Organisation Challenges during COVID-19

Organisation Challenges during COVID-19



Like other sectors, Third Sector organisations are likely to face challenges in maintaining their normal services and activities if a high proportion of staff or volunteers are unavailable due to self-isolation, illness, or caring responsibilities. There are a number of challenges unique to a sector with many small organisations and where delivery of many activities depends on volunteers.

It is a sector with many small organisations, each employing only a handful of staff. This means that in many organisations, a single member of staff may be covering many roles (from finance to volunteer management), and so the organisation has a limited ability to continue to shift work between staff and to continue to run if a key staff member is unavailable.

Many staff within the third sector work part-time, often in order to fit work around caring responsibilities (for children or adults). These staff may find these caring responsibilities increase (for example, if schools close or statutory sector health and care services become stretched) and so their ability to work, particularly from their normal office base, may be limited.

Many volunteers will also have caring responsibilities and their availability for voluntary work may decrease for the reasons above.

This pressure could be eased to some extent if other employers were to offer their staff more flexibility for caring responsibilities – many staff and volunteers have other family members who work full time, but could take on some of the informal caring responsibilities if their employer were to offer more flexibility (even on a short term basis). We realise other employers will also face business continuity challenges, but these changes could be as simple as allowing staff to start half an hour late/finish early, take a longer lunch break, work from home to cut down on commuting time or similar.

At the moment, we consider there is a danger that the consequences of an increase in informal caring responsibilities may fall disproportionately on smaller third sector organisations, that may be less able to cope with it.

Many volunteers are older and/or have underlying health conditions themselves and may be more likely to become seriously ill if they contract Coronavirus.

Smaller organisations often have less resilience to business continuity challenges; in addition to the points above:

Many may have done little thinking or planning around their business continuity, and there is little national guidance for small third sector organisations that would not necessarily consider themselves to be “businesses”

Small organisations are likely to be less able to access supplies (e.g. hand gels) that are in short supply that they use in their day to day business

Small organisations may not be insured for business interruption or may find that the excess on a policy is too high to make it worthwhile claiming (although the small organisations may still find these costs hard to absorb)

Some organisations make limited use of IT and are unfamiliar with options for online meetings, teleconferences, etc.

Many have limited financial reserves (and at least 15% report having no financial reserves) – presenting challenges around sick pay and loss of income (explored in more detail below).

There is a danger that staff and volunteers will want to continue to work/volunteer even when they are feeling ill themselves, as they will be concerned that no one else is able to take on their role; we will be encouraging them not to do so through our networks.



Many third sector organisations could face a significant increase in the demand for their services, but no increase in funding.

Organisations with a high proportion of their income coming from grants tend to operate with an income that is relatively steady, and that it is not directly linked to the number of people using their service. This operating model has been a poor fit with previous government grant schemes to support businesses following disasters, which have often required organisations to show a decrease in their income in order to be eligible.

Many third sector organisations are anticipating that their workload could increase if the statutory sector (health and care) services become stretched, or that they will be asked to support the statutory sector more directly. 



Many organisations could expect to see a drop in their income (with some overlap with those seeing an increase in demand for services). This may be more likely to be covered by any government grant scheme for businesses, but we would suggest that any such grant scheme needs to be advertised through third sector networks as well as traditional business networks.

Many local charities rely on income from fundraising events – gala dinners, sponsored runs, etc – that may be cancelled as Coronavirus concerns rise. It affects a number of the larger, more formal organisations that provide key services – for example, local Hospices.

Many third sector organisations rely on earned income from events – either as their main activity (e.g. theatres and other arts venues) or less directly (e.g. income from room hire for events) – and again, are likely to see a fall in this income as large events are cancelled.

Decreased income from investments is a potential challenge for some third sector organisations, and may also decrease the amount of funding available from grant-making trusts.



Organisations may need to change the way in which they deliver services (for example, providing telephone support rather than a drop-in service), be unable to deliver parts of their normal service, or discover that new services are needed to meet emerging demand. Some organisations have expressed concern that their funders may not be willing to allow flexibility if targets (particularly from contract funding) cannot be met due to Coronavirus restrictions, and they might face financial penalties from the funder as a result (whilst staff costs would remain the same).

There is a range of funding pots for organisations during the COVID-19 outbreak



Organisations expressed concern that staff might need to work extra hours to cover the absence of colleagues, that their work might become more stressful (as the clients they work with are becoming extremely anxious about Coronavirus), and it would be more challenging to support staff working remotely.

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