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'The COVID-19 pandemic is seismic': Community groups fear for survival

15 May 2020 at 4:04 pm
Luke Michael
Many NFPs have been forced to cut staff amid a drop in fundraising levels

Luke Michael | 15 May 2020 at 4:04 pm


'The COVID-19 pandemic is seismic': Community groups fear for survival
15 May 2020 at 4:04 pm

Many NFPs have been forced to cut staff amid a drop in fundraising levels

Almost three quarters of Australia’s not-for-profit sector feels threatened by COVID-19, according to a new survey.

The national COVID-19 Community Sector Impact Survey questioned 366 community groups of varying sizes and locations about the impact the pandemic is having on their organisations. 

The survey is part of #GivingTuesdayNow, a global campaign encouraging generosity, volunteering and gratitude.

Seventy per cent of groups surveyed said their viability was under threat as a result of COVID-19, while a third said the threat was “significant”. 

“Not being able to continue our operations has a significant effect on our viability,” one respondent said. 

“We rent our premises [and we have] no income in spite of much of the community looking for us to undertake work for them.”

Some organisations said they continued to struggle even with the government’s JobKeeper assistance.

“[We have] limited reserves, minimal income whilst continuing costs re employment of key staff. JobKeeper covers only part of salaries and on costs, and has to be paid in advance,” a respondent said.

Asked to predict how the sector will look in one year’s time, some of the responses included “messy”, “bruised”, “disrupted”, “smaller”, “struggling” and “bleak”.

Two thirds (67 per cent) of organisations said they had seen a drop in fundraising, while more than half (57 per cent) saw a drop in volunteering levels.

More than a third (35 per cent) have reduced staff while 40 per cent said they were unsure if there would be further cuts.

Giving Tuesday ambassador Rev. Tim Costello said he feared for the sector.

“There’s no way to sugar coat this – the COVID-19 pandemic is seismic,” Costello said.

“Community groups are the social infrastructure of our economy – they need fast-tracked investment from government, philanthropy and individuals before it’s too late. JobKeeper is a great start but we need to go further.”  

A COVID-19 Giving Register was launched on Friday in response to the crisis.

It will allow people to find local groups to help through volunteering, donating or other forms of support.

It already includes more than 100 groups looking for new supporters.

Costello said the sector was having to adapt to the crisis to get through it intact.

“Community groups have always had to innovate just to thrive,” he said.

“Now it goes to their ability to survive.”

Full survey results can be seen here

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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