The Royal Institution has been bailed out of a cash crisis that threatened to force the organisation from its Mayfair home. Sir Richard Sykes, chairman of the 200-year-old institution, said it had received a donation of £4.4m that would clear its debts and give the board time to develop a fresh strategy to finance the charity.

The cash from an anonymous foundation will pay off the RI's immediate loan and overdraft which had to be settled by March. The loan was secured against the RI's premises, an imposing £60m grade I-listed building in Mayfair.

The windfall has bought the RI a stay of execution, but senior figures still face a huge challenge to define a modern role for the institution, and forge partnerships with charities and businesses to overcome its long-term financial problems. The RI must repay a second loan of £2m in 2015 and is losing £1m a year in running costs.

Speaking at a special general meeting in London on Tuesday night, Sykes said the donation lifted the immediate prospect of having to sell the RI's home, and provided "breathing room to explore other options more fully".