Review of 2023

Written by Executive Director, Jenny Herrera.

In January 2023 we took a step of faith. Conscious of the rising cost of everyday items we realised that the per item limit we had of £150 was just no longer going to stretch to cover the cost of key items such as a washing machine and a fridge freezer.

Every year we help hundreds of people replace these items, or purchase one for the first time when moved into housing with no appliances. For the people we help, there is no spare £50 to put towards money raised through Acts 435 - when we talk about people only just managing that is literally the case, eking out the last few pounds until the next salary, pension or benefit payment is received.

With private rents increasing and mortgage payments too, at the start of last year more and more people were finding themselves in this challenging financial situation of being unable to replace an item when it breaks. So we decided to increase the limit to £200, up by a full third, after some market research online by our team!

We had started 2023 buoyant after yet another year of all live requests being met by Christmas - something we do not take for granted. Average days to meet a request were just 4 in January. However, by March, that had more than doubled to 10 days and by April was 15 days. Had we been too hasty in our decision?

As a team that has been working for Acts 435 for many years, we often have to remind ourselves of the days when 15 days would have been amazing - after all that is only just over 2 weeks. We remember the time when requests had reached 30 days old and still no one had given. Nevertheless, we hate seeing people in desperate need waiting and waiting for help.

2023 tells the tale of faithful ongoing support that has kept people being helped and never saw waiting times go beyond that average of 15 days. Every single week, without fail, we have seen new people join our community of donors. In our hour of need, when requests got so high in March, we saw our regular donors sweep in to respond to our plea for help and meet the needs. In May a grant application was successful, providing us with a crucial £30,000 to help us through the slower summer months.

In general terms, the number of people we were helping monthly was relatively similar to 2022, and whilst we welcomed new church and charity partners, others stopped using Acts 435. Yet helping the same number of people in 2023 as 2022 required that uplift to cover the increase in the limit and as ever, God provided for us.

That provision came in a powerful way - after years of keeping close to the team at BBC’s Songs of Praise, we were given the opportunity to be filmed for one of their Christmas episodes on the joy of giving. Back in 2012 Songs of Praise filmed Acts 435 but it was aired in the middle of the London Olympics, bumped to BBC2. Here was an opportunity to be featured in the run up to Christmas, the best possible time of year for charities, and this time on BBC1.

We follow our activity very closely each week, looking at how many partners posted how many requests, how many people we helped and how much was given. In the week Songs of Praise was aired, an incredible £50,000 was given in that week (compared to an average of £15,000) with a staggering 343 new donors giving.

When we took our step of faith in January we would never have imagined we would have been gifted such an effective way to reach out to more people who want to give, and introduce them to people in need, with the joyous result that once again all requests were met by Christmas. Such was the level of giving that advocates that have had people on waiting lists for help got to the end of those waiting lists for the first time in a very long time.

In December alone we helped over 800 people. It is our hope and prayer that we can build on that in 2024, growing this charity’s network of local churches and charities so that we can help more people. Yet we can only help more people if individual people continue to give to these needs. To say it clearly - we are nothing without our faithful donors.

Thank you to each and every one who accepts the invitation to give cheerfully and bring light and hope to those in need through the individual item they are directly providing. We were humbled by these words from one advocate this Christmas that gives a much better sense of the value of helping people through Acts 435 than my words could ever do:

I don't think you realise the amazing impact you have on individuals and families who are struggling to meet their basic essential needs, many are living in abject poverty and destitution the instant support you provide is such a lifeline it helps people and families with children out of a crisis and brings such joy, relief and happiness to their lives.

Thank you for caring and being there, not only for families in need but for organisations and charities such as ourselves, it makes our job a little easier knowing that when people do ask for our help we can rely on your support and the wonderful caring people who donate to their cause.

Thank you for being the third emergency service to us and we appreciate every single one of you.