn in donations against this time last year.

While certain income streams had been affected by the recession, for example finalising some legacy income has been problematic due to the downturn of the property market, on the whole the charity is doing well - in particular the charity's shops with takings up 11pc year to date.

A spokesman said: 'Financially Each remains in good shape as the public of East Anglia continue to offer much-needed support for their local children's hospice service.'

Liz Richards, communications manager for Break, which provides support for vulnerable children and adults, said they are also 'holding up' though they were having to become more savvy about getting people interested in events.

'We are holding up at the moment but I think the real test will come later in the year. Our problem at the moment is the quality of things being donated to our 35 - soon to be 36 - shops. The profit from those shops goes directly towards a holiday. If the quality of donation falls then so does the amount of money taken in the shops. It is part of the reason why we have come up with the Break Box where people can put them in offices, shops and clubs and bring anything they don't want to work with them.'

Simon Gray , executive director of East Anglian Air Ambulance, said to date finances were still healthy.

'What we find is that when people put on an event in their town or village, a tug of war of cycle ride for example, they hold it, then it takes time to collect the sponsorship and then to set up a date to come and present it to us. So a lot of the money we are getting at the moment is probably from last summer,' he said.

'We are more worried about six months to a year down the line. However, we have been prudent and built up reserves. Our trustees are all business people who have always said one day we will face a recession and we need to plan for it and make sure we have funds to continue through it.'