The second article in our new series explores the positive ways in which charities have reacted to the pandemic and the lessons they can apply to the future
While individually we’ll come through the pandemic with our own personal stories, collectively charities have seen many changes and had some significant wins.
In this article, we take a look at some of the positive shifts that were made to survive lockdown, but that will see us into the future.
‘Pivot’ was the name of the game in 2020 and that versatility will hold charities in good stead for the uncertainties of the future. The pandemic forced charities to shift the majority of their work online, including day-to-day operations, fundraising, and service delivery. The speed with which many reacted was no mean feat, and one to be applauded.
The accelerated digital transformation was seen across the sector, in charities large and small. The Scouts, whose main purpose is to provide outdoor, face-to-face experiences, had to reframe all its offerings, for example. In March 2020, the Scouts launched #TheGreatIndoors, a package of 280 at-home activities, which by May 2020 had over 750,000 views and half a million families using the activities.
While The Cares Family switched all its face-to-face work to online sessions. Its online three-generational social clubs have proved to be so successful that they’re likely to be a programme mainstay for the future.
With normality out the window, fundraisers have tapped into their creativity to deliver innovative ways to keep donations flowing. Charities have embraced contactless giving which has been essential with social restrictions in place.
Contactless devices were rolled out to The Big Issue sellers, and those using them are selling up to 30% more magazines than those only accepting cash. And NFT creators are donating the (often astronomical) proceeds from sales of their artwork to charities.
Virtual fundraising events have ranged from Dementia UK’s dog walking challenge, which involved supporters joining a dedicated Facebook group to fundraise while walking their dogs 100km over a month, to Help for Heroes, the wounded veteran’s charity, which ran a week-long gaming fundraiser called ‘Hero Up’ to raise money. It’s likely this level of innovative fundraising is here to stay.
Amidst the trauma of the pandemic was an outpouring of community spirit and goodwill. Volunteering activity came in all shapes and sizes, from local-community forums offering to buy groceries for self-isolating neighbours, to the gargantuan volunteer efforts in vaccination centres.
Due to lockdowns, formal volunteering fell, while informal volunteering saw a rise.
In 2020, an estimated 12.4 million people volunteered – around 40% more than 2019. While these numbers are levelling out in 2021, research shows that new volunteers are more diverse in terms of age, gender, ethnicity and cultural backgrounds – with many volunteering for the first time.
Online and digital volunteering is on the up. With more services being delivered online, there are more diverse volunteering opportunities, including those that can be carried out remotely.
And now, with the world opening up, there are great opportunities to recruit new volunteers.
Awareness of the importance of self-care was on the rise way before the pandemic kicked in. But COVID-19 has brought to the fore the importance of looking after ourselves and each other for both physical and mental wellbeing. And that can only ever be a good thing.
Wellbeing has become a staple part of the conversation with resources and support for charity workers emerging across the sector – from CharityComms’ ‘Wellbeing Guide for Communication Professionals’ to Facebook support groups such as the Chartered Institute of Fundraising’s private group of 2,000 plus members, and free mental health support for Scottish charity workers.
To support frontline workers, mental heath charities set up ‘Our Frontline’, giving 24/7 emotional support to those impacted by working at the frontline during COVID-19.
The lockdowns forced charities to embrace remote working and many of us to work from home – enabling many to save time and money from the lack of commute and spend more time at home with their families.
While some are eager to get back in the office, it’s likely that hybrid working will become the new norm. This will bring with it more flexibility in the way that we work and, in an ideal world, the ability to create a work/life balance suited to each individual – offering the chance to support colleagues’ wellbeing and mental health.
Working remotely also brings the opportunity to work asynchronously, enabling colleagues the opportunity to manage their own schedules – knowing when they’re naturally most productive or in need of a digital break. And we now have the tools to work effectively in this way.
Working more digitally may also lead to a more egalitarian workplace, with written contributions to conversations being more equally weighted, rather than the loudest voice or the most senior position in the room winning out.