From the first UK Covid-19 lockdown that began in March 2020, we have increased the frequency of our UK charity surveys.  These short surveys help charities, donors, government and everyone interested in the work of charity to understand the impact of the crisis on the sector and giving.  Our polls are sent via email to our charity clients and completed quickly to obtain a snapshot.  Read our review of the first three months and see the latest results below.

We are also regularly investigating public attitudes to giving as part of our established UK Giving research, the largest study of giving behaviour in the UK. Read CAF's UK Giving 2020 special report that sets out the impact of the pandemic on people’s giving behaviours, and the outlook for the coming months. See our public poll results from the first weeks of the pandemic.

With our CAF Global Alliance partners we have surveyed the global impact of Covid-19 on charities and our colleagues at CAF America are regularly polling non-profit organisations across the world.  Our reports are free to read and download.


Two in five charities relied on reserves to help them through the crisis
Six in 10 took action towards their reserves in response to the crisis

We asked charities about the action they took towards their reserves, if any, during the Covid-19 crisis.

More than six in 10 (63%) charities reported that they had taken at least one action towards their reserves in response to the pandemic, with two in five (40%) reporting that they had used their reserves to help them through the crisis.

Around a quarter (26%) reviewed their charities' policy towards reserves, and more than one in five (23%) said that they were building their reserves up in case of future crises.

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Eight in 10 charities with reserves need fast access to them in the current climate. Half are still building resilience and a similar proportion are concerned about how inflation may impact their savings

We asked charities with reserves to share their thoughts on reserves and on resilience in the current climate.

Eight in 10 (80%) charities with reserves reported that they need to have access to some of their reserves without a notice period. Half (51%) of charities with reserves reported that they are still building organisational and financial resilience in the wake of Covid-19. A similar proportion (50%) are concerned about the impact that inflation could have on their savings.

24_2_Charities' approach to reserves and savings

2 in 5 charities are concerned about fraud but just 1 in 7 train their staff or volunteers to spot it

Concern about fraud
Two in five charities (41%) are concerned about fraud and one in 20 charities (6%) say they have been the victim of fraud or attempted fraud since the pandemic began.

Protecting against fraud in the pandemic
Three in 10 (30%) charities have increased their protection/preventative measures against fraud since the pandemic began but around a quarter (26%) have not.

One in five charities (19%) said that moving to online, digital, or remote working in the pandemic made their controls and processes more secure against fraud. Many (43%) neither agreed nor disagreed with this statement, which suggests there may be some uncertainty about how the move to online or remote working has impacted security.

Other ways charities protect against fraud
Only around half of charities (54%) believe their staff and volunteers know enough about fraud and how to spot it and just 14% have fraud awareness training in place for staff.

Seven in 10 charities (72%) say staff know who to contact in the event of becoming a victim of fraud but almost a quarter (23%) did not agree they knew who to contact.

23_1_Attitudes to fraud

7 in 10 charities plan to change the way they operate over the next 12 months

Appetite for change
As restrictions eased, we asked charities how they planned to operate over the next 12 months. Seven in 10 charities (69%) reported that they were making at least one change to the way that they plan to operate.

New resources
Many charities are looking to onboard new resources over the next 12 months. More than two in five charities (45%) told us that they would be recruiting new staff or volunteers whilst almost three in 10 (28%) said they would be seeking new corporate partners for fundraising collaborations. One in five (21%) said that they would be applying for emergency support to cover lost funding.

Other changes
One in five (19%) charities reported that they were making other changes. Of these charities (n=111), almost a quarter (23%) told us they would be delivering new services or expanding service provision and one in 10 (9%) said they were moving to new premises. Reason for relocating included to accommodate new staff, increase operations or to create socially distant and safer spaces.

Cutting back
Some charities are planning to make changes by cutting back. One in six (17%) reported that they would be making reductions, either to operating costs (12%) or to the services they offer to beneficiaries (8%).

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Many are moving towards digital fundraising, but traditional approaches are not lost

Half of charities say fundraising has changed forever
We asked charities their thoughts about the future of fundraising. Just under half (48%) agreed that the pandemic has changed fundraising forever.

Increase in digital fundraising activities
Many charities across the UK reported that they are increasing their digital functions in order to fundraise over the next 12 months. Half (51%) plan to do more digital campaign activity via apps, websites or social media. More than two in five (45%) have already increased their card, contactless and digital payment capability. A third have increased email engagement.

Cash-based fundraising cut back
Many charities are also cutting back on cash-based fundraising. Two in five charities (42%) reported that they are doing fewer cash donation collections in comparison to pre-pandemic fundraising activity and a quarter (24%) said that this wasn’t applicable to them.

Some charities do not plan to change the way they fundraise post-pandemic
Whilst many charities are progressing to new methods of fundraising, two in five (43%) say they plan to return to their ‘old normal’ way of fundraising as restrictions ease. Three in 10 (30%) reported that they had not changed their fundraising methods since before the pandemic.  

Divided opinions on replacing in-person with digital
Despite many moving towards digital approaches to fundraising, there are mixed opinions about whether to cease in-person fundraising activities. Around three in 10 charities (28%) say digital approaches have been an effective substitute for in-person fundraising, whilst a similar proportion (31%) disagree with this statement.

Response to 5th July announcement for England to move to stage 4 restrictions

On 5th July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans to move to stage 4 guidelines in England on 19th July. These new guidelines would see the removal of most rules around social distancing, home working, the wearing of masks and limitations on the number of people that can enter public locations such as restaurants or theatres. 

More than a quarter of charities do not plan to return to full operating capacity on 19th July

We asked charities which operated in England whether they planned to operate at full capacity from 19th July. More than a quarter (27%) said that they were not planning to return to full operating capacity from this date and around 1 in 5 (18%) were unsure.

A quarter (24%) said that they were planning to return to full operating capacity and around 3 in 10 (31%) felt that the guidelines did not impact their ability to do so, as they were already functioning in this way.

21_1_Return to full operating capacity

3 in 10 charities said they would feel uncomfortable operating under stage 4 guidelines from 19th July 

Whilst around half (49%) of charities operating in England said that they would feel comfortable operating under stage 4 guidelines from 19th July, almost 3 in 10 (28%) said they would feel uncomfortable to do so.

21_2_Charity operation under stage 4

1 in 5 charities with staff or volunteers report staff/volunteer hesitancy to operate under stage 4

Around half (52%) of charities which have staff or volunteers reported that they felt their staff/volunteers were willing to operate under stage 4 guidelines and 1 in 10 (9%) said that their staff/volunteers were unaffected. Despite this, 1 in 5 (19%) charities with staff or volunteers said that their personnel were not willing to operate under stage 4 guidelines from 19th July.

21_3_Staff operation under stage 4

Response to the spring budget 2021

1 in 9 smaller charities will furlough as long as possible, whilst 1 in 11 could end their furlough sooner

Following the recent budget announcements by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, we asked smaller charities if and how they would be using the furlough scheme. 1 in 9 (11%) said that they would use the furlough scheme for the full available time. A similar proportion (9%) said they would aim to end use of furlough ahead of the late September deadline.
charity poll Jan 2021 use of furlough

Support for the high street will impact 1 in 5 smaller charities

New measures to support the high street, announced in the 2021 budget, will positively impact around 1 in 5 smaller charities.

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First charity survey results for 2021

Many charities are feeling optimistic for 2021

In February 2021, CAF spoke to small charities about their predictions for the year ahead. Around 3 in 5 small charities (57%) were optimistic for 2021.

4_Outlook for 2021

But key operating challenges are expected to persist

When asked which challenges will persist after lockdown has eased, around 3 in 5 (58%) expect to see a continued loss of income sources. Half predicted that challenges will remain for face-to-face working (50%), and from a loss of fundraising sources (48%), whilst just over two in five (43%) predict that planning for the long term will remain challenging, along with the impact of the economic downturn.


More than half of charities say they need to shift to a more online fundraising approach

A November 2020 poll by CAF found that almost half of UK charities (47%) had already changed the way that they fundraised as a result of the pandemic whilst just over half (53%) said they needed to make a shift to a more online fundraising approach because of the crisis. Encouragingly, more than 2 in 5 (46%) charities said they felt that their donors would be open to donating online.

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How many charities are fundraising online?

Just over a third of charities told us that they are currently fundraising online, whilst nearly two thirds (62%) said that they were not.

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Polling with charities in 2020

We have been researching the impact of the pandemic on our charity clients since 17 March 2020. 

See our 2020 polling with charities

The view from the public in 2020

Our polling and research into public support for charities is designed to inform the charity sector, government and the public. 

Read the public view

Latest survey news

Our insights on the impact of the pandemic for charities and giving

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CAF World Giving Index 2021

With the challenges of Covid-19 on charitable giving around the world, this year’s World Giving Index tells a truly remarkable story.

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.

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