The impact of COVID-19 on Australia’s charity sector has been shown through a recent report conducted by impact enterprise Xfactor Collective as part of its RESET 2020 initiative.
The research study was conducted in partnership with organisations including Philanthropy Australia, Fundraising Institute of Australia and Australian Community Philanthropy.
It revealed that 70 per cent of organisations in the study said they had stood down or reduced the hours of volunteers.
Salvation Army spokesperson Brad Watson said in Northern Tasmania the number of volunteers decreased as stores were forced to close and face-to-face programs ceased.
“We had some areas where more people came to help, such as providing teams to pack and deliver care packs to people in isolation or quarantine, but overall the closure of programs meant fewer volunteers,” he said.
Mr Watson said up until recently, volunteers of a more vulnerable age group needed special risk assessment before being deployed into public-facing roles.
“We have been able to lift that requirement from our centres and we are now leaving it up to the older volunteers themselves to indicate if they feel safe to return to public-facing roles,” he said.
The research study also found that about 60 per cent of charities had recorded a loss in revenue since March 2020.
Philanthropy Australia chief executive Sarah Davies said the study revealed a mixed bag of experiences in the sector.
IN OTHER NEWS:
“On the hole I think charities are struggling because of the conflation of the loss of volunteers due to physical distancing, the loss of engagement and fundraising through events, for many a significant demand in their services and the volatility of giving generally,” she said.
“Put all four of those things in a mixing bowl and people are having a different experience.”
Ms Davies said other charities had experienced an increase in usage, particularly those in food security and charities that didn’t rely on events for fundraising.
About 34 per cent of organisations reported decreasing donation levels due to the pandemic.
The two highest areas of impact felt by charitable organisations were the inability to run fundraising events at 39 per cent, as well as the inability to provide usual services at 56 per cent.
“In general, there has been a decrease in donations that would normally come through community events, community fundraising or in-kind support during the pandemic,” Mr Watson said.
“This is logical when you consider that we were not able to conduct our community appeals in the normal way this year and our retail stores were closed and unable to sort donations.
“In recent days this has started to reverse and we hope that we can continue that trend. We need to recognise, also, the generosity of Tasmanians in other areas, such as online donations, which have increased this year.”
Ms Davies said the research study indicated that philanthropic support had increased during COVID-19.
“You’re seeing lots of different behaviours and patterns … it’s not a consistent experience but I think what is common across the board is a genuine concern for what is coming up for this and next financial year,” she said.
“I think people are very nervous around how we as a community are going to support the most vulnerable over the next couple of years.”