"Our Finest Year" - Pipal Tree releases its 2020 annual report and accounts

Written by Philip Holmes on Sunday 23rd May 2021

Our finest year

As a registered charity, Pipal Tree has to have its annual accounts independently examined at the end of each financial year and, once approved, submitted to the Charity Commission as part of the annual report. Our financial year follows the calendar year, so, as soon as the year ended on 31st December we got to work to do all that was necessary. A charity is allowed up to ten months to file the accounts and it was great credit to our Treasurer, Chartered Accountant Penny Rudge, that we were able to file ours in good time on the 11th May. You can view our full annual report and accounts online through this link. But here is a summary of content.

Operational review

Operationally, a turning point happened pre-COVID in February 2020 when we visited Dhanusha District (Province 2, southeast Nepal) for the first time to investigate how we might extend our charitable services to beneficiaries in this area. Dhanusha District is a high-risk area for gender-based violence and rape. That visit was hosted by Mr Dev Narayan Mandal of the Mithila Wildlife Trust (MWT), a prominent local environmentalist and social activist. Following that visit, we agreed to set up a women's training centre and, in due course, a girls' refuge. To our surprise, this visit introduced us to Mr Mandal's sterling efforts in reforestation and paved the way to the reforestation project that we launched in July.

In March, because of COVID a strict lockdown was imposed in Nepal that would last for three months. Because of this, we had to suspend all of our child rescue operations from India and vocational training projects in Kathmandu. The food situation in south Nepal became dire, with villagers facing starvation. Many of the men from the villages had been working as migrant labourers in India but they lost their jobs and were trapped in India through a combination of an Indian lockdown and the closure of the hitherto open border between India and Nepal. 

We decided to launch emergency food relief appeals through the Big Give that raised a total of £36,683 through matched public donations. Combining this with grant funding from registered charity Last Night a DJ Saved My Life totalling £14.900, we were able to deliver life-saving food aid to 1,055 people in Kathmandu valley and 27,131 people across 15 Districts of south Nepal. Most of these people were from marginalised communities and the Dalit ("untouchable") castes. Usually, they did not qualify for government food relief as, in spite of having lived in these Districts for generations, they had been denied citizenship, a sine qua non for relief support.

In June we launched our 2.5-year reforestation project at a 32-hectare community forest at Bhatighadi, north of Janakpur. This offered the following benefits:

  • Environmental restoration of an important river basis, with 29,500 saplings of native species planted
  • Short term, vital employment, to marginalised people who were desperate for work during lockdown. Indeed, these proud people requested work from us rather than food relief.
  • The prospect of livelihoods in future through ecotourism and the sustainable use of forest products

The project cost totalled £68,941 during 2020 with two thirds of this provided by the Gemma and Chris McGough Charitable Foundation and one third from the Nepal Department of Forestry. It is a major achievement to have secured Nepal government funding for a project.

In October, as part of an essential restructuring process, we established a new social enterprise, Lily's Leaves, that grew out of our former NGO partner in Kathmandu. This was a major positive step as we evolved our tailoring and other vocational activities from being solely training to incorporate production of goods.

In November, MWT completed the construction of a community learning centre at Dhanushadham that provides home study support to up to 400 children from the untouchable community. We employed two tutors who assist children with their learning and homework. The facility reduces the dropout rates from mainstream schools. The project was funded by private donors.

All in all, this was a highly successful operational year that resulted from our astute negotiation of unavoidable COVID-related setbacks.

Financial overview

Pipal Tree derived the majority of its income in 2020 from the following

Corporates £18,000

Trusts £127,740

Soroptimist International Federation of Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI) £24,473

HMRC Gift Aid & Furlough £18,890

Public donations £121,939

We had an income of £311,042 for the year (2019: £426k) and whilst this shows a 27% decrease in income over 2019, it was an extremely good result during such a difficult year for fundraising. The charity has continued to make effective use of Big Give opportunities for matching pledges, using a number of bespoke appeals as well as the annual December Big Give Christmas Challenge to raise funds for food relief and the empowerment of girls' projects. Over £45k of income was also received from the Gemma and Chris McGough Foundation for the new re-forestation project in Bhatighadi. 

We spent over £304,000 on our Nepal projects and operational support during the year (2019: £236k), an increase of 29% on 2019. This represented 92 pence in the pound going to Nepal projects with the remainder being spent on unavoidable UK expenditure that is needed to keep a charity operational and legal. This compares very favourably with some of the larger charities. For example, in 2019 Save the Children spent 86% of its income on charitable services and UNICEF the figure was 69% going to its work with children and the remainder spent on administration and fundraising.

Although we saw an operational deficit last year, we believe firmly that this was a temporary glitch because of COVID. It is worth noting that our underlying income trend remains healthy with the 2020 income greater than 2018, with, if anything, 2019 being an unusually successful year financially. We entered 2021 with a healthy, but not excessive, level of reserves that has allowed us to continue to meet the challenges that 2021 has presented.

Overall, we are very proud of last year's achievements and suggest that you bear these in mind if you are writing or updating your will!

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