Members Respond to COVID-19 Surveys

Posted on
1 May 2020
by
Lily Power, Policy Offer at The Wheel

Over the last few weeks, The Wheel has conducted three member surveys to help us better understand how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting our members, enabling us to properly represent their needs to government.

The first survey was completed on 19 March and filled out by 258 respondents. It focused on obtaining general data about how our members were coping and adapting their work in the early days of the crisis, as well as how they expected this to progress in the coming weeks and months. Key findings from that survey showed that:

  • 89% stated that COVID-19 has affected their organisation  
  • 97% stated that it was likely to affect their organisation over the coming days and weeks  
  • 39% expected a temporary shutdown of their organisation
  • 54% expected a negative impact on their fundraising/income.

This demonstrates that many of our members began to carry out a broad range of activities to help people affected by COVID-19 at an early stage in the crisis. These organisations shifted the nature of their work in an incredibly short space of time to assist vulnerable service users across their communities, demonstrating the impressively flexible and adaptable nature of community and voluntary organisations.

Charities depend on a mix of income to fund their work, which can be broadly understood as comprising a mix of generated income from fundraising and/or earned income and statutory grant or service-contract income. The second survey, completed on 26 March, was aimed at providing some indication of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on this type of income for charities, community and voluntary organisations, and social enterprises. With a turnaround time of only three days, 95 respondents provided information on how their organisation had been impacted financially to date and how they expected to be impacted over the next year. 

Key findings from that survey showed that:

  • For 44% of organisations, loss of fundraising revenue resulted in (approximate) income losses of between €10,000 and €100,000; for 16% of organisations, it meant losses of more than €100,000. 
  • 13% said that they had already had to lay off staff 
  • 36% had already had to reduce staff hours.

The above findings demonstrate that COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on earned and fundraised income for many of our members. With fundraising events cancelled and revenue-raising aspects such as retail businesses closed during the crisis, many organisations are struggling to continue in their core function, keep services open and indeed exist in the long term. In addition, many are seeing an increased demand for their services as a result of the current crisis, which is further stretching resources.

Our final survey was directed at a small number of our members, who were asked to provide detailed examples of how the loss of generated income will impact on services and, in some cases, threaten the continued functioning of their organisation. Seven organisations provided financial information concerning their predicted income losses as well as detailed insights into how they have addressed the crisis. Following the introduction of a range of welcome government measures to protect businesses and charities, such as the Wage Subsidy Scheme and several loan/financing initiatives, The Wheel wanted to analyse exactly where remaining need is in the community and voluntary sector, and what kind of organisations are most being most severely impacted.

The case studies we developed from this third survey demonstrate the requirement for mitigation over and above continued funding from statutory sources and successful participation in the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme. They identified four groups who are particularly in need of additional support: charities that are substantially reliant on fundraising from the public; social enterprise type charities that are substantially reliant on earned income; service-providing organisations reliant on a mix of statutory service-contracts and fundraising/earned income; and locally-based community groups substantially reliant on community-based fundraising.

These three surveys conducted by The Wheel over the last few weeks demonstrate the crucial role played by charities, community and voluntary groups, and social enterprises in assisting the most vulnerable during these times of crisis. They also show the increased demand for services provided by our members and the threat posed by the significant loss of funding being experienced as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

 If you have any comments or questions arising from any of the above, please feel free to contact me directly: lily@wheel.ie