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Polling amongst charities and the public


How charities and donors are reacting to the pandemic

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We have been conducting research amongst charities and their supporters for years. In these unprecedented times we find ourselves in due to the COVID-19 crisis we have increased the frequency of our charity surveys.  These short surveys have been helping to inform the sector and beyond since 17 March. They are sent out by us via email weekly to our charity clients and completed quickly to obtain a snapshot.  We are also regularly researching public attitudes to giving as part of our regular UK Giving research.  All of our findings on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on charity are published here, with a three month lockdown briefing paper published 23 June 2020.

CAF UK Giving Three Month Coronavirus briefing

On 23 March the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a televised address that brought in widespread lockdown measures. Three months on from that, we wanted to bring together all of our charity insight into this single briefing paper. We hope this paper adds to the debate around charities at this time. We will continue this research and publish our findings, available free here.

Download our 3 month briefing

Charities and donors in the pandemic

CAF on demand webinar

Crucial organisations now face collapse and many are unable to raise the funds they need among a global lockdown. The behaviour of donors has also been upended: how people feel, what they think and how they act has changed. Will this be the new norm?   

Watch our webinar with Ben Russell, Susan Pinkney and Rhodri Davies and discover CAF’s latest insight into the impact of COVID-19 among donors and charities. You'll learn what the polling tells us about how donors are feeling and how you can work with them in these difficult times, and what we can do to encourage giving into the future.

This webinar was recorded on 30 April 2020.

Our Insight

CAF provided regular insight for the first three months of the lockdown, to help understanding of how the COVID-19 crisis affected charities and giving. These updates discuss CAF’s own independent research, include horizon scanning, and other studies being carried out in the UK and across the world.
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15 June 2020 - Almost three months into lockdown in the UK, what changes in giving behaviour are we seeing? Susan Pinkney looks at what our latest UK Giving research tells us.

1 May 2020:  Over a month into lockdown, has people’s outlook to giving shifted? Has this ‘new normal’ changed how we feel and, crucially, how we think we will give to charity? We discuss what the polls are telling us.

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8 June 2020: Demand is up, whilst income is down – how are charities adapting? We are seeing charities find alternative ways of delivering their services or teaming up with other charities, businesses and civic partners. 
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24 April 2020:  There are a number of schemes available for charities, but are they likely to be used?  As many charities struggle in the pandemic, we surveyed over 400 UK charities and asked if they will be using any of the Government schemes.

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15 May 2020: We’ve started to see some changes in giving behaviour during COVID-19. Charitable giving in the UK has shifted dramatically towards support for ‘hospitals and hospices’ since the pandemic took hold. Is this shift is affecting other causes people give to?


15 April 2020:  Funding for charities - is it enough?  Susan Pinkney examines aid for charities and asks if  COVID-19 donations will draw funds away from other good causes.

The view from charities

For many charities, demand has continued to increase

One in three UK charities (35%) reported a spike in demand for their services because of the crisis, a significant increase from 26% a month earlier.

Amongst those charities reporting an increase in demand, six in 10 said it had increased by more than a quarter, while one in four said demand was 50% higher than before the crisis hit.

Despite this increase, more than half of charities (53%) reported a drop in donations. Fewer than one in five (18%) said donations had increased. Half of all charities surveyed (49%) said they had sought or received some form of emergency grant funding to get them through the crisis.

Q: Thinking about the crisis caused by the global coronavirus outbreak (also known as COVID-19), please tell us to what extent you agree or disagree with the following statement.


Fieldwork 21 – 22 May. Base, N=416 charities

Has the easing of restrictions helped charities?

Most charities say that the recent loosening of lockdown measures has made no difference to their ability to cope during the crisis. One in ten charities says it’s made a positive difference and one in ten say it’s made a negative difference.

When asked to identify the steps that would make the biggest difference to their ability to reopen many of their services, almost one in three (28%) singled out a return to face-to-face contact with clients. Others pointed to reopening of community centres (18%) and visitor attractions such as museums and gardens (13%).

The reopening of charity shops and cafes were also listed as being factors that will help charities to resume their full services.

Q. Has the loosening of lockdown measures announced on Sunday made any difference to your charity’s ability to cope during the crisis?


CAF Fieldwork 12 – 18 May. Base, N=539 charities

What will it mean for charities if people avoid using cash?

Our last UK Giving report found that cash remains the most common way to give to charity – 53% of people who gave to charity in the last year gave cash. With the move towards a cashless society likely to be accelerated in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, we asked charities what they thought this would mean for them.

Whilst most charities (63%) are already able to take some form of digital donation, one in five (18%) reported that they see the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to modernise and some had accelerated their plans to shift their fundraising towards online efforts. However, one in five (20%) charities said they are concerned about people carrying less cash and what that will mean for their charity, or how they will make up the shortfall (19%).

One in ten (12%) said that they could not afford to buy the technology that would enable them to take cashless donations.

The survey also found that many charities have already moved towards digital donations with 4 in 10 (41%) saying they can accept donations through their own website and the same amount said they were set up to accept donation through other digital means such as online platforms.

Q. Which of the following applies to your ability to accept digital donations from the public? Q. Which, if any, of the following applies to your charity?

three in five a
one in five b
on in ten c

CAF Fieldwork 6 – 7 May. Base, N=385 charities

What changes are charities making in response to the crisis?

We asked about the changes that charities have made in response to the coronavirus crisis. Seven in 10 (69%) said that they had made at least one change in response to the coronavirus crisis.

Charities are showing resilience in their efforts to keep supporting beneficiaries. Two in five (39%) have found an alternative or innovative way to deliver a service and one in five (18%) have developed new collaborations with other organisations or groups of people. A quarter (25%) have found new ways to reach beneficiaries.

Like much of the country, many charities are working remotely (58%) as a result of the crisis.

As well as adapting their current services, just under a quarter (23%) have refocussed their charity’s activities and around 1 in 10 say they have helped entirely new groups of people (11%), found new ways of fundraising (8%) or found new sources of income (8%).

Q. Which, if any, of the following changes has your charity made in response to the coronavirus crisis?

two in five a
one in five b
a quarter c

CAF Fieldwork 27 – 28 April. Base, N=438 charities

One in three charities is likely to take advantage of the UK Government’s furlough scheme

While awareness of measures including business rate relief, business interruption loans and sick pay relief was high, the government measure that charities reported they were most likely to use  was the furloughing of staff (35%) wage subsidy programme, followed by business rate relief (18%).
Charities were also asked if they would stand a better chance of surviving the crisis if furloughed employees were allowed to continue working for the charity as volunteers, with almost a quarter (24%) saying it would.

Three in ten charities said they would have to shut their doors for good within 12 months, if no further help was forthcoming, either from the Government or elsewhere. This poll was conducted just before the Chancellor made his announcement of a £750 million fund to help charities through the crisis.

18 pc

How long can charities operate in their current form?

When asked how long they could operate in their current form without help, either from the Government or elsewhere, just over half (54%) said 12 months or less. Around a third of charities said they would be using the Government’s job retention scheme.

What do charities need from the Government?

When we asked charities what they most needed from Government to help see them through the COVID-19 outbreak, the majority answered unconditional cash grants (56%). This was followed by just under two-fifths saying each of Government mandating that other funders must relax any cash grants (18%) and unrestricting all restricted funding (18%). Around a quarter agree they will be accessing emergency grant funding.

The view from the public

Will people donate more or less because of the crisis?

Overall, 11% of people say they will donate to charity less than they usually do over the next three months in the wake of the outbreak, whilst 26% say they will likely donate more than usual.

Q: To what extent, if at all, are you likely to do each of the following in the near-future (i.e. in the next 3 months), or have you already done as a result of the Coronovirus outbreak?
one in ten will donate less
one in four donate more

YouGov fieldwork 20-23 April. Base all UK adults aged 16+; N=1,105

Intention to donate to local and national charities is up

In April, 41% of people said they will donate to local charities (up from 34% in March) and 6% said they had already done so. 28% of people said they will donate to national charities (up from 23% in March) and 7% of people said they had already done this.

Intention to donate to NHS and international charities remains high

Intention to donate to NHS charities is unchanged (40% in March and 42% in April), as is the intention to donate to international charities (13% in March and 14% in April). 7% had already donated to an NHS charity and 3% had giving to international charities.

Helping in the community

The majority of people in Britain are ready to support their neighbours and NHS charities through the coronavirus pandemic, despite facing money worries of their own.    More than half of people said they expect to help their neighbours or friends with shopping or errands (56%) or check on their vulnerable or elderly neighbours (51%).

Q: Which, if any of the following activies would you be likely to do to provide help during this time?
56 pc help a friend or n
51 p c
44 pc look out for

How will people get involved?

Around a fifth of people (18%) said they are likely to join a local group set up to respond to the crisis or co-ordinate local efforts via social media (20%). One in twenty said they are likely to set up a local group to deal with the crisis.

Q: Which of the following activities would you be likely to do to provide help during this time?
20 pc use social media to help
18 pc help local
5 pc set up local group

Fieldwork 19 - 26 March, Base, N=1,103


International research

Research on the impact of COVID-19 for NGOs and giving across the world

CAF's Global Alliance partners are conducting extensive research into the impact of COVID-19 on charities, NGOs and giving.


Covid-19 data research resources

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COVID-19 news and views


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Public opinion on COVID-19


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