How non-profit organisations can prepare for a post-Covid world

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A recent webinar – hosted by Third Sector in partnership with Salesforce.org – asked four charity CEOs about the path out of the pandemic

Waiting for the ‘new normal’ is not an option. On 18 June, with global charities reeling from Covid-19, Third Sector in partnership with Salesforce.org hosted a webinar featuring four CEOs who are shaping the post-pandemic landscape for themselves.

From adapting services to balancing books, the topics discussed echoed the concerns of non-profit organisations worldwide – while the speakers’ proactive solutions highlighted a positive road forward. 

Salesforce.org is committed to empowering global changemakers, offering grants, technology, volunteer time and platforms to make important voices heard. Hosted by Third Sector features editor Rebecca Cooney, this latest webinar acknowledged the challenges ahead, with 87.9 per cent of charities revealing in a survey that their services had been affected by the pandemic. 

As Tufail Hussein, director of Islamic Relief UK, explained, any charity’s survival hinges on effective pivoting. “The pandemic was announced before Ramadan, when we raised 35 per cent of our annual income in the UK. Due to the lockdown, we had to cancel hundreds of community fundraising events. 

“Thankfully, we’ve got a great team, and they put together a contingency plan, reallocating funding to direct marketing efforts, with a particular focus on online fundraising. They came up with initiatives like a virtual mosque, and engaged social media. Our clothes operation moved into online trading. Peer-to-peer fundraising worked really well too. Ramadan looks set to be a record period of fundraising for us, and that’s thanks to our team’s agility.”

Third Sector’s survey also revealed 64 per cent of charities have furloughed staff, and this was an important subject for Allison Dufosee, CEO of World Bicycle Relief. “Inboxes were drying up, income was dwindling, and our challenge was that mobility is our key message, and the world had largely become immobile. I flew solo for a month, but then I started to call people back. The cycling industry is actually booming, and because of that, there were more opportunities coming our way.”

Alongside the pandemic’s immediate fallout, longer-term financial planning was a hard reality broached by Alzheimer’s Society CEO, Kate Lee. “My sense is the big bang is still to come. The way we’ve approached this is a contingency planning approach. We need to remove £45m from our spend. We’ve already taken out £20m – that’s been contributions from the furlough scheme. We’ve announced the closure of 37 offices across the organisation, and postponed any new research grants. We’re planning on the organisation shrinking by 25 per cent in three years, and that is going to be significant and painful.”

In conclusion, the four speakers agreed that charities must not remain static, but learn lessons from the pandemic. Jo Crease, CEO of Together Co, anticipates a more flexible model of remote and office-based working, plus a commitment to effective decision-making. 

“We’ve moved our board and sub-committee meetings to a more frequent schedule, so we don’t have to wait a quarter, and therefore decisions can be taken at the right time. When you’re moving quickly, and reacting in a space you care so deeply about, you can sometimes make more personal decisions than you might otherwise. It’s really important to have those checks and balances still working well.”

Non-profit leaders face more uncertainty today than they have for decades. Salesforce.org's new guide offers advice on how to lead and build resilience for the next normal. Download the guide here.

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