Since May this year, CAF has been surveying charities across Australia, Brazil, India and South Africa to understand how they have been responding to and coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. This research can contribute to global discussion about the impact of the pandemic on the third sector and what policy and support is needed to help charities survive and thrive.

How long can charities go on unsupported?

Between April and May we asked charities how long they could continue to operate if given no further support from their government or elsewhere.

The picture was similar for charities in Australia and the UK; around a third could continue for less than 6 months without additional support and around half said that they could last for less than a year. 

In Brazil, India and South Africa the risk to charities was more immediate, at least half of charities reported that they could last no more than 6 months without additional support, and the vast majority reported that they would not last a year.

Download the 'How Long Can Charities Go Unsupported' infographic

Poll 1 - How Long Can Charities Go Unsupported

What is needed from governments to support in the crisis?

We asked charities what they needed most from governments to support them through the pandemic.

Whilst statements varied slightly for each country, it’s clear that what is needed most is support from government to enable charities to effectively fundraise and access resources. Each country said that they needed the removal of restrictions or conditions that limited their access to funding, and many reported that they needed other resources for their communities.

Download the 'What Is Needed from Governments' infographic

Poll 2 - What Is Needed from Governments

How have charities adapted to the crisis?

In June we asked charities how they had adapted to operating during the COVID-19 crisis.

We saw that all countries had adapted their working practices to suit the new situation, for example by working from home. Charities across all of the countries had continued their charitable mission, finding new ways to reach their beneficiaries and/or continue delivering their services.

Charities in most countries (Australia, Brazil, India and South Africa) attempted to raise funds, either by finding new funding sources or by emergency fundraising.

Charities in India, South Africa and the UK all said that they had collaborated with other organisations or groups of people.

Charities in Brazil and the UK unfortunately reported that they had adapted to the crisis by refocussing or reducing their activities.

Charities in Australia can be seen to invest in new technology or equipment to operate, and also to call upon support to pay charity staff salaries, which indicates the enabling environment available in the country.

How has civil society supported charities in these difficult times?

We asked charities in Brazil, India and South Africa what financial or non-financial support they had received from individuals in their communities or from corporate organisations during the COVID-19 crisis.

Among the top 5 sources of support received, charities from all countries had received donations of goods from either individuals or corporations during the crisis.

Indian and South African charities reported new one-off donations from individuals, whilst Brazilian NGOs reported new donations from individuals via regular giving programmes. Charities in South Africa were also likely to receive new donations from HNWI’s or family trusts

As well as new donations, Brazil and India received new offers of volunteering support from individuals, and charities in Brazil also saw individuals and community groups promote charity causes on social media.

How have government measures to manage the pandemic aided the response effort of charities?

In July we asked charities in Brazil, India and South Africa the impact of government measures on their charitable efforts during the crisis. 

Across Brazil, India and South Africa, most charities said that they had seen demand for their services increase. Despite increased demand, there were mixed reports of being seen as essential by government and the majority of charities across all countries said they did not feel supported by government during the pandemic.

Reports of feeling able to advocate for their cause were mixed, with charities in Brazil likely to say that they do not feel able to advocate for their cause.

Download the 'How Have Government Measures Aided Charities' infographic

Poll 5 - How have Government Measures aided the Response?
What has surprised charities the most

What has surprised charities most since the pandemic began?

Between August and October we asked charities in Brazil, India and South Africa what surprised them most about their charity since the start of the pandemic. 

Across all countries, charities were most surprised by how their organisation managed to adapt to the new normal, and by the resilience shown by their staff. Charities were also surprised by the increase in demand for their services, which was seen by charities across all countries.

Among the top five things that surprised charities in Brazil and India was the willingness of volunteers during the crisis. Charities in India and South Africa both said that they were surprised by the support received from the public, but both South Africa and Brazil reported that they were surprised by the lack of support available for the sector.

Download the 'What has surprised charities most since the pandemic began' infographic

How have charities beneficiaries been impacted by coronavirus?

In September and October we asked charities how the coronavirus pandemic had impact their beneficiaries, in comparison to the rest of the general population in their countries.

In India, Brazil and South Africa, many charities report that their beneficiaries were more negatively affected by the pandemic in comparison to the rest of the general population, though between 1 in 5 and 1 in 3  did suggest that the impact was the same between groups. Few in each country reported their beneficiaries to be more positively affected by the pandemic in comparison to the general population.

Download the 'How have charities beneficiaries been impacted by coronavirus' infographic

GA Poll 7

Has the outlook for charities improved?

Between September and November we paused and asked charities to reflect on the outlook for their charity in comparison to the start of coronavirus lockdowns in their country. We also asked charities to tell us their greatest fears for the weeks ahead.

Charities in India, Brazil and South Africa all shared slightly different outlooks on their unique pandemic situations. Around 6 in 10 (63%) Indian charities and two thirds (66%) of South African NGOs reported the outlook for their charity to be better than the start of lockdown, however, fewer charities were able to report this in Brazil. Similarly, whilst 1 in 5 charities in India and South Africa reported that the outlook was worse for their charity, this climbs to around a third among charities in Brazil.

Charities in all countries fear managing social distancing effectively whilst returning to work, as well as having to reduce the services that they offer to beneficiaries. Around a third of organisations in India and South Africa fear an increase in demand for their services, and just over 1 in 5 (23%) organisations in South Africa fear having to close permanently due to lack of funds.

Further Global Insights

Research from Russia

In March 2020, our Global Alliance partner CAF Russia published reports highlighting the ways in which charities were affected by the pandemic. Some key stats:

  • 60% of NGOs recorded a decrease in the volume of donations between March and April 2020.
  • Almost half of NGOs received no support from their permanent donors and partners due to the pandemic. 
  • Private and corporate donations to NGOs declined.

Read: New Reality: How COVID-19 is impacting the work of NGOs in Russia (Russian language)

Read: Staying Alive. Research on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on NGOs (Russian language)

Research from Turkey

Our Global Alliance partner in Turkey, TUSEV, conducted a survey exploring the the impact of COVID-19 on NGOs including the effect on resources, grants, funds, sustainability and more.

Read TUSEV's COVID-19 report

Research from the USA

In the face of unprecedented challenges, charities are demonstrating resilience through agility and determination. CAF America has conducted a number of reports that take a closer look at individual organisational experiences through the pandemic. Based on interviews with leaders representing nonprofits working across geographies and issue areas, these stories recount the unfolding impact of the crisis and their agile responses.

While the contexts and tailored solutions may be unique, the obstacles are commonly felt—challenges such as the shift to remote work, the abrupt loss of volunteers or funders, or the need to pivot programming toward direct relief to address local priorities. As the pandemic draws on, charities continue to innovate and adapt.

Download CAF America's COVID-19 reports

Research from the UK

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?    

See CAF UK's Coronavirus Research Hub

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