A bus with poppy appeal on the side driving down a street

Royal British Legion’s income plummets after record-breaking figures pre-pandemic

With the pandemic affecting fundraising, the Royal British Legion’s (RBL) total income dropped by nearly 20% in the 2019/20 financial report, a stark contrast to 2018/19, one of their best years to date.

In 2018/19, the RBL raised a huge £175m, which included the biggest Poppy Appeal benefaction to date, raising £55m solely on selling poppies.

The data shows that £49.2m was raised in 2016/17 and £50.5m in 2017/18, a steady amount of donations obtained from the Poppy Appeal. 

Donations continued to slowly increase from 2017 to 2019, but due to the pandemic, the RBL saw a significant decline in their total income as well as a hit to the Poppy Appeal.

The RBL labelled 2020 as ‘a challenging year, probably the toughest in recent memory’. 

The Royal British Legion’s financial report on the total income and the Poppy Appeal

Community Fundraising Manager at the Royal British Legion, Jane Ayres commented on the affect Covid-19 had on the RBL donations.

She said: “In 2020, during the pandemic, despite facing major challenges, including the loss of face-to-face collections for the first time in the charities history, we were still able to distribute millions of poppies to supermarkets and businesses across the UK.

“Covid-19 continues to leave members of the Armed Forces community in urgent need of help.

“These donations were vital in maintaining our services.”

To beat the total income in 2020 the RBL introduced ways to sell more poppies and receive further donations.

Ayres added: “The RBL has been rolling out contactless devices since 2017. 

“This has enabled even more people to donate and so far in 2020 we have received almost £4m. 

“As more and more people prefer cashless payments, we expanded the technology and increased ways people can show their support remotely.

“This includes the use of QR codes, text and online donations.”

REPORT: Facts from the 2018/19
Poppy Appeal

Ayres said the RBL achieved their biggest Poppy Appeal to date, raising over £55m in 2018/19. 

2019 marked the 75th-anniversary commemorations of the D-Day landings, along with several major battles of the Second World War.

It brought people together from all backgrounds, communities, and generations to remember the service and sacrifice of serving personnel.

Ayres said: “The Poppy Appeal would simply not be possible without our network of dedicated volunteers, partners and members.

“We’re incredibly grateful for the spirit and generosity shown by the public.”

The RBL responded well to Covid-19, despite the restrictions that were in place, but the total income still fell by £33m.

Entering lockdown in March, meant a review of the Poppy Appeal plans. 

To ensure the RBL obliged by Covid-19 restrictions, they encouraged people to donate online and download a poppy to print at home.

According to figures from the RBL financial report, the Poppy Appeal experienced a significant decline in donations as fewer volunteers were collecting donations face-to-face. 

Funds fell from £55m in 2019 to £46.5m in 2020, a 15% drop. 

However, many volunteers continued to collect donations where possible.

Despite the hit to the foundation, the RBL were delighted that the Poppy Appeal this November saw a safe return of all Poppy Appeal organisers and collectors on the streets.

The number of ‘telephone buddy’ volunteers in the RBL grew from 3,500 to more than 19,000 during the pandemic. 

They ensured the most vulnerable were still able to access the support they needed.

The Poppy Appeal on average raises over £45m which provides life-long support to the Armed Forces community and their families.

Former Royal Marine, Nick Fleming, has benefited from the RBL since being medically discharged from serving as a Marine for three years due to an injury in his right knee.

Battle Back is a service offered to veterans, like Nick, to ensure they are given the best possible recovery for returning to duty or transitioning to civilian life.

The 32-year-old Veteran from Wimbledon said: “I had no idea the sort of range and support that was out there before my injury.

“Never in a million years would I have thought the RBL offered a support group called Battle Back.

“Starting at the legion my eyes were completely open to the level of support that was there.

“When you start training you kind of believe your superman and nothing is going to happen to you.

“I hurt my knee about 9 months after I passed the training, so to go through all that effort and then to have my career pulled out from under my feet early on was tough.

“I was in the rehab system for 2 years which helped me come to terms with it. The RBL helped me maintain a positive mindset.”

PROUD: Former Marine, Nick Fleming believes it’s key for people to donate to the Royal British Legion

Nick gained an Ancient History degree prior to being a Marine, but despite having both on his CV, Nick thought it wasn’t enough to gain a job.

He said: “One of the first websites I looked on was the RBL, it opened my eyes to career possibilities. 

“Although it looked good on paper having a history degree as well as the Marines, it doesn’t really give you too many work office skills. 

“I was just looking for a volunteering job or any job at entry-level job.

“I believe the RBL is one of the best charities out there and a vast majority are young service leaders like myself that are unrepresented. 

“By keeping up the donations you’re helping to support the future generations that don’t really meet what people have in their minds eye of what a veteran is, so it is vital to donate.”

Mental health is a huge issue, along with housing and unemployment for veterans.

With the money raised, it goes back into the welfare system to spend on the beneficiary to ensure the Armed Forces community get the recovery they require.

Nick added: “It’s key for people to keep supporting and donating.”

2021 marks the Royal British Legion’s centenary year and since the poppy was first worn as an act of Remembrance just over 100 years ago.

The RBL added: “It has become an enduring symbol of support for our Armed Forces, past and present, ad every poppy counts.”

The 2021/22 financial report for the Royal British Legion is released next year.

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