BEYOND THE CRISIS: How VCSE organisations can plan for recovery

The current crisis has affected charities and other voluntary sector organisations in many different ways but for most the pace of change has been phenomenal and the level of adaptation required exceptional in the living memory of the organisation.

Many of you have got through the initial period with contingency plans, stopping or repurposing services, or seeking emergency funds. Perhaps you have also had to furlough staff or recruit new volunteers. Whatever changes you have made, you will now be looking at how you can plan for recovery.

What comes next?

As the UK now prepares to move forward from the immediate crisis response to COVID-19, VCSE organisations now need to be looking ahead and planning for a different future than we had envisaged before 2020, as well as keeping the organisation effective in the short term.

What will the world be like?

Given the uncertainties about the future what possible scenarios can you use to think about how to respond? This might include assumptions about how long the restrictions will be in place, the local economic environment and the impact on fundraising, the funding options you have for different scenarios. Come up with say three scenarios to help you plan what you may need to think about.

Nesta has produced a PESTLE analysis to help organisations think through future scenarios.

What have you learnt during the crisis?

Each organisation will have their own unique experiences during the crisis. You may have done some of the following which could be positives you can build on:

  • Developed new ways to deliver to your beneficiaries
  • Identified skills and experience in your organisation which you were not aware of
  • Operated more flexibly and quickly than before
  • Attracted new volunteers
  • Worked in partnership with other organisations
  • Gained experience using digital methods to carry out some of your essential governance activities as well as services.

It’s as important as ever to reflect, learn and tell the stories of the difference you made during the crisis. Capturing this now and communicating it will help you to plan more effectively, help your volunteers and staff understand and feel valued for the contribution they have made, and help your communities, funders and others to understand what difference you made and the importance of your work.

What activities will you be able to deliver?

  • What are the needs of your beneficiaries – they may have changed in scale and priority or have new needs as a result of the pandemic? Is the anticipated demand something which you are equipped to deal with?
  • Who are your priority beneficiaries? How can you best meet their needs? This blog ‘Diversity and inclusion in a time of crisis’ by Nicola Hannam may help you think about who needs your help most.
  • Have you been working with other organisations during the crisis and could there be new opportunities through collaboration? Is the scale of the demand post-COVID likely to mean that working with others is the best way to support the recovery?
  • You may have been forced into delivering some services virtually – is this an opportunity for the future? Are any of your workaround services ones which you might want to continue or offer to different beneficiaries?
  • Is this the time to prioritise and stop some services which do not deliver sufficient impact on a cost-effective basis? Or modify them so they do.

How will you operate once restrictions start to lift?

  • If you have had staff and/or volunteers working from home, how will they work in future? Will there be some who may need to carry on with “shielding” or self-isolating continue to work from home?
  • Will your existing volunteers be able to continue with their roles if they have been furloughed/ out of work and then go back to work? Are there volunteers who have stepped back who may be able to re-engage? Is there an opportunity for volunteers to help in different ways than previously?
  • How can you make the work environment safe given the likelihood of ongoing social distancing requirements? Can you stagger working “shifts” and/or alternate on-site working with home working? How can you protect people who may be especially vulnerable from infection with COVID-19?
  • If you envisage some ongoing remote working, how can you ensure that people feel part of a team and are not socially isolated from their colleagues?
  • Are there IT changes which will need to be brought in to facilitate the working patterns for the medium to longer term?

How will you be financially sustainable?

  • You will hopefully have been managing your cashflow, reducing your costs, allocating reserves and restricted funding where appropriate, securing any relevant government financial support as well as applying for any emergency funds you are eligible for. Keeping your current funders and donors up to date with the steps you are taking is also important as they may be able to offer you flexibility as well as other options for funding.
  • You will have seen many new funds released to help organisations to meet the needs of vulnerable people during the crisis. However there have not been so many for organisations which have had to suspend their operations or who serve other beneficiaries, but are still adversely affected by COVID-19. If you look at non-crisis funds, you may find that many of them have refocused on supporting organisations affected by the crisis and may be more flexible about what they are prepared to fund, including core costs.
  • Look out for any new grant funding opportunities which are focused on the recovery phase. Register with the Bucks Funding search database to search for funders relevant to your organisation and get alerts to your inbox.
  • It is even more important to understand the real cost of your activities after allocating all costs, and whether there are any services which are making a loss which needs to be covered from other sources. Make sure that any grant applications you submit now are on a full cost recovery basis where possible; have a look at our resources on full cost recovery.
  • How else can you raise funds? Are there opportunities through digital? How can you use the way you have dealt with the crisis to tell your story and make the case to funders/donors/ businesses/the public for support for the future?
  • Work out what your priorities are as an organisation so that you can take a strategic approach to cost reduction: the scale of change in both demand and funding means that a priority-based approach to cost reduction will be more effective than the more typical “salami slicing.”

Community Impact Bucks can help your organisation on a one to one basis with volunteer recruitment and management, funding, governance and getting support with all aspects of making your organisation resilient for the future. Contact .

Some resources to help you with thinking about the future: