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coronavirus - Coronavirus

Four ways the benevolence sector has changed one year on since lockdown

March marked one year since many of us, virtually overnight, packed up our desks to start working from home on a more permanent basis. We have as a sector achieved more, and more quickly, than thought possible in the last year.

Below we outline some of the main ways the benevolent charity sector has changed and adapted in the past year so charities could continue to assist their beneficiaries remotely, and our thoughts on how these trends might continue post-pandemic.

Changes to work practices

2020 marked the year many of us suddenly started working full-time from home. Charities were suddenly met with the challenge of how to keep their teams connected, and Zoom and Microsoft Teams became household names (along with virtual staff quizzes, happy hours and coffee breaks).  

Looking to the future, it will be interesting to see if the sudden need to work from home now will change work practices forever. Staff have proved they can work successfully, and sometimes more productively, from home – and the time and money saved from commuting may lead to staff wishing to work more flexibly and from home more often.

But working from home does not suit everyone, particularly those with young children at home or little space to work. Rishi Sunak was recently quoted saying working at home is no substitute for the office for team building, creativity and idea generation, and creating organisational culture – urging organisations not to abandon offices altogether.

We may see a hybrid model favoured by people and organisations in the future, as various recent surveys have shown employees want to work at home more now than before the pandemic.

Changes to grant-giving

With charities working remotely, changes to the processes organisations used for individuals applying and receiving support had to also change.

Charities relying on paper-based application forms and applications sent by post quickly saw the benefit of introducing online application systems and application forms on their websites as charities worked remotely. However, charities also needed to consider digital exclusion and those that could not access computers – so many charities reported still allowing paper copies of applications and visiting the office to pick them up.

Many charities also stream-lined their application processes. Some required less evidence to apply for their emergency Covid grants, considering it might be difficult to obtain certain evidence in lockdown. Others moved their decision-making process online, holding virtual meetings more often with their Boards or committees to allow quicker decisions to be made on grants applications in urgent situations.

It is thought some of the benefits remote meetings and digitising the application process has brought will be here to stay post-covid to make charities’ grant-giving processes more efficient.

Introducing more digital services

Charities that offered in-person support services had to quickly find ways to provide a similar level of support remotely.

Many charities providing mental health and wellbeing support have introduced new services – from counselling sessions being provided remotely by videoconferencing and chatbots being introduced on websites, to wellbeing hubs being implemented on charities' websites or accessible via an app, allowing beneficiaries to access support independently and anonymously 24/7 whenever they might need it.

Charities that had support groups or communities that would meet in-person were also met with the challenge of how to replicate the support those in-person groups provided in a virtual environment. This led some charities to turn to online communities, social media groups or virtual coffee mornings run by video in order to try to replicate some of the community feel of in-person meetups. 

Although virtual events and meetings can't quite replicate seeing people in person, digital events and services are looking likely here to stay post-covid due to individuals being able to access support no matter where they are based and the ease of being able to access self-serve support via websites and hubs. 

Digital Fundraising

Lockdown and social distancing measures meant many charities that relied on in-person fundraising events and bucket donations had to quickly change their plans or face considerable lost revenue.

Since then many charities have tried their hand at, and seen great success from, virtual fundraising events, encouraging supporters to complete a challenge that can be done at home or outside alone in return for sponsorship for their chosen charity. The fundraising efforts of individuals such as Sir Captain Tom Moore in 2020 shows how effective fundraising attempts from individuals can be, even if done remotely.

Other charities have had funds raised for their cause through digital auctions, live-streams of theatre productions, and many other original and quirky ideas. Some charities have also made use of the increased functionality that social media now offers to encourage users to raise funds for their favourite charities.

With the ease and cost-effectiveness of organising virtual fundraising vs in-person events, and the convenience of allowing more participants to get involved more easily from home no matter where they are based, it is thought digital fundraising will be here to stay, with charities having a mix of physical and digital fundraisers as part of their strategy post-covid.

To find out more about the future of fundraising, you can view a recording of our event on Diversifying Income in a Post-Covid World on Youtube.