Following questions from our supportive community we thought we’d let everyone know how we are doing and what our situation is at the moment.
First we think we should explain a little about how we operate
Everything at the centre is split betweencore work and project work. Core work is our everyday Arts Centre activities, the things we do to meet our charitable aims and objectives. This includes the essentials of opening the doors each day with an inviting building, supportive staff and ensuring the quality of our facilities through to running affordable, regular workshops and events and managing the shop. Project work is specific activities with a clearly defined aim and audience, past projects include Young History Makers, Young Digital Makers, Think Of Me, They Came From the Deep and Why Do You Never Speak.
Our core work is funded mainly by income that we earn and we are proud at the Horsebridge to earn 75-80% of our core income. Around 60-65% comes from activities such as venue hire, shop sales, events and workshops and the remaining 15% from direct fundraising including our Friends scheme, fundraising events and donations. The remaining 20% is core grant funding, a large part of which, in recent years, is a Canterbury City Council Improvement Grant to support us in developing a sustainable arts centre for the district. Our core work is undertaken by 12 staff (an equivalent of 6 full-time staff) and includes roles of centre director, deputy director, finance management, operations management, galleries management, shop management, brochure management, website and social media support, friends liaison, workshop leader, administration, front of house, cleaning and maintenance. We hope you’ll agree that is quite a lot of hats for a small team to wear.
Project work, meanwhile, is funded by grantsthat we apply to Trusts or funding bodies for, funding of this type is restricted to only being spent on the things we state in our application. Some of our staff split their time between core work and project work and without project work parts of their jobs stop.
So what happened when we had to close?
When we closed our doors on Friday 20 March, all of the activities basedcore income disappeared and, like many other charities, we are anticipating that our direct fundraising income will fall significantly. We currently have only one active project which ends in April, which we have moved to working remotely. As an organisation we operate with no reserves (savings), and whilst we have worked incredibly hard over the last few years to eradicate old debt with an aim to build up reserves, we aren’t there yet. This means that the smallest blip in our income can have very immediate and devastating impacton the organisation and the service we offer. The Covid-19 crisis is no small blip and we have had to take immediate and drastic action to put us in a position to best survive the lockdown.
This means that as of 1st April we havefurloughed 9 of our 12 staffunder the government’s the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. We are now operating with just two core staff working on reduced hours, with the continued support of the board, to run the remainder of operations and the third staff member continuing to run our funded project. Were it not for this scheme we would have had no choice but to undertake redundancies. Furloughing of staff has helped the organisation mitigate some of the lost income by reducing our costs, but nowhere near enough. Now we have been able to give our dedicated staff a level of employment security we are purely focusing on ensuring cashflow stability for the rest of the year.
So what next?
Our immediate task is accessing any government support we are eligible for, and finding and applying for grants that will support organisations like us with emergency funding. In many cases grant funders we would usually apply to for funding project work have switched these funds to be emergency support funding. As an arts centre we can deliver a variety of heritage, science and technology projects alongside arts projects, but when accessing emergency funding we will be limited to just those funders whose aim is to support arts and community organisations. Beyond the immediate crisis we have no idea when or if project funding will become available again this year and we have already had one pre-crisis application put on indefinite hold because of the understandable change in funding direction. This also means any projects we had planned to apply for grant funding for may not be possible which will also impact our budget for the year.
So what does this mean?
All of this means this week we are ok and we are hopeful, but that hope remains pinned on being successful in any of the applications we submit to funders. This situation will evolve week by week and we will continue to keep you updated. If you can provide support by becoming a Friend or making a donation it could make all the difference to our future.