Skip to main content

Sustaining support for the sector as we look ahead and plan for the future

13 April 2021

The acronym VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous was a term being used to describe our changing world long before COVID-19. But the global pandemic added fuel to this fire with a huge range of additional personal and professional challenges facing us all.

Undoubtedly, a year ago all of our lives changed in a way that none of us could have imagined – and with it came many fresh challenges and opportunities. Finding new ways of working through a pandemic which has forced society to distance has been a big undertaking for everyone – and especially for the charity sector. That’s why in a bid to stop, take stock and assess where we are going, we recently partnered with MediaTrust on our second survey since May 2020 to see how you, our comms community are doing.

One thing that came through loud and clear is that we as a sector should undoubtedly be proud of how we have pivoted to deliver meaningful connections and services digitally in the past twelve months (60% of survey respondents cited improved confidence in their organisation’s digital skills). But what was also evident was that now we face the reality of a long road ahead as we work to ensure these developments become a sustainable and useful part of all our work going forward.

More than anything though the results provide a valuable insight into the sustained impact on comms professionals, who have been working at the forefront of their organisations responding to the many challenges and the opportunities which have arisen. So dive in and see what your peers had to say:

The Impact of COVID-19 on Charity Communications

What we learnt at a glance:

Life in the fast lane

We’ve heard from the report how charity communicators have helped to lead the acceleration in digital engagement. Rapidly deploying fundraising and service provision solutions, and keeping all stakeholders – internal and external – fully appraised of what they were doing and why and how they could help.

  • 50% said their ability to communicate with stakeholders has improved since March 2020.
  • 60% have improved confidence in their organisation’s digital skills.

There is no doubt that many amazing improvements have been made across the sector and lessons learnt which can be sustained and built on.

“It has been great to see the way CharityComms has gone digital so successfully during this time!” – corporate partner, Dec 2020

Time to press pause

However, these opportunities have come at a cost. Our survey shows the number of comms professionals feeling overwhelmed by the pace of work has risen sharply. Increasing demands on their time coincides with shrinking teams and budgets. The prolonged lock-down has left many feeling mentally and physically exhausted, unable to step back or find new energy reserves to take stock and plan for the future.

  • 75% are busier than ever.
  • 59% told us their workload has increased.
  • 39% report feeling overwhelmed.
  • 50% said the latest lockdown was the hardest.

In the words of one respondent a big challenge for them going forward will be “maintaining and growing a digital presence whilst returning to limited face to face working”.

These results are echoed in our own 2020 Salary and Organisational Culture survey, with 45% of those working in marcomms saying they are now working longer hours and naming the pandemic as the reason.

Comms barriers cited in our Covid Comms survey included:

  • Lack of budget – 66%
  • Lack of time – 55%
  • Skills – 38%
  • Time – poor audiences with low engagement on social media – 38%
  • Digital exclusion – 36%

Tipping to transition

So, what does this all mean? Well, the survey helps us to understand the working reality of our members and what support they most need as they move from emergency response to recovery and rebuilding. 

At CharityComms we will continue to listen, respond, and provide:

  • Practical tools and guidance on building personal resilience and wellbeing.
  • Help to make the case for investment in comms.
  • Practical, timely and affordable access to our events.
  • Mentoring support and a community to connect, share knowledge and experiences.

“Thank you for everything you’ve done as an organisation to support the sector this year. Your webinar and conference sessions have been invaluable in helping me to develop my learning and having joined your mentoring scheme earlier in the year I cannot speak highly enough about that.” – member who has transitioned from freelance to a comms manager role, Dec 2020

Transition Resource Hub

We’ve also pulled together a list of tools and resources you’ll need to reset the dial and get back control of your work-life balance. Helping you to take stock, consolidate, and embed the good things and start to strategise for the future.

Coronavirus and post-pandemic resources for charity communicators

We’d love to hear any suggestions of resources you’ve found most helpful in the last year – we’ll add them to the hub so that others can benefit too.

“The training courses this year have been very beneficial and I’m so glad we rejoined last year.” – organisational member, Dec 2020

If you found this interesting you may also like 2020 Salary and Organisational Culture survey.

Thanks to funding support from City of London Corporation’s charitable funder, City Bridge Trust who made this sector survey and report possible.

Image: Drew Beamer on Unsplash

Adeela Warley

CEO, CharityComms

Adeela has over 20 years’ experience in charity communications across multiple skills and functions: strategic planning, market research, media, PR, events, brand, publishing and digital. Before joining CharityComms, she led the development of organisational communications, brand and audience strategies for Friends of the Earth, putting them at the heart of the charity's campaigning success and supporter engagement.