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How charities have reacted to Covid-19

State of the Sector 2020

We’ve been speaking to charities through interviews, focus groups and an online survey of the sector, to uncover how Covid-19 is changing charities and what this means for the future. We’ve used this research to set out practical recommendations for charities, funders and policymakers.

Charities told us of the toll that ‘crisis-mode’ working has had on them and how they’re adapting to meet the challenge of the pandemic. We want this effort to get the recognition it deserves. But first, charities need to be able to show the impact of the changes they’ve made to their services. Our freely available resources help make impact measurement manageable and we’re calling on funders to directly support charities to do this work.

Key findings include:

  • Covid-19 is changing the sector, but in divergent ways. Some have narrowed the range of services they offer, whilst others are broadening their activities to meet new needs or to reflect existing needs becoming deeper and more complex.
  • Very few charities we spoke to had the capacity to think about the impact of these shifts on their beneficiaries or themselves. Although, many have seen the crisis as an opportunity to take stock and reset, refocusing their activities on the ‘core’ of what they feel they should be doing.
  • Charities told NPC that they believed a big barrier to increasing their impact was the lack of recognition from government, funders, and society at large.

We’re recommending that:

  • Charities, regardless of whether they have broadened, narrowed, or maintained activities, should gather evidence of their vital role in the crisis and the effect that the changes they are making are having on beneficiaries. How they do so should be proportional to their size and resources.
  • Funders should offer flexible funding, which empowers charities to do measurement work.
  • Central and local government should take a more holistic view of the impact made by charities in the crisis. This includes looking at evidence of impact from across the sector and not overlooking charities who may at first not seem ‘coronavirus-relevant’. Local government especially can make a big difference, simply through making council-owned spaces available for charities to use.

We believe proportional measurement of impact over the crisis will be crucial for charities to getting the recognition they deserve and need

Our research shows how the needs served by an already overstretched sector have increased and intensified, with coronavirus creating new needs and making charities’ activities more difficult. It’s getting tougher to secure funding, and rapid change makes it hard to deliver on funding requirements.

Charities have responded in a variety of ways, but all options come with trade-offs. This means that at a time when charities are needed most, important long-term planning is being stripped back to meet emergency demand. It may be difficult, but charities and funders need to be thinking about the long-term implications of the shifts they are making.

Whilst planning and impact measurement must be proportional to charities’ resources, funders should support charities to at least make some assessment of how the changes they’ve made are affecting their beneficiaries, so that they can decide which changes to keep long term and which to move on from.

This new report paints a detailed picture of how Covid-19 is changing charities. What should charities, funders and policymakers do? #STOTS2020 Click To Tweet


Learn how to measure your impact and plan for the long term

Catch up on our previous State of the Sector research

We’re grateful to our funders for supporting this research.