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Six challenges facing VCSE leaders during Covid-19

June 2020

Rebecca Moran


  1. The welfare of their workforce
    • How can they protect staff morale and wellbeing?
    • How can they prevent staff burnout during this time?


  1. The welfare of their service users
    • How are the needs of their service users changing?
    • How can they best continue to support them in a way that is safe and appropriate?


  1. The continuity of their service delivery
    • How can they deliver services in a way that adheres to social distancing guidelines?
    • How can they address the needs of service users who are unable to access digital services?


  1. The organisation’s survival
    • How can they adapt projects and programmes in order to make best use of the organisation’s current financial resources?
    • How can they reduce costs (e.g. furloughing staff) while at the same time ensuring they have capacity to continue to fundraise and innovate, as well as meet increasing levels of demand? ‘We’re at risk of having to shrink our support at the very time demand is growing.’


  1. The funding landscape
    • Are funders considering the mid to long-term needs that will emerge as a result of the global pandemic?
    • Will funders’ ‘flexible’ approach last beyond the immediate emergency period?
    • What will happen to the availability of funds down the line? Will funds be ‘hoovered’ up by larger, urban organisations leaving little for smaller and/or rural organisations?


  1. The long-term impact of the crisis
    • How will they respond to increasing levels of need? ‘The tidal wave is coming… The dial will be turned up in relation to need, trauma and hardship.’
    • What will organisations look like at the end of this?
    • What will the VCSE sector look like at the end of this?


Nine factors affect how these challenges play out within organisations


‘We are all facing the same storm, but none of us are really in the same boat.’ 


  1. The type of services an organisation provides (i.e. 1-2-1 vs group/community support)
  2. The needs of beneficiaries and how these are changing or increasing as a result of Covid-19
  3. Organisational size

  4. An organisation’s governance arrangements and structure
  5. An organisation’s funding cycle

  6. An organisation’s funding portfolio

  7. The personality, resilience and vulnerability of the organisation’s own workforce

  8. The types of relationships organisations have with their funders

  9. The level of digital accessibility, awareness and skills of both service users and staff

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