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Australia’s community sector threatened by ‘a trilogy of terror’


24 June 2021 at 8:32 am
Wendy Williams
NFPs are struggling against an increased demand for services, a reduction in donations and a collapse in volunteering


Wendy Williams | 24 June 2021 at 8:32 am


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Australia’s community sector threatened by ‘a trilogy of terror’
24 June 2021 at 8:32 am

NFPs are struggling against an increased demand for services, a reduction in donations and a collapse in volunteering

There’s work to do to ensure the community sector survives, according to a new report which finds not for profits are continuing to come under intense pressure more than a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The COVID-19 Community Sector Impact Survey, released by Our Community in partnership with Salesforce on Wednesday, found that more than half of not for profits reported an increase in demand for services (with 28 per cent saying demand has increased significantly).

Organisations providing family violence, homelessness, food relief and childcare services have been particularly hard hit by increased demand. 

At the same time, a majority of organisations reported a decline in both volunteers and donations.

The issue of volunteers looms particularly large given that 73 per cent of NFPs said they relied on volunteers to deliver programs or services, yet 64 per cent of organisations reported a drop in volunteers during the pandemic.

Denis Moriarty, group managing director of Our Community, said the immense pressure meant it was time for governments to do more to support the sector.

“A trilogy of terror is threatening the Australian community sector, which is facing increased demand for services, a reduction in donations and a catastrophic collapse in volunteering,” Moriarty said. 

“The only thing that will save Australia’s 600,000 community groups will be Australians’ continued faith in them, and a bloody big investment by government to ensure the sector can invest in technology and reskill its workforce. We need a major industry plan for the future.”

The report, which surveyed 907 NFP representatives and 1,027 members of the public, builds on previous findings from April 2020.

It included some glimmers of hope.

The percentage of organisations reporting an increase in income doubled from 6 per cent in 2020 to 12 per cent in 2021. 

And the survey did reveal that Aussies have indicated a willingness to help, with 37 per cent saying they will give more time and money in the year ahead. 

But while Aussies want to give back, 69 per cent said they face challenges when trying to engage with and offer support to NFP organisations. 

Technology is key

A key finding of the report was that NFPs need to invest in better online experiences which make it easier for people to volunteer and donate.

More than half said they want to be engaged more with their NFPs through an established online community, and 61 per cent said the use of technology by NFPs has an impact on their level of trust for the organisation.

The pandemic has accelerated the NFP sector’s shift to digital technology, with most organisations (74 per cent) increasing their use of technology in the past 12 months, and 64 per cent planning further adoption or investment over the year ahead. 

Andrew Hill, regional vice president of non-profit and education at Salesforce, said Australians have moved to a digital first world and want to engage with NFPs in the same way they engage retailers, banks and governments. 

“Now is the time to capture the increased awareness and motivation for people to give back to their communities,” Hill said. 

“Reaching people both online and in-person increases the scope and ease for not for profits to increase volunteer engagement and drive fundraising activities.”

Other key findings include:

  • A bounce-back in staffing should be expected.
  • Organisations are investing more in training and digital technology.
  • Not-for-profits are more optimistic now than they were 12 months ago.
  • There’s greater community awareness of the work of not for profits.
  • Some groups have responded to the pandemic by diversifying revenue.
  • There is a renewed focus on governance and strategic planning.

Read the full report here.


Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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