UK charities are expected to continue their rapid shift towards digital working and collaboration in 2021, building on the innovation they have displayed in response to the Covid-19 crisis, according to a new report from Pro Bono Economics.
The Charity Sector through Covid report, produced in partnership with Charity Finance Group and the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, summarises the findings of a series of tracking surveys, showing that there has been widespread innovation and invention across the charity sector as a result of Covid-19. This tide of constructive, creative change is expected to carry through and even build into 2021.
From app-based delivery of food vouchers to hashtag-based running challenges, the crisis has moved fundraising, service delivery and day-to-day operations online. Echoing the findings of EFA’s recent Europe-wide survey (conducted in partnership with Salesforce.org), more than three quarters (77%) of UK charities participating in the Covid Charity Tracker have made greater use of digital and technology during the pandemic, while two thirds (67%) have innovated to deliver services remotely. These new figures show that 7 in 10 charities want to make more services digital and deliver new services remotely over the next 12 months, and more than 5 in 10 want to increase their use of technology and digital within their back office functions.
The study shows a drive for collaboration, with half of charities looking to collaborate more with others in their sector and over a third (35%) aiming to enhance their relationships with corporates.
Despite these positive trends, the research provides a clear reminder of the challenges facing the sector. One in four charities (25%) anticipate it taking at least two years for income to return to pre-Covid levels, and 81% expect Covid to negatively affect their ability to deliver their objectives for the first six months of the year.
Roberta Fusco, Director of Policy and Communications at Charity Finance Group added:
“Charities and social change organisations of all sizes have shown huge amounts of resilience, adaptability and decisive action through 2020 to ensure that they keep delivering a continued focus on their mission and meeting the rising tide of need from existing and new beneficiaries. The imperative to keep rapidly adapting will continue through 2021 with the impact of rising unemployment, Brexit and implications of possible No Deal. The capacity to remain flexible and adaptable relies on financial sustainability, which is under serious threat for many.
“Charities have stepped up to deliver and adapt at pace and have pulled on all the levers at their disposal, but they still face 2021 with hope – now government needs to do the same in their support of never more needed charities and not give up on the millions of beneficiaries who rely on the public benefit they deliver.”
Anya Martin, Senior Research and Policy Analyst at Pro Bono Economics, said:
“Voluntary and charitable organisations have a long history of overcoming adversity. 250 years ago, they rose to the world-altering challenge of the Industrial Revolution. Following the last financial crisis, the sector pivoted towards new sources of earned income when other sources of funding fell away. This crisis is no different.
“Much about the months and years ahead are uncertain and the funding gap is a flashing red light on the sector’s dashboard. Yet a determined focus on collaboration and digital innovation means it is possible the charity sector emerges from the pandemic more closely knit and more efficient in the long-term – ultimately able to help more people, more effectively.”
For the full report, click here.
Special focus feature: Looking into the crystal ball: Fundraisers’ predictions for 2021
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