Charities that have seen their income levels fall should consider the idea of charging their service users, according to a new report.
A paper published today by the research consultancy nfpSynergy says charities offer a diverse range of services and therefore the potential implications of charging for the work they do vary enormously.
It says that although deciding to introduce a charge “can elicit strong views, even outside of a pandemic”, evidence suggests there can be significant benefits of doing so.
It says that legally, charities are allowed to charge their service users and that outcomes might sometimes be improved if people are asked for a fee.
“Ultimately, if the benefits of a service can continue when otherwise they would not, that in itself can only be good.”
Ethical issues that charities would need to consider include concerns about reputation and the relationships they have with the people that use their services, particularly for those organisations working in areas such as welfare, rights advice, or health and social care advocacy.
Charging could “fundamentally change the nature of the service and the relationship between advocate or adviser and the client, and potentially lead to a breakdown in trust”, the report warns.
Charities must also consider issues such as whether charging would help improve their sustainability and what they would do if someone could no longer afford to pay.
Pricing is also another problematic issue because the sums charged need to be sufficient to indicate quality, but not so steep that they make services exclusive, the report says.
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