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Community sector struggles under weight of pandemic

21 December 2020 at 6:44 pm
Maggie Coggan
Researchers hope a new survey will help the for-purpose sector build back stronger post-COVID-19.

Maggie Coggan | 21 December 2020 at 6:44 pm


Community sector struggles under weight of pandemic
21 December 2020 at 6:44 pm

Researchers hope a new survey will help the for-purpose sector build back stronger post-COVID-19.

Despite an increasing need for social purpose services to deal with the challenges of 2020, more than half of organisations worry they won’t survive in the current environment, new research shows. 

The first release of findings from the Centre for Social Impact’s (CSI) research project, Pulse of the For-Purpose Sector, found that eight in 10 organisations reported an increase in demand during the year. 

JobKeeper and other forms of financial stimulus provided relief for  76 per cent of organisations during the height of the pandemic. Even so, 77 per cent of organisations either agreed or strongly agreed that recent events had put considerable strain on their finances. 

The report said that factors including the decline in volunteering, the conclusion of JobKeeper, reductions in JobSeeker and the increased demand on services are all likely to trigger significant pressure on both demand and revenue sources in the short to medium term.   

“Critically, at least one in two of the organisations surveyed, 52 per cent, were worried they wouldn’t be able to continue to provide their services in the current environment,” the report said. 

Organisations also revealed that funding does not cover the full costs of delivering services, with only 39 per cent of government grants, 34 per cent of philanthropy grants and 35 per cent of corporate grants found to actually cover all costs. 

“The gap between costs incurred and costs covered poses a risk for financial viability and sustainability of organisations,” the report said.  

The report presents findings from 524 people working for community sector organisations, social enterprises and philanthropy and grant making organisations, to track changes over time and to help identify what’s needed to build Australian society back better, and for the first time track the progress of the social purpose sector.

Researchers said this first report was not reflective of the “new normal”, but a state of flux in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and some uncertainty associated with multiple and ongoing social and economic shocks.  

CSI’s CEO, Professor Kristy Muir, said that studies such as this one were critical in helping the for-purpose sector thrive in a post-pandemic world. 

“We all know 2020 has been an unprecedented year. Everyone has taken a hit one way or another, with significant implications particularly for people experiencing social or economic disadvantage,” Muir said. 

“Looking forward, the data from this report aims to help us build back better and stronger.” 

She said that this was the first of many reports. 

“CSI is excited to continue this research and seeks to contribute to relief and renewal efforts by arming the organisations and communities that the social sector serves with the data, knowledge and insights needed to recover from the devastations of 2020 and future events,” she said. 

A full copy of the report can be found here.

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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