Covid-19 what it means for giving

Polling with charities in 2020

We have been conducting research amongst charities on the impact of Covid-19 since 17 March 2020.  These short surveys are sent out by us via email to our charity clients and completed quickly to obtain a snapshot that helps to inform the sector and beyond.  Results from our charity polling in 2021 can be viewed here.

A quarter of charities won’t last more than a year without additional support

Q: With a new lockdown in England set to last at least a month, and restrictions in place across the whole of the UK, how long will your charity survive without additional support?
A new Lockdown how long will your charity survive

CAF Fieldwork 4 - 9 November 2020. Base, N=421 charities.

Two thirds of charities say they will have to reduce services in the next 3 months because of the lockdown

When asked about the kinds of services that will have to be reduced, many charities mentioned the reduction in fact to face meetings, including outreach and community groups, as well as the closure of churches (preventing collective worship but also other charitable ventures undertaken through the church itself). Some of the charities are working with the elderly or vulnerable populations which can make remote ways of working difficult.

Q: How likely is it that you will have to reduce the services you offer in the next three months as a direct or indirect result of the various lockdown measures?

A new lockdown will you need to reduce services over the next three months

CAF Fieldwork 4 - 9 November 2020. Base, N=421 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.


Did the easing of restrictions help charities?

Most charities say that the loosening of lockdown measures made no difference to their ability to cope during the crisis. One in ten charities said it made a positive difference and one in ten say it 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 2020. Base, N=539 charities

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

Our 2019 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 2020. 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 2020. 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.

Results from our polling in 2021 can be viewed here.

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