The coronavirus tidal wave has brought with it a flood of system-changing impacts that we already understand to be epochal—not least for the UK charity sector, whose role as society’s lifeline is now more vital than ever.

As the crisis hit, we began a collaborative effort to help philanthropists keep charities serving throughout the coronavirus crisis, and prepare for whatever challenges the post-covid world will hold. As a first step, we published the following guidance from our consultants on how specific areas will be affected and what philanthropists can do. We think this remains just as relevant as we head into a tough winter of lockdowns and uncertainty.

Get in touch for bespoke guidance from our consultants for the areas you’re working on.

Use the links below to jump straight to the content you want to read:

  1. Covid-19: What we’re seeing
  2. Covid-19 & Funding
  3. How the sector works: Charity goes digital
  4. Covid-19: Sector by sector
    1. Elderly care2. Financial security3. Young people
    4. Education5. Mental health6. Disability
    7. Prison & rehabilitation8. Sexual & domestic violence9. Housing & homelessness
    10. Children in care11. Discrimination12. Refugees
    13. Arts & culture14. Healthcare & research15. International development
    16. Parenting & maternity17. Environment
  5. Supporting the solutions
  6. What we are learning

The impact of coronavirus is compounded by multiple structural vulnerabilities in the sector before the crisis hit. For more on this, read our State of the Sector research.

We’re keen for this to be a sector-wide effort. Share your ideas by emailing us at or posting in our LinkedIn group.

Last updated – 16 April 2020

1. Covid-19: What we’re seeing

When something affects everyone, it is invariably the most vulnerable who suffer most. The Big Issue street sellers on suddenly deserted streets; prisoners in unsanitary overcrowded wards, now with no visits to bring respite; domestic abuse victims forced to stay indoors with their abusive partner; the isolated elderly facing a triple blow of life-threatening risk, next to no social contact, and reduced access to general healthcare; refugees living outside the system and now cut off from support lifelines; zero hours contractors who now have zero hours to work. The list goes on.

Even once the immediate crisis has passed, many will be left more vulnerable in its wake. School closures are likely to have exacerbated the disadvantages between rich and poor children. Some parents will have the time and ability to home school effectively, other will not be so lucky. Domestic abuse victims trapped with their abusers will need urgent and intensive support. And people with physical or mental health conditions are likely to have had their health deteriorate further.

Historically, it has been charities who have come to their aid. But this time they may not be able to. For at the same time as needs grow, capacity shrinks.

Charities supporting the vulnerable are facing unprecedented challenges. Our State of the Sector research found that less than half of charities believed that funders were offering the flexible core funding we believe to be necessary for getting through a crisis. Charities are haemorrhaging revenue through fundraising events being cancelled, household giving being squeezed, and government contracts being put in jeopardy. Food banks have been facing stark shortages of suppliers and volunteers. Children’s homes are already closing.

Beyond money, the contagious nature of the virus itself has thrown us all head first into a revolution in how we work and a sudden need to radically rethink how we deliver services. For some charities, their services may suddenly not be deliverable at all, which threatens their ability to restart delivery once the present storms have passed.

The mountain may feel insurmountable. Yet already, charities, philanthropists, funders, and even tech initiatives are demonstrating unprecedented innovation, responsiveness and imagination. Community support groups are spreading as fast as the virus itself. How philanthropists act now—to support those who help people in need—will determine how charities are able to tackle this crisis in the short term, their institutional survival in the medium term, and the resilience of our sector in the long term.

At NPC, we are continuing to survey the short and medium-term impacts of coronavirus on the charity sector and the especially affected groups within it, and considering the long term changes it may experience. This guide is a living document and a conversation starter for how philanthropists can help charities respond, regroup and reboot. We offer some initial insights and recommendations for philanthropists, to help you consider your contribution to getting through this crisis.

This is a collaborative effort. We’ll be speaking with sector leaders that deliver and support charitable work, and with a range of experts on different themes, who will contribute further insight, inspiration and recommendations as their own responses develop. We hope this evolving guidance will help philanthropists and foundations to adapt to the changing needs of charities, so they may continue supporting society’s most vulnerable and retain their integral role in our social fabric.

2. Covid-19 and funding

Charities are staring into a funding chasm. Cuts in funding mean cuts to services for those who now need them more than ever. Furloughing staff is not an option for most. As many have already said, now is the time to mobilise not mothball.

Although some funders have proactively committed to flexibility, others are delaying, withdrawing or changing course. The much-discussed government support package for the sector was slow to materialise, despite coordinated campaigning and parliamentary advocacy.

Time—and reserves—are ticking away. Losses are likely to exceed £1 bn as the sector takes hits from all sides:

  • Events: Many charities rely on now cancelled fundraising events to survive—the London Marathon alone generated £66 m last year for charities.
  • Individual giving: Many sectors will suffer a drop as scarce personal resources are redirected or saved, this could be particularly true because the most generous givers are aged over 75 (this group gave £2bn in 2018). Philanthropic capacity itself will be significantly compromised by the current financial crash and ensuing recession. Individual giving after the 2008 financial crash fell by 11%.
  • Earned income: A significant proportion of a charities’ income comes from trading and rent. Charities reliant on renting out rooms in their building to activity groups or for conferences will now find that income stream has dried up. Similarly, charity shops are likely to see significant drops in revenue as people stay indoors. A simple calculation using NCVO Almanac Data from 2019 (which uses 2016/17 income data) suggests charities could lose £1.63 bn, or 3% of their total income, if they had to suspend their trading for just three months.
  • Contracts: An even larger proportion of charity revenue is earned through contracts—40% of charities’ total annual income is potentially at risk. Lots of these contracts will be with government—which we hope will be honoured even if service delivery cannot happen. But other contracts will be with other charities, businesses or schools, and these will likely be smaller contracts. New contracts will likely dry up. This presents a serious cashflow problem to the charity sector, as well as an income one. The Small Charities Coalition think that only 20% of small charities are able to provide normal services because of coronavirus. Furthermore, our State of the Sector research found that many charities subsidise contracts through other income, so if the sector struggles then public service delivery will be undermined as well.

The government’s £750 million rescue for the charity sector is very welcome, particularly for charities on the frontline of fighting Covid-19. Now we need to follow where this money is going, so philanthropists can support the government’s efforts and also fund areas the government is not supporting. So we need the government to be transparent about the distribution of spending.

One of the unique benefits of philanthropy is its ability to be fast, flexible and independent. This guide advises philanthropists on how to target their giving, both to the frontline and to charities struggling to provide other vital services who will be crucial for rebuilding in the post-covid world.

To prevent widespread charity closures, emergency philanthropic resources have to be mobilised, attached not to outcomes but simply to survival.

2.1. Emergency philanthropy

Several funders have been quick to set up emergency funds to support charities facing immediate increasing demands for services. Some of the first include:

  • The National Emergencies Trust (NET) is launching a fundraising appeal to help those most affected by the recent coronavirus outbreak. The British Red Cross will be managing donations.  NET will award grants and distribute the money raised through a number of charitable organisations, for example local community foundations.
  • The Indigo Trust have given £2.5 million, vastly above their usual annual giving, split between the National Emergencies Trust, the Trussell Trust, and the Oxfordshire Community Foundation.
  • In London, the Mayor has joined City Bridge Trust and London Funders to launch a new emergency support fund to help London’s community and voluntary organisations affected by the impact of the coronavirus. The initial £2 million fund has now risen to over £8 million, with contributions from City Hall and City Bridge Trust, and coordinated by London Funders.
  • In the North West, the Steve Morgan Foundation is pledging £1 million a week (for the next 12 weeks) to charities affected by the coronavirus in Merseyside, Cheshire and North Wales.
  • The Coronavirus Charity Help Fund, set up by Martin Lewis, to help those affected by the coronavirus. Small or local charities are able to apply to receive a grant of £5,000-£20,000 for specific coronavirus poverty relief projects such as giving food, toiletries, and basic necessities, as well as community projects to help people in isolation.

More are being announced all the time. Regularly updated lists can be found here and here.

While emergency funding is important and necessary, it can offer mixed benefits and bring unintended consequences. Crises make us want to act, and donating is a tangible way to do that. But whilst some frontline service providers may be inundated, other less obvious but equally important sectors are overlooked.

To avoid this, we need a coordinated systems-change approach. The Disasters Emergency Committee was of course born out of this need for emergency funding to be coordinated and effective. There are important lessons we can learn from our colleagues in humanitarian response.

As well as the obvious emergency needs of food, clothes and supplies to those supporting coronavirus victims, such funds should also be used to enable charities—even those not directly delivering such services—simply to continue existing in the face of a liquidity crisis. The National Lottery Communities Fund have demonstrated this by including both categories in their £300 million earmarked for Covid-19 response.

2.2. Shifts in funding practice

Aware of the extreme circumstances most charities now find themselves in, many philanthropists and support bodies acted fast to shore up and reassure their charity partners. London Funders, a group of major London trusts and local authorities, led the way with an immediate coronavirus commitment to funding flexibility, in light of the impacts of coronavirus. The pledge committed participating funders to:

  • Permitting changes to grant periods and delivery dates.
  • Permitting changes to activities, allowing grantees to repurpose funds for urgent coronavirus related needs.
  • Listening to grantees about their specific situation, challenges and needs.

For grantees, this rapid reassurance goes a long way, providing peace of mind to budget holders and to staff, allowing them to focus on doing their jobs. One such grantee, Clare Corran, Chief Executive Officer of Positive Futures Liverpool, already reported that: ‘With the flexible guarantees from some of our existing funders, we have been able to give our staff job security over the coming months. This key fact now means that we can focus on providing the best service possible for children, young people and families.’

In the US, the Council of Foundations (CoF) went even further with their manifesto, with signatories committing to:

  • Loosen or eliminate the restrictions on current grants.
  • Make new grants as unrestricted as possible.
  • Lift or loosen current reporting requirements, reports, visits etc.
  • Contribute to community-based emergency response funds for those most affected.
  • Communicate proactively and regularly about decision-making.
  • Commit to listening to our partners and affected communities.
  • Support grantee partners in advocating for public policy changes necessary to support those most affected, such as such as rental assistance and expanded sick leave.

We think other umbrella bodies for funders should consider mobilising members to make similar pledges.

2.3. Fundraising in a crisis

With fundraising events cancelled and many funding sources compromised, the sector is looking to online fundraising mechanisms to harness the wave of social solidarity we’re seeing.

Now is the time for charities to get digitally creative with their fundraising. There are already a plethora of resources quickly emerging. Here are a few, please contact us if you have come across others:

  • The London Landmarks Half Marathon allows runners to still raise funds for chosen charities whilst staying within distancing restrictions! Charities could contact their registered runners and encourage them to take part or organise their own virtual event.
  • Free digital fundraising packages and support from Funraisin.
  • Creative online fundraising ideas, from virtual pub quizzes to isolation challenges.
  • The Fundraising Regulator has issued guidance to charities to help them navigate this new fundraising terrain.
  • TheCoronavirus Tech Handbook has emerged as a focal point for tech-driven responses and contains a range of resources, funding sources, and tech innovations to support Covid-19 responses.

Many charities are finding themselves needing to suddenly and significantly expand their ICT capacity, which could in fact be one of the most helpful contributions that philanthropists and foundations can make.

2.4. Funding beyond the crisis

With a major recession almost inevitable, charities are highly likely to still be suffering long after the virus itself has subsided. Our charities form a well-developed social support system at the heart of our civil society. Not maintaining that system now could have disastrous knock-on effects further down the line.

For charities already hanging on by a thread, the turmoil posed by Covid-19 may be more than they can survive Funders need to factor organisational survival into their decision-making. Philanthropists should always ask fundamental questions about effectiveness, but in the current climate they might also ask ‘which charities can we not afford to lose?’ This could reveal a set of grantees who donors believe to be vital to our collective work, but for one reason or another, they have not supported before. Philanthropists should now consider this group when making decisions about grants and take the lead in keeping the organisations they believe in thriving.

In the longer term, funders should think about how their actions can support charities and communities to be resilient and have a lasting social impact. As well as mitigating the negative impacts of Covid-19 on charities and communities, funders have an opportunity to support the positive shifts that could occur at this time of disruption—both in terms of the funding ecosystem itself and for the issues charities are confronting.

We think this requires philanthropy to:

  • Redefine its relationship with charities and communities to one based on trust, valuing the knowledge and expertise of all parties. Whilst a charity can’t achieve its mission without funding, funders can’t achieve their mission without the work of charities either. Some of the moves we have already seen from leading foundations represent a profound shift towards the assumption that charities know how they are best placed to contribute. As the CoF asserts: ‘We recognize that the best solutions to the manifold crises caused by Covid-19 are not found within foundations.’ This crisis thus offers an opportunity for philanthropy to redefine its relationship with charity partners as wise custodians of resource, a call echoed in the final point of the CoF Pledge, for learning that can inform long-term change:  ‘So we may consider adjusting our practices more fundamentally in the future, in more stable times, based on all we learn.’
  • Reflect this trust-based approach within grant implementation and reporting processes. Instead of making grantees jump through hoops to get funding (inadvertently or otherwise), and then further hoops to demonstrate that they have spent the money wisely—relationships based on trust can deliver better results. We outline further guidance on trust-based philanthropy in our report, A rebalancing act. This can be done through providing more unrestricted funding; simplifying and streamlining application, planning and reporting processes; being transparent and responsive; soliciting and acting on feedback.
  • Rebalance the power in philanthropy. As well as sharing and building power with charities and communities, funders can wield their own power for good. At a time of crisis, it is all the more important for funders to think about how to leverage all their assets and types of power—not just their grant-making—in pursuit of their goals. This might mean aligning their investment portfolio with their mission, influencing other funders, investing in sector capacity, convening people around a shared goal, or commissioning research into what works.
  • Focus on equity and fairness. We know that some people, groups and communities are going to be disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 and it may exacerbate existing inequalities in our society. In the US, a group of funders have signed a joint statement urging everyone in philanthropy to ensure that the coronavirus outbreak is addressed in ways that are as equitable and fair as possible. This ranges from supporting rapid response funds to communities that are particularly affected, to using their voice to stand up for groups that are being marginalized or targeted by hate crime. In the UK, Future Foundations UK—a collective of people of colour working in trusts and foundations—issued a statement calling for independent funders to commit more resources to local sustainable infrastructure, direct funding to grassroots movements, amplify of existing work on the ground, and a shift to a social justice approach.
  • Collaborate more and better. Funders can increase their impact by working with other funders and across different sectors, such as with government. At a minimum, philanthropists and foundations should take time to consider where they sit in an ecosystem of funding and charitable work, and how they can complement, coordinate and collaborate with others so that it is easier for charities to navigate the system. More ambitious funders can join forces around a cause to amplify their collective impact. We set out best practice for cause-related networks in our upcoming report.

Some of these shifts are starting to occur as a result of current circumstances. Whilst correctly focusing on the short-term need for flexibility and agility, we think these shifts could also be used as a pilot for a radically new way of working. You might even want to look at how you can quantify the effect of flexibility on charities and their beneficiaries.

For more on rebalancing the power relationship between funders and charities, see our work on power dynamics.

3. How the sector works: Charity goes digital

Covid-19 has radically reorganised how we work. Some changes will be temporary; others may usher in new practices that are long needed, or herald new sources of support.

To adapt and survive, charities are having to move everything online—from staff meetings and service delivery, to fundraising and measurement and evaluation.

For some charities, shifting services online has been more straightforward than others. For example, NCT’s antenatal groups are now run as online classes and many galleries and collections are reaching new audiences. Charities such as the Scouts, whose entire raison d’etre is the outdoors, has cleverly created #TheGreatIndoors, gathering more than 100 free activities to help families have fun and learn together, with online demonstrations by Scout leaders being conducted through Facebook live.

This shift online will of course present problems for smaller charities, whose staff and volunteers may not be set up to work at home. It’s not missed meetings we need to worry about but missed mentoring sessions or support calls. Therefore, one of the least glamorous but possibly most helpful ways donors can support charities is to provide rapid response funds for ICT capacity expansion: whether that’s laptops, monitors and software or support for internet upgrades or home phone bills.

Charities can find a lot of support for going online:

  • Charity Digital has a range of support, from software discounts to tools for managing remote teams.
  • Salesforce is offering free support to charities tackling coronavirus.
  • Slack, Facebook Workplace, Hootsuite and many other tech companies are offering free or heavily discounted internet services to charities during the crisis. Full list here.
  • There is general and comprehensive support for the new charity sector work-from-home-force.
  • Charity Excellence Framework is offering free toolkits for charities suddenly charting unknown territory, including tools for assessing risk, for rapid strategy reboot and for online fundraising.

3.1. Volunteers: The sector’s foot-soldiers

About 12 m people volunteer at least once a month, with the highest rates among the over-65s, many of whom must now self-isolate. Charities reliant on their time will clearly be hugely affected. These charities will need support in funding new volunteers or perhaps contracting people to do work previously done by volunteers.

But as one volunteer army retreats, another advances. Self-organising support groups have sprung up around the country, with an umbrella organisation—Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK—led by volunteers who support the network.

The government’s call for volunteers to support the NHS beat all expectations. Many thousands of people who had never previously volunteered are busy connecting with and supporting vulnerable people in their locality with food, medicine and simple human contact.

These new entities will need support, but such support must be driven by volunteers and beneficiaries themselves and be locally relevant. Beyond the short-term immediate support volunteers are providing, we could be witnessing a new wave of civic participation and leadership, if harnessed and embraced.

As Seren John-Wood, 23, who helped establish the first group in Lewisham commented in The Guardian: ‘The solidarity that has emerged from this is incredible. We are hoping this will forge long-lasting connections.’

3.2 Monitoring, evaluating, learning, adapting

Monitoring, evaluation and learning has become central to how we work. Now it faces new challenges and changes. With the daily flux we find ourselves in, planning and forecasting outcomes is impossible. How charities measure impact, and how funders ask for it, is a question we will need to explore as we go. How they practically collect data is another.

M&E practitioners will be asking:

  • How much and what kind of data collection can be done remotely?
  • Which tools present the lowest barrier to access?
  • And how can data collection be put more in the hands of users? Rapid development and take-up of field tools that allow beneficiaries to self-report could become vital.

The most urgent application of this is of course monitoring the impact of coronavirus-specific interventions. We need to know what works. Although many funders are pledging flexibility in the usual reporting requirements, one should not take this as permission not to monitor. Previous international emergency responses have found it hard to demonstrate efficacy and efficiency of resources, to their detriment. It is in the interests of those on the frontline of the coronavirus response to maintain robust monitoring practices for both internal and external monitoring purposes, insofar as they can, given current restrictions.

How they do this given current restrictions is of course a challenge. However, there is much we can learn from charities experienced in international disaster response. Whilst the contexts are very different, there is much that mirrors the situation we see emerging here – constrained access to affected people, lack of data, and rapid and dynamic services. In the coming weeks, we will carry out a scoping literature review to pull together key advice and guidance from our colleagues in the humanitarian sector about how to monitor in logistically challenging contexts.

A new letter could now be added to the MEL acronym—for adaptation. Connecting with others’ experiences and drawing on lessons, tools and approaches from other sectors and contexts will be key in enabling organisations to respond and survive. There will be a need for rapid cycles of action learning. Organisational integrity and resilience may depend on the pace at which organisations are able to adapt and evolve to the changing landscape.

4. Covid-19: Sector by sector

Funding, volunteers and working practices are issues that apply to varying degrees across the entire charitable sector. When you look closer though, you’ll see different sectors face their own challenges, and they need bespoke support. What follows is an initial snapshot of sectoral impacts, which we’ll be developing with input from partners as the situation unfolds. 

4.1. Elderly care

It hardly needs stating that the elderly will be most affected, not just from vulnerability to the disease, but even by the isolation designed to protect them: 

  • Elderly care, requiring in-person visits, will of course be severely affected. An urgent increase in the vailability of protective equipment is vital, as is a massive scale-up in testing capacity, so in-person visits can safely resume as soon as possible. 
  • Elderly care charities are experiencing increased demand for their services, with calls to Age UK increasing by 40%. On 20 March they launched a £10 m emergency appeal in the UK,and another internationally,to ensure thattheyandtheirnational, local and international partnerscouldcontinue to provideAge charities are rightly seeing significantly increased donor support, with Age UK a popular recipient. Philanthropists should also look to smaller age-related charities who also need support.
  • Community volunteers are already delivering food and medication, with it being left outside doors. Volunteers need to be supported by charities to do this safely.
  • Elderly people’s mental health will be severely impacted, with many over-70s facing months in isolation. According to Age UK, more than 2 m over-75s in England live alone, and more than a million older people say they already go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member. So, when this is your starting point, social distancing and isolation are potentially catastrophic. There could be significant knock-on effects for health and mortality. 
  • People with dementia can struggle to understand what is going on. Dementia UK’s helpline has been flooded with calls about looking after someone with dementia during lockdown and explaining what is happening
  • Telephone helplines have an important role to play, for example Dementia UK’s Admiral Nurses work remotely, so their telephone helpline will stay open over the coming months. However, this cannot replace in-person visits, particularly for people already lonely even before the coronavirus outbreak.Furthermore, increased demand on their helpline brings greater costs. With fundraising activities cancelled, Dementia UK have launched an urgent helpline appeal.

How philanthropists can help: 

  • Immediate needs include funding for helplines and stand-in support staff.
  • Smaller elderly care charities are less likely to benefit from high profile fundraising campaigns but also provide vital support at community level.
  • Charities may need support accessing the ICT needed to operate help services remotely. Training may also be needed keeping in mind that elderly beneficiaries are less likely to be digitally confident.
  • Charities need access to protective equipment for care workers.

4.2. Financial security

An economic downturn will of course hit people on the lowest incomes the hardest. With the government committed to paying 80% of salaries and the profits of self-employed workers, the immediate danger of mass lay-offs should be eased. The situation may become more complicated when full lockdown is partially lifted, allowing some to return to work but not others, keeping economic activity low. The longer-term picture also remains fragile, with a likely recession keeping many in economically marginal conditions.   

The government’s rescue package is only temporary. It cannot go on forever, so the threat of severe financial hardship remains very real:

  • The immediate effects of Covid-19 are especially concerning for gig economy workers and self-employed entrepreneurs and contractors, who face immediate and drastic drops in income. They may be ineligible to claim sick pay and the benefits they are entitled to are not enough for most people to live on.Charities like Turn2Us and Citizens Advice provide support navigating the benefits system.
  • Low income families are likely to suffer with increased childcare burdens from schools closing and free school meals ending. Food banks are already overstretched, but now with stock shortages and most volunteers being retired and therefore having a higher risk of infection, some foodbanks are being forced to close, just when they are needed the most.
  • Covid-19 will have a knock-on effect on renters in the medium-term, especially those claiming benefits. With so many applying for Universal Credit so quickly, further issues with this already troubled benefit system may surface. Delays in initial payment and payment in arrears were already pushing people to the edge. Radical and rapid changes to the benefits system may be needed to avoid pushing people further into the grip of poverty, but such changes could bring their own teething problems as well.

How philanthropists can help: 

  • Although government is providing short-term assistance, the economic shocks of Covid-19 and effects of lost income will be long term. Whilst focusing on short-term need during the crisis, philanthropists should also prepare themselves for the longer-term needs of people who are financially vulnerable.

4.3. Young people

The youth sector continues to be especially threatened: 

  • As a sector that is temporarily deprioritised, funding questions will be weighing on youth workers’ minds. Many child and youth services are at significant risk of closure due tocancellation of fundraising events and / or contracts. Shooting Stars Children’s Hospice for example have already had to close one centre and have launched an emergency appealto avoid having to close others. In London, 40% of youth charities say they will have to close within six months without emergency support.
  • Refocusing attention on other sectors and issues may lead to a lack of attention on the issue of youth violence and lead to further funding cuts for youth organisations.
  • Social distancing could put some vulnerable young people at a higher risk. Child and youth care providers are expressing concern about the health and wellbeing of young people, particularly children on free school meals. Children not in school are more vulnerable to gangs, and a lack of structure and social interaction can damage the mental health of vulnerable children.
  • For some, school is actually a refuge from chaotic home lives. With all family members housebound, a pressure cooker scenario could ensue. 
  • The move to digital communication, and the increased time children and young people are spending at home online, brings with it an increased risk posed by online predators. It is vital that parents, carers and support organisations remain vigilant to online child safeguarding.

Key to impact in youth work is relationships, so charities will need to be thinking about how to maintain and build trusting relationships with little or no face-to-face contact. Many are quickly adapting to remote service delivery:

  • Telephone and online options are possible for some, but not all. Charities will need to think about how to be accessible to the most vulnerable. The transition to online and phone contact has been more difficult for charities working with disadvantaged young people, as many do not have consistent internet access. Some youth charities, such as IntoUniversity, are focusing on phone support instead. 
  • Youth charities we spoke to are still taking time to develop their practices. MAC-UK say they are co-producingwith their beneficiaries the most effective means of delivering remote support and will scale up accordingly.
  • Charities are emphasising the importance of consistent communication. They’ve found that when contact is remote, rather than in person, it will likely be shorter, so it needs to be more frequent. Regular check-ins are key. The young people helped by Amber are getting involved by discussing how best to self-isolate and are supporting each other through it.

How philanthropists can help: 

  • Right now youth charities need  ‘survival support’ to  ensure they are still there for vulnerable young people throughout and beyond this crisis. Many have already set up emergency fundraising campaigns.

4.4. Education

With schools closed across the UK, this will have profound educational and social consequences for hundreds of thousands of children:

  • Although some education might continue if the school has sufficient online learning resources, children who do not have consistent access to the internet, or to the technology the school is using, are likely to miss out, widening the attainment gap for disadvantaged children.
  • Charities that provide services to young people would no longer be able to do so on school grounds if there are no children there. This will also affect many tutoring and after school activity charities. Education charities have been stepping up to adapt their services. For example, Magic Breakfast was initially going to set up collection points for their food, but in the wake of new government advice, they are now planning to deliver food directly to families with help from volunteers and delivery companies.  
  • Other education charities are looking to create new services they had not been delivering before. The Teacher Development Trust is hoping (funds permitting) to rapidly design and produce a suite of additional free support for school leaders, focusing on training staff during school closures and providing support for their wellbeing.

How philanthropists can help: 

  • With many education charities rushing to develop online educational resources, such as the Teacher Development Trust, philanthropists can help with fast-turnaround support so they can meet their costs and continue to provide educational support to those who need it as quickly as possible.

4.5. Mental health

Lockdown is a strain for everyone. Yet for those with pre-existing mental health problems, especially anxiety, depression, claustrophobia or forms of obsessive compulsive disorder, it is really a nightmare situation.

  • Mental health charities have been drawing attention to these issues and calling for support. Many sufferers rely on support mechanisms, centres and activities that are no longer available, such as group volunteering, gardening, exercise groups and addiction support meetings. The duration of the lockdown being unknown will only deepen the stress and anxiety.
  • Mental health experts are already reporting more calls to charities running phone support services for people suffering from depression, anxiety, panic and obsessive-compulsive disorder, who are becoming acutely distressed.
  • As early as February, a review in the Lancet highlighted the impact of enforced mass quarantine: ‘Studies reported negative psychological effects, including post-traumatic stress symptoms, confusion, and anger. Stressors included longer quarantine duration, infection fears, frustration, boredom, inadequate supplies, inadequate information and financial loss.’
  • Isolation and quarantine are likely to worsen this, and could lead to an increase in suicides, as people are cut off from loved ones or denied care. Lockdowns make it harder for professionals to provide access to continuous treatment, although some therapy could be done online or by phone. Many who are reliant on already-overstretched NHS services may not be able to access them due to new pressures on the health service.Similarly, carers of people with mental health issues might need to self-isolate, creating gaps in vital care for vulnerable people.
  • Uncertainty is a key driver for people with anxiety disorders; the focus on hand-washing and hygiene could also be very triggering for many people living with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • The Mental Health Foundation is setting up a monthly survey to monitor the mental health of the UK population during and beyond the crisis. Looking ahead, the already lengthy mental health waiting list is likely to continue to grow as a result of coronavirus stress, isolation and economic hardship.

How philanthropists can help: 

  • Public Health England has provided £5 million to mental health charities to help them expand their services. However, the expenditure needed to continue operating through coronavirus will require more than that.
  • Beyond the crisis, mental health charities will need urgent capacity expansion over the coming months and years to cope with the increased demand on its services. Philanthropy will be invaluable.

4.6. Disability

The crisis is having a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities. Panic buying is preventing many from accessing essential food deliveries and medical supplies. Meanwhile, people who need personal assistance may struggle to adapt to working from home. As the crisis unfolds, new barriers continue to emerge:

  • Pressure on the NHS: People with disabilities will of course be affected by current pressures on the NHS. Non-urgent health matters—including some operations and GP appointments—are being pushed back. Where treatment is preventative or early intervention, delays are likely to lead to more problems, especially for people with multiple long-term conditions, which in turn will increased demands for charities’ services further down the line.
  • Care worker challenges: Care England found that care workers are not being recognised as key workers by some schools, shops, and supermarkets. This makes it difficult for them to provide essential care for those in need. Staff shortages are already commonplace, but with staff isolating, the sector won’t have the capacity to even meet current demand.
  • Learning disabilities and autism: People with special learning needs face multiple difficulties during the current crisis. Some may have limited comprehension of the situation, whilst still suffering its effects. For example, changes in diet or routine can greatly upset people with certain disabilities. There have been numerous stories of stockpiling harming people with autism, as changes in what is available can cause stress and anxiety. For some, this can lead to adverse behaviours such as hurting other people, hurting themselves and destroying property. Suddenly having to keep physical distance may also be confusing and hard to manage. At the same time, care providers are of course facing staff and resource restrictions. Taken together, this makes people living with learning disabilities or autism one of the groups hit hardest by a lockdown.
  • Coronavirus Act concern: There has been widespread concern amongst disability charities of the possible impact of the Coronavirus Act on disabled people. Emergency regulations allow ministers to free councils of their duties under the Care Act 2014 to ‘assess and meet the care needs of elderly or disabled people unless they are required to by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).’ Lawyers who analysed the bill stated: ‘Schedule 11 as currently drafted is likely to have a serious negative impact on adults with care and support needs and their carers.’

How philanthropists can help:

  • Disability charities are a fundamental social service for hundreds of thousands of people living with a range of disabilities. Many have specialist knowledge of particular conditions that local authorities can’t provide.
  • These charities need additional funding to provide the extra care needed during this challenging time. With staff and volunteer shortages, they will need more resources to access additional human resources, ICT equipment and training.

4.7. Prison and rehabilitation

Coronavirus could have a dramatic effect on prison populations. In overcrowded institutions, self-isolation will be very difficult, meaning that if the virus finds its way in it would be extremely hard to contain. A report by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) warns of the substantial risk of the virus spreading fast in locked establishments through ‘cluster amplification’.

  • Therefore, prison visits are being stopped, which seriously increases the mental health risks of inmates. Stopping visits in Italy because of coronavirus led to prison rioting.
  • Preventing outside visits means charities can’t work in prisons anymore. As previous NPC reports have argued, charitable access to prisoners is vital for the rehabilitation process.
  • Furthermore, prisons house some people who are especially vulnerable to the virus. A 2018 report by MPs concluded 15% of the prison population had respiratory conditions, and 6% of the UK’s prison population is over 60 (equating to 5000 inmates). Worryingly, in a practice known as‘cohorting’, prisoners with flu symptoms, that may or may not be coronavirus symptoms, are being placed in cells with inmates who have tested positive for Covid-19. This places prisoners with flu symptoms at greater risk due to weakened immunity, previous conditions, and increased contact. Prisoner Advice Service have strongly criticised the practice, saying that it breaches prison service guidelines which state: Any prisoner or detainee with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature should be placed in protective isolation for seven days.’
  • There is already a suggestion that many prisoners will be released early. Yet despite prisoners having already died from the virus, the government has been slow to take action. Once the virus takes hold in prisons, it is expected to wreak havoc. Yet despite similar moves in other countries, as of April we have as yet not seen the expected early release of low-risk or high-vulnerability prisoners, although Northern Ireland has released some that were already in the final months of their sentences. If early prisoner release does occur, then charities offering post-release support will face increased demand for services.

How philanthropists can help:

  • Prison charities will need to focus on family members that are unable to visit relatives who are prisoners, who will be facing acute worry and stress, particularly if prisoners have been infected or quarantined. This will need to be done online or over the phone, which may require additional resources.
  • Post-release support charities, if early release measures are taken, will require additional support to meet demand and prevent reoffending.

4.8. Sexual and domestic violence

Isolation and social distancing presumes that home is a relatively safe place to be. The appalling reality is that this is not the case for hundreds of thousands of women, and some men as well. Coronavirus has made survivors of domestic violence even more vulnerable. Reports state that affected regions of China experienced a three-fold increase in reports of domestic violence during their lockdown.

  • Increased presence of the perpetrator limits options: Although we know from other lockdown situations that domestic violence incidents tend to rise, helpline operators are currently reporting a drop in calls, which they are concerned represents survivors being unable or afraid to reach out due to the constant presence of the perpetrator in the home. It may also limit the opportunities for a survivors to leave for a refuge. Rev Jill-Hailey Harries, chair of Carmarthen Domestic Abuse Services said she was worried that abusers would be using the coronavirus lockdown to stop their partners from having any freedom.
  • Nowhere to go: Although women have been reassured that they are allowed to leave home to go to a refuge, this is complicated by increased perpetrator presence, strains on refuges’ resources, and women’s fears of contracting the virus in crowded accommodation. One pressure group, Southall Black Sisters, has written to hotel chains urging them to give unoccupied hotel rooms to abuse victims.Across the world, women’s support organisations are reporting that lockdown is being used by perpetrators as an additional tool of oppression. One caller to the National Domestic Violence Hotline in the US reported that ‘my husband won’t let me leave the house … He’s had flu-like symptoms and blames keeping me here on not wanting to infect others or bringing something like Covid-19 home. But I feel like it’s just an attempt to isolate me.’
  • Support avenues closed: Although helplines remain open, many survivors access support through walk-in services, one to one counselling and group support. The closure of these support systems further increases stress on survivors.  One domestic violence counsellor tweeted that ‘this morning was the busiest shift I’ve had in a year.’ Tellingly, she then said ‘I don’t have an answer’.

How philanthropists can help:

  • Whilst trying to respond to this nightmare situation for abused women, domestic violence charities are facing urgent funding shortfalls, which if not met could be catastrophic for survivors. Women’s Aid have launched an urgent campaign to raise £200,000 to enable them to keep supporting survivors. All domestic violence charities will likely need support to adapt to the new challenges they face.

4.9. Housing and homelessness

  • Rough sleepers are more likely to contract coronavirus as it’s harder for them to mitigate risk. They are also more likely to have other underlying health issues and will find it more difficult to access healthcare. Groundswell research indicates that 20% of homeless people suffer from asthma.
  • The sector has responded quickly to the pandemic, with Groundswell publishing resources for people rough sleeping or living in temporary accommodation. The guides’ key points are also available in Romanian and Polish. Similarly, the Frontline Network have established the C-19 Frontline Worker Support Forum to share information, guidance, and solutions for frontline workers supporting homeless people. Crisis are reporting that the government has written to all local authorities and asked them to house all rough sleepers and those in hostels and night shelters.
  • Public appetite for giving across the board may fall. Many homeless people rely on selling the Big Issue or donations, which will be more difficult now commuters are confined to their homes. The Big Issue have launched an appeal for donations and are working on contingencies to mitigate the potential loss of earnings for their vendors.Crisis have launched a campaign called ‘In this together’ to raise funds during the outbreak. They set up an emergency grants scheme to help local homelessness charities across Britain continue to deliver their vital services. Crisis have committed to keeping their services open through the outbreak and are currently lobbying the government for a comprehensive homelessness plan.
  • The government have announced potential mortgage holidays for homeowners. For renters, emergency legislation will suspend evictions for a 3-month period. The 3-month mortgage payment holiday has also been confirmed to extend to buy-to-let mortgages, meaning landlords should theoretically be extending that grace period on to their tenants.
  • Job losses or reductions in hours mean that it is likely that many people will subsequently need temporary housing later, or resort to couch-surfing. Current couch-surfers may also face difficulty, potentially losing their temporary places of residence or being unable to self-isolate.

How philanthropists can help:

  • Most homelessness and housing charities are appealing for donations to support their essential operations during the pandemic.
  • Homelessness is invariably the result of a long chain of misfortunes and vulnerabilities, which this crisis is likely to cause or exacerbate. Philanthropists supporting homelessness should be prepared for an increase in demand in the months and years to come.

4.10. Children in care

As an especially vulnerable population, children in care face fresh challenges as a result of coronavirus:

  • The care system is overstretched, with 88 children entering care every day. Following years of local authority cuts, children’s care services were already facing a shortfall of £3.1 bn. Coronavirus has stretched it to breaking point. The care system is now facing a bewildering array of challenges: accessing PPE equipment for carers; trying to access tests; massive staff and volunteer shortages due to self-isolation and sickness; getting stand-in workers DBS checked quickly enough; cancellation of visits; delays in food delivery; coordination with an overstretched health service; managing increasingly stressed and unsupported residents, and so on.
  • As care workers self-isolate, the many thousands of children who rely on them will be impacted. But care providers will still need to keep children safe and supported.
  • Many charities supporting the care sector, such as Home-Start, rely on volunteers who are often retired. As with food banks, these support charities will find their volunteer base are increasingly self-isolating.
  • The situation for children living in homes with less money will likely get worse as the economic impact of coronavirus begins to bite. Parents or caregivers could lose their jobs or income in the coming weeks. The benefits system is likely to be under strain, but the system must be able to respond quickly to the needs of vulnerable groups if the worst effects of this are to be avoided.
  • Some children’s homes are already having to close, others are under threat of closure. This creates the risk of increased child homelessness.
  • Grandparents Plus have highlighted the risks to one of the most hidden groups of vulnerable children—the estimated 200,000 under-18s who would probably be in care but for a ‘kinship carer’. Many of these carers are grandparents, who will somehow have to find a way to self-isolate whilst also looking after children. Lucy Peake, CEO of Grandparents Plus, described the case of a grandmother with emphysema who’s looking after four children. If she gets ill, they will have nowhere to go.

How philanthropists can help:

  • Short-term lifeline funding is needed to keep children’s homes open and children’s services running. Even providing food and basic supplies, as well as supporting kinship and foster carers, is beneficial.
  • In the longer term, economic hardship and pressures from Covid-19 fallout are likely to push more children into the care system, requiring greater capacity to meet growing demand.

4.11. Discrimination and community cohesion

Charities across the country are already reporting increased community tensions, fuelled by panic buying, stockpiling, distrust and fear.

  • More vulnerable immigrant groups are more likely to be the eventual target of any coronavirus hate crimes.
  • In addition, some immigrants will be facing a cocktail of challenges: Being already separated from their support network; being more likely to have pre-existing health conditions; more likely to be in living in poor quality or overcrowded housing; possibly unable to claim benefits; and more likely to have difficulties accessing healthcare. These multiple vulnerabilities increase the likelihood of sickness and/or homelessness.
  • The emergence of the West Midlands as a transmission hotspot has been attributed, partly, to government messaging not reaching some communities. Local community organisations could be key to disseminating official advice.
  • The current emergency is also likely to impact LGBTQ communities, particularly older people living with HIV ,who are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular or cerebrovascular diseases.

How philanthropists can help:

  • On the flip side, national crises tend to create cohesion by uniting people against a ‘common enemy’. The emergence of ‘Covid-19 Mutual Aid Groups’ and the overwhelming response of people signing up to be Covid-19 volunteers demonstrates an upsurge in civic and community participation. These initiatives should be supported and resourced, to keep up the momentum.

4.12 Refugees

  • Refugees have always been especially vulnerable to disease due to high geographical mobility; instability; living in overcrowded conditions; a lack of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities; and sporadic access to healthcare or vaccination programmes in their host countries. Displaced people sometimes end up sleeping without shelter in the streets, or in overcrowded camps that lack clean water.
  • Refugees are rarely a priority for governments. Indeed, refugees face the additional risk of stigmatisation. Politicians in Italy and Greece have already started to utilise xenophobic rhetoric, such as suggestions that asylum seekers and migrants are carrying the virus across borders, to drum up support for hard-line migration policies—when the real risks are to refugees themselves.
  • Organisations like national Red Cross societies have prioritised migrant communities as part of their coronavirus preparedness programmes. In February, the UN’s migration agency, the International Organisation for Migration, launched a response plan with a heavy focus on migration, including fighting stigma and risk communication.
  • Language barriers can inhibit effective communication of government information. Refugee organisations have needed to hurriedly translate government advice to ensure their beneficiaries understand it.
  • The Home Office are no longer interviewing people claiming asylum. For adult screening, asylum-seekers are being told to contact the Asylum Intake Unit by phone, but we don’t yet know what the Home Office will tell people to do in the current circumstances.
  • Small charities are far less likely to have IT equipment, unable to make remote cash payments, and struggle to use interpreters as this role was previously played by face to face volunteers. Many of their clients are also unable to receive remote service delivery even when it is available due to a lack of access to IT and bank accounts. This is having severe consequences for those already at the margins.

How philanthropists can help:

  • Short term: Refugee Action’s good practice team is working with local charities to identify the critical issues that are limiting their ability to operate remotely and to develop, test and share solutions to these through agile digital service design. The top priority identified by these organisations is to establish remote destitution payment mechanisms. Other issues include remote working and access to interpreters.
  • Mid term: The speed of Home Office decisions and how they are implemented will be the single biggest determinant of the health and welfare of people seeking asylum over the coming months. A coalition of national charities including Refugee Action, British Red Cross and Freedom from Torture are working on a collective strategy to influence the Home Office, with individual organisations leading in specific areas.
  • Long term: At a global level, coronavirus will deepen the hardships of daily life in developing countries and likely contribute to more migration. At the same time, borders will be markedly less open than they were in previous migrant surges. Expect harsher treatment of migrants at borders, alongside the hardening of sympathies and increased antagonisms from host countries. Refugee support organisations will be much needed.

The crux of the issue is that people seeking asylum live outside the mainstream safety net. We spoke with Stephen Hale from Refugee Action, who explained the dramatic change in the needs and risks faced by refugees, their response, and how philanthropists can help. Read the full case study here.

4.13 Arts and culture

  • With venues remaining shut for the foreseeable future, arts organisations are facing an almost total collapse in revenue. More than half of the arts sector’s income comes from trading—from ticket sales, tea rooms, renting out rooms, and gift shops. All of this will be on hold.
  • Some will be getting a reprieve through the £160 million of emergency funding that the Arts Council are making available to organisations and individuals who need it. The Arts Council have also changed the funding requirements for individuals and organisations currently in receipt of their funding, to help alleviate pressure on them as best they can.Many other arts funders have also expressed flexibility in allow funding to continue despite a lack of outputs.
  • However, independent performers and those relying on ticket sales continue to face a crisis. Smaller venues—and the artists that rely on them for income—are especially vulnerable. A third of people working in the arts industries are freelancers, who will be especially hit. Initiatives are already emerging to support them. For example, Marguerite London, a social membership group for women in the visual arts, has launched a networking list to connect creators with available jobs. Similarly, the London-based listings project, Seb’s Art List, has launched a platform of information and resources for artists impacted by coronavirus.

How philanthropists can help:

  • After the immediate crisis has passed and venues have reopened, but emergency funding is no longer available, arts organisations are concerned that audiences will be slow to return, as habits of isolation and fear of infection will likely persist even after the most acute danger has passed. The need for funding support to maintain key arts organisations may persist for some time.
  • Many arts funders in America are switching funding to focus on basic living maintenance grants for artists, making available emergency payments of $1,000-$2,000. This may be a model that arts philanthropists in the UK wish to follow.

4.14. Healthcare and research

  • Many health care charities are focused on alleviating the strain on the NHS, including supporting the drive for more volunteers and developing safe ways for people to get involved.
  • Those delivering in-home, in-hospital, mobile, clinic or centre-based support to people with particular conditions, such as Macmillan UK, are focused on helping those that they support stay safe and to reducing risk and providing them with guidance and information.
  • Many are currently unable or less able to deliver care in the same ways that they normally do, and are only able to deliver phone or online support. This is of course increasing the strain on already vulnerable populations.
  • Non-coronavirus research is being put on hold at this time. Medical trials that have already started will continue, but will not be recruiting new patients. Instead, efforts are being redirected to help tackle Covid-19.

How philanthropists can help:

  • Healthcare and research charities could well face medium term threats to funding as scarce resources are diverted to coronavirus care and research, meaning other lifesaving research goes unfunded.

4.15. International development

The situation in developing countries around the world varies hugely and some developing countries will be better prepared than others. In some cases, previous incidences of dealing with epidemics will stand countries and communities in good stead for tackling the coronavirus. However, there are key issues and grave factors which some developing countries will face throughout this crisis.

  • In urban slums and areas where communities lack running water or sanitation facilities, ‘social distancing’ and ‘hand-washing’ remedies simply aren’t workable. Furthermore, some countries have large numbers of people living with HIV and / or tuberculosis, which can significantly increase vulnerability.
  • Healthcare systems in some developing countries could become quickly overwhelmed. The number of doctors per capita in the UK is 2.8 per 1,000 (the OECD average is 3.5). In South Africa it is 0.91. Many Sub-Saharan countries have between 0.1 and 0.2. Doctors will struggle to help without critical care infrastructure. In South Africa alone coronavirus is projected to require 44,000 critical care beds—the country has 5,500, 80% of which are currently occupied. Large numbers of vulnerable populations that catch the virus simply won’t be able to access  necessary care. The number of potential fatalities across Sub-Saharan Africa is eye-watering and will likely put development goals back by 5-10 years at a minimum.
  • With lockdown conditions cutting off sources of income for hundreds of millions of people in the developing world, many face severe malnutrition—especially children. Large numbers of people have travelled—often on foot—from urban areas to villages where the hope is that food can be obtained from the land. In doing so, they risk carrying viruses with them and putting themselves and rural populations at risk.
  • Meanwhile, some authoritarian governments around the word have been enforcing lockdowns through violent and repressive measures. Many people are defiant, saying they would rather die of coronavirus than die of hunger.

How philanthropists can help:

  • Communications and lobbying: International aid and development organisations are fighting to raise awareness of the potentially apocalyptic effects of coronavirus on the populations of some developing countries.
  • Capacity needs: Once the virus is under control in Europe, attention may turn to other geographical locations. Charities will need huge support when responding in these locations.
  • Equipment and supplies: Charities are attempting to distribute disinfecting materials and sanitary equipment. However, with movement restrictions in place and a global rush for sanitary equipment, international development charities face a struggle in getting supplies to where they’re needed.
  • Coordinated global response: Viruses know no borders. Yet responses to Covid-19 have been nationally driven. What is needed is a coordinated and comprehensive global response that includes developing countries. If coronavirus takes hold in the developing world, not only could it decimate populations there, but it will keep returning to more developed nations. Europe has closed its borders for now, but it must not forget to look beyond them. Borders will not stay closed forever, and viruses will find a way of returning.

4.16. Parenting and maternity

Even before the lockdown, social distancing and the strain on our NHS was putting many health-related charities under severe pressure. Parenting and maternity are no different. With 2,000 babies born every day in Britain, the challenge of safely adapting maternity support to the new realities of Covid-19 is mammoth.

Leading maternity charity NCT  have had to go digital for courses and peer-support. Normally services would be in-person to build connection and trust. They’ve found it hard to explain the offer to parents and commissioners. Many of the most vulnerable families do not have the same access to smartphones, computers and a stable internet connection that others take for granted.

Our Systems Change Principal, Seth Reynolds, interviewed (virtually) Vicky Fobel, Public Affairs and Campaigns Manager at NCT, to learn how they’re adapting and what philanthropists can do to help parenting charities. Read the interview here.

How philanthropists can help:

  • Funding – The massive shock to income has made service-delivery unsustainable.
    • Be innovative. Blended funding models can fund development and innovation whilst co-funding paid-for services.
    • Extend or renew expiring grants to give charities a breathing-space to focus on service-delivery and plan future services. Short-term grants have always been a significant barrier to resilience.
    • Give clarity on future priorities. This is vital for the decisions being made now.
  • Digital resources for beneficiaries – The most vulnerable beneficiaries are those most likely to be excluded by the digital delivery model, which are only accessible by families who have regular and stable access to digital devices and the internet.
  • Marketing and communications – Online services and virtual groups appear to be more difficult to promote to new audiences, as it is harder to understand the benefits of an unfamiliar delivery model. Similarly, NCT found that communicating with local hospital trusts is difficult, which makes offering live online courses to commissioners very resource intensive.

4.17. Environment

This year was supposed to mark the beginning of a critical decade for the environment. However, many environment charities around the world have seen a significant loss of funding as a result of the pandemic, and they are struggling to maintain their work programmes through lockdown. Meanwhile, the economic disruption of the lockdown does provide a small and urgent window of opportunity to ensure that we emerge from the pandemic with a fairer and more sustainable economy—so just as environmental charities are at their most stretched, they are also facing their greatest opportunity in decades. There is also a public misconception that the pandemic has somehow been ‘good’ for nature and climate change. The theory is that wildlife has been less disturbed recently, wildlife has more space to roam, and that CO2 emissions have fallen—however these sudden changes are limited and temporary.

  • The majority of environment organisations are limited in their ability to work towards their mission during the lockdown, in particular, the outbreak poses a threat to frontline functions such as conservation, access and animal welfare; scientific and policy work; and campaigning and lobbying. Some areas have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic, for example the global reduction in tourism has caused economic hardship, and in some poorer regions of the world, this has led to an increase in poaching and wildlife consumption (a practice which has serious negative health effects associated with it).
  • There is a misconception that the lockdown has had a positive effect on the environment, which may limit future support. Videos on social media appear to show wildlife reclaiming public areas, and a reduction in CO2 emissions in some regions has been widely reported. These effects, however, are limited and temporary. The return of people to areas where wildlife has been living undisturbed during lockdown will need to be carefully controlled, and atmospheric CO2 in April 2020 was still higher than it was a year ago. As John Sauven of Greenpeace put it, ‘this is the least sustainable way imaginable to rein in emissions and clean up pollution, and the least durable.’ The lockdown means the economy will now need a huge jump-start, and if you jump-start a broken down VW diesel, it doesn’t magically turn into a Tesla.
  • The current economic disruption has offered an opportunity for us to emerge from the pandemic with a more sustainable and fair economy. There is, however, only a limited window of opportunity for environment charities to influence the economy and society that emerges in the aftermath of the pandemic. Rebuilding the economy after the 2008 financial crash resulted in a rise in global carbon emissions by 6% year-on-year. Many environmental and social charities are already in collaboration, campaigning to ‘build back better’ so that we have a fairer, healthier and greener society going forward. However, the time to influence government and corporate policy, and public behaviour, is very limited.
  • Environment charities are seeing a significant loss of income. A survey of Wildlife & Countryside Link members, carried out by the National Lottery Heritage Fund at the end of March, indicated that the lockdown was having a serious impact on the income of many environment charities—especially those reliant on visitor income and membership contributions. Several of the organisations surveyed said they were already particularly vulnerable financially before the coronavirus pandemic, due to the extra costs of dealing with recent storm and flooding crises. A significant minority are likely to go under or need to merge, although most will survive (especially the large ones with good levels of reserves).
  • Environment charities are concerned about asking for money at this time. The Environmental Funders Network (EFN) convened over 40 fundraisers from different environmental organisations to hear how the pandemic is affecting their organisations. Despite a strong need for funding, many were reluctant to ask supporters for donations right now because of concern that it seems inappropriate given the current levels of humanitarian need.

How philanthropists can help:

  • Provide unrestricted funding to help environmental organisations survive through the pandemic, especially to replace revenue funding that has been lost (e.g. through closures of nature centres, cafes, shops). Consider dipping into your investments / reserves to fund at a greater level despite the market shocks, as some funders did in 2008.
  • Be flexible on deadlines and outcomes expected from existing grants. Be as clear and up front as possible with your grantees (current and potential) about whether they can draw down grants while relevant staff are furloughed; whether they can claim overheads now if they couldn’t before; when you will be making decisions.
  • Fund collaboration around Covid-19 response e.g. sector-wide communications about the value of nature and resetting the economy.
  • Many environment organisations are very reliant on face to face fundraising which cannot take place right now. Consider providing funding for other forms of donor acquisition, for example paid advertising, paid consultants, time for other fundraisers to come together and share skills and ideas.
  • Support charities to improve their digital skills, for example, using social media / videos to acquire new donors, organising online fundraising events, and enhancing their website and email communications.
  • Advocate for the sector with government and other funders where you can. The government relies on the UK environment sector to deliver on many of its commitments, such as Defra’s 25 Year Environment Plan.

5. Supporting the solutions

What will of course have the biggest impact in mitigating the effects described above is advancing the twin medical processes of finding a vaccine and substantially increasing testing capacity. The sector can even have a role to play here.

5.1 Finding a vaccine

Huge amounts of investment will be needed to develop, produce, scale, and distribute a coronavirus vaccine. A major international effort is underway, with several key organisations leading the effort to fund and coordinate R&D of the vaccine. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi) has so far committed $23.7 million. The Gates Foundation has pledged $60 million, Wellcome Trust $50 million and the Mastercard Impact Fund has pledged  $25 million towards a ‘Therapeutics Accelerator’. However, more funding is urgently needed, with Wellcome suggesting at least $8 billion will be necessary and Downing Street also urging donors to join the funding efforts. 

The charity sector can further support this process in the following ways: 

  • Organisations like Gavi, the vaccine alliance, have come up with innovative funding mechanisms to raise money on the markets for ensuring supply to poorer countries.
  • Collaborative funding, through Cepi or initiatives like the ‘Accelerator’, can provide fast and flexible funding at key stages of the development process and can decrease the risks associated with the process of vaccine development, helping to improve access in lower-resource countries.
  • Once a vaccine is developed charity and community networks can provide communication and distribution systems to ensure vulnerable populations are adequately reached.

5.2 Testing, testing, testing

Testing is vital to reducing the need for blanket lockdowns. South Korea has got coronavirus under control through massive scale of targeted testing, and the government has promised 25,000 tests per day within four weeks. Working in partnership with public services, the sector can play a vital role in expanding access to testing through volunteering, space utilisation and funding. The sooner widespread testing is available the sooner charities can return, with precautions, to delivering services to vulnerable populations, to restarting fundraising, reopening venues and rebooting our sector.

6. What we are learning

We are seeing a major shift in the way different actors in the philanthropic sector are adjusting their services during Covid-19:

  • Charities and service delivery organisations are leveraging the power of digital working and social media. We have profiled many in this guide. Perhaps this shift has been needed for a long time, but it nonetheless requires significant expansion in ICT capacity and skills, and potentially deepens the digital divide. If these working practices are to continue beyond the crisis, investment will be required to close this gap.
  • The pandemic has prompted many grant makers to embrace good funding practice. Over 250 funders have signed London Funders’ pledge, which promotes financial flexibility to civil society groups affected by Covid-19. Other funders have adjusted their support to grantees by relaxing reporting requirements and allowing restricted grants to be spent on core activities. Some funders are already talking about longer term shifts in grant-making practice and what they can learn from this crisis, so we may see a move towards more flexible funding in the future.
  • The rise of ‘Mutual Aid Groups’ provides an opportunity for charities to learn inclusive ways of working from the ground up. Volunteers are self-organising with incredible efficiency and creativity. Their decentralised approach allows groups to use diverse communication systems, such as Zoom, WhatsApp or Slack. As the philanthropic sector grapples with an urgent requirement to work in agile and responsive ways, there is much to be learnt from this decentralised approach.
  • Equality and inclusion are paramount during this pandemic. Covid-19 is having a disproportionate impact on marginalised individuals and communities. Vicky Browning, Chief Executive of ACEVO, said that the outbreak of Covid-19 ‘has transformed charities’ plans and priorities,’ but that moving with speed does, ‘not negate the necessity of being inclusive.’ ‘Although we will all be impacted by Covid-19, we will not all be impacted equally,’ she explained. A systemic response by the sector will keep the less obvious groups in mind.

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