Supporting charities and volunteers during coronavirus

For our latest covid-19 guidance for charities, please visit our coronavirus pages on NCVO Knowhow.

‘We will do whatever it takes.’

Those were the words of chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday evening, as he outlined what the government pledges to do to help the country weather the threat of coronavirus. Government support is paramount of course – and I will return to that shortly – but in recent days the voluntary sector has also demonstrated like never before that we will do whatever it takes to support the communities we serve.

We’ve already seen an incredible response from charities, large and small.

But doing whatever it takes is easier said than done. Especially when you are worrying about how to keep services running, how to support communities who are in greater need than ever before, and how to pay the bills at the end of each month. This is why NCVO will also ‘do whatever it takes’ to support the sector through the coming weeks and months. Earlier this week our trustees agreed to suspend our plans for the coming year. We have refocused all our work behind responding to covid-19. We are working closely with the other infrastructure organisations to ensure together we support the voluntary sector, and ultimately communities, in every way we can. And we’re clear: we cannot do this on our own.

So, what are we doing?

Information for voluntary organisations

Firstly, we are providing information and guidance about coronavirus and what it means for voluntary organisations and volunteers.  This is to help you plan and access the latest up to date advice.

We are updating this page daily with the latest government advice and what this means for voluntary organisations, as well as signposting to useful information from other organisations.

We have also taken down all pay walls on our Knowhow website. This means that all of our online content is now free to all to use. So, whether it’s information about governance or online training for staff who are working from home unable to do their jobs, we hope this will provide that little bit of extra support. In the coming weeks we plan to run webinars for the sector to provide further support – more on that soon. 

Lobbying government for support for charities

Secondly, it’s back to my opening point on support from government. In the budget last week, and in the chancellor’s statement last night, we heard about substantial financial support available from government to businesses and workers. We have been inundated with calls, messages and emails from people working and volunteering in the sector worried about cash flow and financial sustainability. We have seen an incredible response from charities large and small – but we have also seen an incredible drop-off in income in some organisations:

With social distancing in place, much of our sector’s income has been cut off overnight – fundraising events, conferences and training cancelled; charity shops, cafes and community venues closed. NCVO is working closely with government officials to develop a package of financial support aimed specifically at the sector – an emergency fund. We’ll also ensure there is clarity from the government on how other support measures apply to charities as soon as possible.

In order to continue to provide government with information about what the sector needs, the Institute of Fundraising has also led the development of important research to understand what the current and future financial impact of coronavirus might be on charities. Given the speed events are unfolding, there is a quick deadline of 23 March. We are grateful if you have capacity to complete this survey but understand if you need to focus elsewhere.

Supporting coordination of volunteering

It’s also been heartening to see an explosion of people wanting to help. Even in the most testing of circumstances, it’s good to see people coming forward to help others. Coordination and planning are vital – support must be directed to those most in need at the point at which they need it.

To this end NCVO is working with partners across the system to support coordination of volunteering in response to covid-19. We’re in contact with national and local volunteering networks to work with them on attracting and supporting volunteers, including how we might ask volunteers to move to more critical roles. We’ll shortly produce a web page for people who want to volunteer, signposting where they can go to do this in the best way. We are also sharing guidance aimed at supporting volunteers and volunteer involving organisations – including the many new groups that have developed over the last week – to ensure everyone who volunteers can do so in a way that is safe and effective.

We’re also in close contact with the government about how we coordinate a major volunteering push to help support people through the covid-19 outbreak and encourage people to think about how to do this without putting themselves at risk. You’ll hear more about this over the next week or so.

I am absolutely convinced that this the time when civil society is needed the most and I am grateful for every charity, volunteer and organisation who are stepping up to help during this crisis.

*To keep up to date with all our coronavirus guidance and other NCVO resources, make sure to sign up for our email updates.


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Karl Wilding Karl Wilding served as NCVO's chief executive from September 2019 to February 2021.

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