Challenges facing the third sector

Jemma Smith, Editor
December, 2021

The coronavirus pandemic brought about some real challenges for the charity and voluntary work sector. Find out how it's still impacting organisations today

According to Charity Commission (CC) research the majority (90%) of charities experienced some form of negative impact as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and these ill affects will likely reverberate through the sector for some time to come.

Financial challenges

The CC research found that over the course of the pandemic 60% of charities saw a loss of income and of those surveyed 62% anticipate some level of threat to their charities financial viability in the next 12 months, however in more positive news only 1% foresee this threat to be critical to their organisations survival.

Restrictions put in place to help stop the spread of the virus meant that charity shops had to close and traditional ways of fundraising had to stop or change. Other research conducted by PBE in partnership with the Charity Finance Group and the Chartered Institute of Fundraising found that by the end of 2021 more than half (54%) of charities still do not expect to back to pre-pandemic levels of fundraising.

Innovation, both in how charities fundraise and reach people, will be crucial to solving this problem. Graduates with insight into technology and social platforms will be vital to help drive this change forward. 

Further research from NCVO has found that nearly half (46%) of charities have had to use their cash reserves to cope with the impact of the pandemic. 44% of respondents said they could rely on cash reserves for six moths, while 9% said they had no cash reserves or not enough to last a month.

Increasing demand

Over the course of the pandemic charities witnessed overwhelming demand for their services and many expect this to continue as society and the economy work to recover. 

COVID-19 compromised the health, mental health and livelihoods of individuals and families causing more people than ever to reach out to charities for help and support and they are still relying on this help as they navigate their way back to normal. Couple this with the increased financial pressure that third sector organisations are facing and it's no surprise that many charities are struggling to meet this increased demand for their services.

Volunteer retention

The initial outbreak of the pandemic saw people trying to support members of their community wherever they could. Thousands signed up to become volunteers in numerous capacities and trying to maintain these volunteer numbers will be a challenge for the sector as the country returns to some form of normality.

Digital technology

According to the NCVO COVID-19 Voluntary Sector Impact Barometer the majority of charity organisations (81%) have changed the way they use digital technology as a result of the pandemic. This means the need for digital skills among charity staff has increased, mainly in the areas of teleconferencing, email communication, online security and handling online transactions.

Graduates with the necessary digital skills will be in high demand.

Equality diversity and inclusion

NCVO research also reported that while the majority of organisations have drawn up plans to address issues of equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace implementing these changes has delayed due to the pandemic and lack of resources. The main barriers affecting their efforts to be more inclusive include limited financial resources, staffing capacity, lack of human resources skills, knowledge and capacity and a lack of equality, diversity and inclusion knowledge or skills.

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