Why this charity is far from spent, despite the funding crisis

Peter Gibson ANTRUK announcements, Coronavirus COVID-19

Lockdown has meant the cancellation of face-to-face fundraising events. Allied to donors having less money in their pockets and even grants boards being unable to meet, this has resulted in the most difficult time for charity fundraisers since the economic crash of 2008.

But then Antibiotic Research UK’s fundraising team has a tenacious leader in Dr Alison Staples, whose stoicism has helped her through serious illness and her own period of isolation – years before the Coronavirus.

“I am sure I am not alone in recognising that these are unprecedented times. Although being in isolation for six weeks following surgery for a rare form of cancer does give me some idea about how those who are living with life-limiting illness are feeling right now.

Poor time for charities

COVID-19 has changed every aspect of our lives, including how we support good causes through charitable giving. With no sponsored runs, no fundraising events, difficulties in assembling people together to make grant decisions, less money in our pockets and a re-focusing of efforts towards dealing with crisis, charities have been hit hard. Indeed, a recent report suggested that almost half of London’s good causes are perilously close to going under (1).

During the first few weeks of the pandemic, I watched our sporting events evaporate before my very eyes. In fact, I was so distraught about this, that I put on my trainers and did my own fundraising marathon – walking up and down my street for eight hours until I had done the 26.2 miles required! Other members of the team did their bit too, getting their children involved in fun exercise fundraisers, and there will be more on their brilliant contribution, later.

We’ll support you evermore

Set against this background, we worked hard to inform and engage our valued backers and supporters. Thanks to their efforts, we have managed to not only keep our work going, but be a powerful voice in explaining the role of drug-resistant infections within the pandemic, and support those with bacterial infections (including COVID-19 patients) through our Patient Support scheme.

That brings us to a very interesting conundrum. Why would a charity so steeped in the causes of a pandemic need to be concerned for their coffers?

The simple answer is that priorities have shifted towards local charities working within communities, alleviating the crisis, now. That’s understandable. After all, they are supporting people in crisis. The large pot of money promised by Government included very little for a charity like Antibiotic Research UK – a national organisation working to tackle a global health catastrophe – to bid for.

Resistance, right here, right now

This view of antibiotic resistance being some kind of science fiction future event is outmoded. A bit like the climate change once was to most people, it has little relevance to the here and now.

Actually, it could not be more imminent.

As emerging data from Wuhan, New York and Italy has shown, patients presenting with COVID-19 symptoms have gone on to develop secondary bacterial infections, including pneumonia. That means there is a huge need to manage the antibiotics we have properly and develop new and effective ones, fast.

As someone who lost a grandfather to drug-resistance, I see how pressing the need is. At aged 96, he went in for a hip replacement, developed the hospital acquired infection C-Difficile and lost his life. We even faced a battle to get his death recorded properly with C-Diff, in addition to pneumonia.

Our team has been deterred but not defeated and has developed a wonderfully imaginative range of lockdown fundraising ideas (see https://www.antibioticresearch.org.uk/lockdown-fundraising-ideas/). We have seen our plans for 2020, which included the development of our volunteers programme, put on hold. However, we recognise that lives are at stake here, new medicines need developing and even though the chips may be down, there is no surrender in the war against drug-resistant infections.”

Donate to Antibiotic Research UK by going to https://www.antibioticresearch.org.uk/support-us/donate/

Volunteer https://www.antibioticresearch.org.uk/support-us/volunteering/