Impacts of Covid-19 on Giving

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

The Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020 is a significant world event which has affected giving, but it has also touched upon the lives of every individual on the planet in one way or another. It has changed the way we live our lives, with lockdowns, social distancing, a shift to working from home (for some), not to mention the physical and mental health impacts of the disease.

We’ve seen the ingenuity of organisations rapidly shifting the emphasis of their business to tackle the crisis, for example one of our clients, Baxi Boilers, switched their 3D printers away from manufacturing boiler parts to producing face masks for our front-line health professionals. It’s caused business to react and change quickly; we at Adroit have become a “virtual” working-from-home organisation overnight, as have many of our clients.

But with the extraordinary shock of the Covid-19 pandemic, comes unprecedented uncertainty. We don’t know what the future holds, and indeed whether things will ever return to pre-Covid normality. There is talk of supply chains shifting back towards more nationalised focus, similarly we may see a retrenchment of JIT (Just-In-Time) Inventory management which has caused supply chains to struggle with surges in demand. Socially we may see an increased shift towards “digital” hangouts, such as Zoom or Skype meet ups after the pandemic subsides.

We will see a shift away from Direct Dialogue (Face to Face, Door to Door & Private Sites) regular giving recruitment.

In the short-term we will see a shift away from direct dialogue regular giving recruitment as lockdown and social distancing rules prevent this activity from occurring. It’s possible that as a result of Covid-19, social distancing may be in place for a reasonable amount of time, even after lockdown regulations have been relaxed.

It’s likely we’ll see a shift into Digital channel recruitment, with activity occurring on social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. This is where Social Listening tools and analysis can start to show their worth in managing and tracking online sentiment and discussions.

In addition to this, TV viewing and radio listening figures have boomed in recent weeks, coupled with a fall in brand advertising. So, this is an ideal opportunity for the fundraising sector to ramp up DRTV and radio activity. Visualcapitalist recently published a report highlighting just how much of an impact age has on media consumption habits since Covid-19 has come into play. It is important that charities take this into account when adapting their media mix and messaging.

The question is: will these channels be able to replace the volume of recruitment that direct dialogue has achieved up to this point? Possibly not in the short-term. We would therefore expect to see a drop in income. Although, this might not become apparent in the short-term, as direct dialogue often doesn’t return net revenue for 1 to 3 years.

Will we see a resurgence of Direct Mail as a result of this? Or are people wary of physical items which are posted through their door?

Mass Participation Events will become Virtual

Mass Participant events such as the London Marathon have been postponed, with a lot of smaller charity events also suffering similar fates. If we do end up in a situation of “bursting” lockdowns, where social distancing measures are periodically relaxed and tightened to manage the overall burden on global health services, planning and holding these events would become problematic. We can already see the impact that it has on our client Blood Cancer UK, with a number of their events cancelled or postponed.

As a result, we may see a shift towards “Virtual” events, where fundraisers are challenged to run a certain distance in their own time or on a certain day. We’ve seen examples of this happening virtually on social media with #RunForHeroes or Captain Tom’s 100th Birthday Walk for the NHS which has so far raised over £27 million. The latest example is the 2.6 Challenge, a multi-charity fundraising event scheduled to take place on 26th April, which is when this year’s London Marathon was scheduled to happen. Participants are invited to think up their own challenge or activity around the numbers 2.6 or 26. Then participants choose the charity that they’re giving to, set up their own giving page on JustGiving or VirginMoneyGiving, share their plans and complete the challenge.

On another note, within the UK, lockdown restrictions allow for one outside session of exercise per day, which a lot of people are taking up, many who did not before. So, we might see a resurgence of people participating in sport and mass participation events once this terrible pandemic is behind us.

#nhsheroes nomination

Emergency Appeals, a shift to local focus?

The Covid-19 pandemic is an emergency which affects everyone in some way or other. This is different from the traditional charity emergency appeal where donors are often supporting someone or something else which is affected by the emergency, whether it’s a famine, refugees or a natural disaster in a far-flung land. The current situation is different as the donors are also directly affected, which may shift how they respond and the messaging that needs to be delivered. Indeed, as this emergency is happening “at home” will we see a shift away from international development type appeals in favour of campaigns which are more regional or community-based, such as giving directly to services within their local areas?


The Covid-19 pandemic is certainly making people face up to their own mortality, regardless of age. For example one of my friends, who was supposed to be moving house just as the lockdown in the UK was introduced, told me that things ground to a halt with their solicitors as they were inundated with queries regarding setting up their own wills. It’s a difficult thing to talk about, but in the UK there are a significant number of charities whose income is predominately made up from legacies, so raising the subject with donors about the possibility of leaving a legacy will become increasingly important.



We are seeing charities having to close their high street shops as a result of Government guidelines, for example in the UK Oxfam has closed around 600 outlets across the country. This is very much going to have a knock-on effect as these shops raised £17.3 million for the charity after operating costs. The social impact of the closure of the retail network shouldn’t be underestimated, as charity shops offer a social lifeline to their volunteers, and in many cases can become somewhat of a social hub within their communities for a lot of people.

We may see a shift towards the charity retails moving online, however replacing the supply of donated items into a virtual world could provide problematic, certainly in the shorter term.

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