Pandemic increases charity sector efficiency but staff morale has plummeted, says report

The rise in home working and use of technology by charities during the Covid-19 pandemic has boosted efficiency and “eliminated a lot of wasted time”, according to a report.

But the health crisis has also dramatically reduced staff morale, the report also found.

The findings have emerged in the Charity benchmarks, Covid-19 Impact Monitor full report for 2020.

This analysed data and interviewed charity workers to assess how the health crisis had impacted on charities organisation compared to the previous year,

Enforced home working during lockdowns has had a dramatic impact, the full report for the year shows.

This trend has “driven efficiency and eliminated a lot of wasted time. Culturally, many of our respondents also see home working as having levelled the playing field and reduced London-centricity”.

When asked how remote working has impacted on their charity’s effectiveness and efficiency, more than 60% said it had improved, while only around a fifth (22%) said it had made no difference.

The pandemic is set to lead to an increase in blended and flexible working arrangements, where workers share time between home and office in the future, says the report.

“In light of this, it seems unsurprising that nobody is planning a return to the ‘old normal’ – three days a week being the maximum time that people anticipate spending in the office in future,” it adds.

When charity leaders were asked how many days they expect staff to work in an office, 68% did not know, while 21% said two days a week and 11% said three days a week.

Staff morale

But despite staff working more efficiently, the Impact Monitor also found that staff morale had dropped during the year. On a scale of one to 10 (with 10 being happiest), the happiness rate was just 5.5 in the final quarter of 2020, compared to seven over the same period in 2019.

“Against the backdrop of difficult situations and changed working conditions, morale has clearly been a big concern for participants.

“Hopefully 2021 will see the trend reverse but it seems as if the triumphs, breakthroughs and renewed sense of purpose that 2020 brought haven’t been enough to maintain morale in the face of furloughs, uncertainty and isolation.”

Fundraising trends

The Impact Report also charts changing fundraising trends amid 2020. Among charities that took part in the survey, income dropped from £491.4m in the final quarter of 2019 to £424.4m in the same period in 2020.

But not all areas of income say a dip. Legacy income has been slow coming through and retail and events revenue has slumped, says the report.

“Yet other areas have had a bumper year,” the report found.

This includes a 70% growth in the number of donations online.

“A significant increase in time spent online by the public in general – and a surge in adoption of online transactions by core donor demographics – will certainly have helped but there’s no denying the scale of the change,” said the report.

Social media activity

This latest Impact Monitor also includes a new section on social media activity in the charity sector.

This found that the bulk of charities’ social media followers are via Facebook and growth in follower numbers across the platform between 2019 and 2020.

However, this growth is minimal compared to the increasing appeal of charities among supporters through Instagram and Youtube.

While Instagram saw a growth of 27% among all followers between 2019 and 2020, this rise was 82% among charity followers.

Similarly, the growth in charity followers via Youtube was 52% over the same period, compared to 43% among all followers.

In contrast, the growth among charity supporters on Twitter was just 3%, compared to 21% among all users.

The report says: “Years of focus and activity on Facebook and Twitter mean that charities are struggling to penetrate further. By contrast, on YouTube charity follower growth is outstripping platform growth and on Instagram it’s surging ahead – perhaps reflecting an increased focus on the platforms and the relative ease of picking up followers in an environment that has not yet been worked too hard.”

Charity Benchmarks is run by fundraising consultancy Freestyle Marketing and strategic and creative fundraising agency Open.

Charities involved include Macmillan Cancer Support, British Red Cross, Oxfam and Barnardo’s.

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