Coronavirus – Managing communications in the charity sector

By Aisling Hinchy

As we complete our sixth week of government-imposed isolation in a bid to curb the spread of Covid19, the far-reaching impacts of this pandemic can be seen across our island. As every industry reels from the economic slowdown, the charity sector above all others, has been profoundly affected by these circumstances. Research carried out by The Charities Institute of Ireland into the effects of Covid19, report that charities expect to see a 40% drop in net income as a result of this pandemic. In the last six weeks, 89% of charities have had to cancel events, campaigns and other fundraising activity which will have significant and long-standing impacts on their ability to maintain services.

Having spent several years working in the charity sector, I have seen first-hand how much effort is needed to generate funding and meet ever increasing fundraising targets in ‘normal’ circumstances. But the challenges Covid19 has caused within the sector is detrimental.

The Irish Cancer Society has recorded a loss of €4 million in vital funding due to the cancellation of its flagship event, Daffodil Day on March 27th, while Pieta House made the decision to cancel all Darkness Into Light events on May 9th, projecting a direct loss of €6 million to the charity. Other vital fundraising events such as community activities, on-street and church collections and private fundraising events have all been cancelled – with detrimental results for our charities and those in need.

For many of us, we are lucky as we retreat into the safety and comfort of our homes and hunker down in the hope to beat this virus, but for others, the most vulnerable in our society, they will need added support to get through this time.

Not only are charities facing extreme pressures in a bid to generate funding and thus maintain services, for many they are also witnessing a surge in demand. As swathes of the general population face into job losses, the elderly cocoon, and domestic abuse incidents increase, charities such as ALONE, St. Vincent DePaul, Women’s Aid and the ISPCC are all struggling to meet the increase in demand for their services. The sector is in crisis.

But what can charities do in a bid to raise vital funds and reach those most in need?

Communicate

Communication needs to be the primary component of all charities action plan to combat Covid19. Tell your story, deliver your message. Let people know what is happening – the more people are aware, the more they can help.

Honesty

Do not shy away from the crisis you find yourself in. The more transparent you can be about how the charity is functioning, the greater understanding your audience will have.

Call to action

While many individuals are contributing to different initiatives during this time, others simply aren’t aware of what needs to be done. In other words – people want to help, but do not know how. A simple call to action will define what needs to be done and will enable those who can offer additional support, to offer this where it is needed.

Be Creative

Unfortunately, in these circumstances, it is not simply one charity who is in need of support, but the entire sector. The public are being called upon to stand together and enable charities to help those most in need. But which charity does one choose to help when there are so many worthy causes? How can you deliver your story and ensure it is seen and heard above all others? Simply said – it is time to get creative. Just like the NCBI centre in Drumcondra who called on the public through their TikTok video to help support their meals on wheels drive for the vulnerable in the local area, it’s time to think about how you can stand out from the crowd and get the public engaged.

Leverage digital

As we continue to practice social distancing and remain at home where possible, many people are turning to digital media to stay connected, entertained, and informed. Since the beginning of this pandemic, Facebook has recorded a 50% increase in messaging across their platforms, along with usage of video and voice calls across Messenger and WhatsApp more than doubling. Now is the time to take advantage of digital and social media platforms to help connect with your audience directly, while simultaneously increasing awareness for the charity, in a bid to boost donations and support.

As we become familiar with our restricted ways of living and begin to look ahead to life post-Covid19, the fact remains that the true effects of this pandemic are still yet to be seen. While we continue to fight against this virus, we have a longer fight ahead of us to ensure the most vulnerable in our society are not left on their knees. We must all pull together to support the charity sector and safeguard their services to bring Ireland forward into a fair and equal land.

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