COVID-19: The changing picture during week 224 Mar 2020
We are now living through a pandemic. Since COVID-19 was official announced a global pandemic by the WHO, the UK has seen many rapid political and social changes. Last night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK was officially entering lockdown, with all non-essential shops closed and severe restrictions on public movement.
Many charities and other non-profit organisations and groups were already struggling to adapt their services and cope with fewer staff and, in some cases, growing demand for their services.
These pressures experienced are reflected in our survey of the sector. We repeated our first survey, adapting some of the questions a little.
Headlines from survey 2
- COVID-19 is spreading; 43% of organisations now reporting cases of staff self-isolating due to suspected Coronavirus disease.
- There have been unprecedented levels of disruption already; 80% say the pandemic has significantly impacted their organisations capacity to deliver its services, up from 29% two weeks ago.
- Anxiety about the financial impact of the pandemic has rapidly increased since the first survey; 59% of respondents now agree that COVID-19 has had a notable financial impact upon the sector.
- Social distancing is on the rise; 87% of respondents reported that their organisation is currently practicing this prevention technique.
- 17% of organisations reported that their volunteers had taken on new and/or additional duties to assist with decreased capacity.
Read our previous blog which covers the core findings from Survey 1 in greater detail.
We have also written about the ‘voices’ from the sector here.
Please click on the images below to see them more clearly.
Changing perceptions around COVID-19
COVID-19 is a growing source of anxiety for the sector. When asked whether their anxiety about the virus had increased over the past week, the majority of our respondents opted for “strongly agree” (41%) or “agree” (29%).
One thing is also very clear: the actions we are taking to battle COVID-19 are rapidly changing, with social distancing being the preventative action of choice. 87% of respondents reported that they were practicing social distancing. In comparison to last week (9%), the shift towards self-isolation is very significant (+78%);
There have been unprecedented levels of disruption over the past week. 85% of respondents reported that their organisations were practicing social distancing, with 68% identifying themselves as telecommuting for the interim.
As more individuals are now working from home, there has been a notable impact upon the day-to-day functioning of the sector.
“Job vacancies [are] now on hold”.
“People working from home and disruption to normal patterns of working. This will increase with the closure of schools”.
“Our staff are all disabled people, and are at high risk”.
Two weeks ago, only 29% identified COVID-19 has having a significant impact on their organisation’s capacity to deliver its services. Similarly, only 48% had reported disruption to their schedules.
As of today, 97% of respondents have now reported notable disruption to their schedules (+49%), with a further 80% agreeing that the pandemic has significantly impacted their organisations capacity to deliver its services.
Financial Impact of COVID-19
Anxiety about the financial impact COVID-19 is high, increasing from 40% to 79% over the course of the last week (+30%). In addition to this, survey 2 saw 46% of participants reporting “extreme” levels of concern regarding the pandemic’s foreseeable financial impact upon the sector.
The financial impact of COVID-19 is in the headlines. At London Plus, we are trying to capture accurate data on the sector’s perceptions about the impact on organisations’ finances. We added an additional question to survey 2 which sought to measure how this impact had manifested itself. Overall, there have been notable disruptions already, with 30% of organisations reporting delays/retractions in funding;
Only 18% of respondents reported no impact on their financial planning, though a significant percentage were unsure, reflecting uncertainty as events unfold. Evidence suggests a large impact already on trading income as well as fundraising from events.
“So far, approximately 30 bookings cancelled and for a small organisation like ours, this has huge financial impact”.
“Our income is diversified through income from supporting business volunteers to carry out projects. All have cancelled and those planned have asked for money back”.
A lack of details about a rescue package for charities might have contributed to the many respondents unsure about the impact on their organisation’s financial planning. Supportive announcements from institutional funders, while welcome, do not appear yet to have offset the uncertainty.
Volunteering through the pandemic
COVID-19 has changed the nature of volunteering, at least for now. We heard some of your stories about how members of the community had come forward to help out, as well as staff and pre-enrolled volunteers taking on additional duties. To measure this, we introduced a section in the survey two about “pandemic” volunteers. Individuals who are offering additional support specifically to assist with your organisation’s capacity during the pandemic.
Our findings were mixed, with 13% of organisations reporting that they had accrued pandemic volunteers. Interestingly, it appears that the demand for pandemic volunteers may increase as the pandemic continues, with 31% of respondents indicating that they expected their organisation to accrue pandemic volunteers in the near future. Similarly, an additional 17% also reporting that their staff and pre-enrolled volunteers had taken on additional duties.
While the majority didn’t report accruing any “pandemic” volunteers, we received a substantive amount of written feedback in which digital technology was a strong theme. Where accrued, additional volunteers and/or duties are largely oriented around the rapid digitalisation of services to meet demand/maintain service delivery.
“We’re focusing on communicating with users electronically and seeing how we can offer support that way. We’re also looking at providing deliveries of essential items to service users.”
“We’ve taken on extra or longer shifts on helpline and webchats, or are moderating online community space. We’ve also increased support with admin duties helping respond to high volume of emails we’re now receiving.”
“A few of us worked on a crowd-sourced document on holding virtual meetings ”
The changes in the way we live and work over the past week have had a significant impact upon the health of London’s civil society. Disruptions to organisations and individuals have been accompanied by increasing levels of anxiety and stress around COVID-19, with the majority of respondents identifying the pandemic’s impact upon their work as a significant source of stress (60%). This has changed notably since survey one, where only 26% of respondents identified themselves as stressed about the impact of the virus upon their work.
Keep calm and carry on…
The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to have a marked impact on the health of civil society in London. At London Plus we will work hard to support the sector through this. Collecting data as events unfold is part of this.
To do this effectively we need your continued participation in our research. A shortened edition of the survey is planned this week, to ascertain impact as the situation is ongoing. We will review this in light of any changes. Whilst we appreciate it is a difficult time and our organisations are firefighting fatigue, we would urge you to continue engaging with us.
We know that organisations are taking and adapting our survey for their own use. We are very happy to share the questions and thoughts on future surveys.
If you are looking to quote our research, please read our methodological points below. For access to the dataset (csv), please email firstname.lastname@example.org (and if you are a data scientist looking to offer pro-bono support the sector during this time, feel free to drop her a line too! Lucy is open to collaborating on analysis around COVID19 intelligence).
*All figures in the above report have been rounded to the nearest integer for communicative purposes.
Total survey population: N=127
Please note that findings from survey 1 and 2 cannot be claimed to directly correlate with one another- the surveys differ in their design, with some notable changes made to the phrasing of questions asked in survey 2. Analysis/reporting should be made with this in mind, i.e on a “like-for-like” (comparable) basis. Correlation over time cannot be claimed, but association between time variables can be suggested.