2020 was a hugely challenging year for the charity sector and 2021 is set to bring new challenges, but also significant opportunities as the sector emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic. As organisations continue to grapple with widespread changes to managing their workforces, structural and financial change, and general uncertainty about the future, we’ve outlined some key predictions for the year ahead:
1. A New Way of Working: For the past 10 months or so, charity teams have been based remotely and the use of platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams has increased as people seek to maintain contact with each other. With new restrictions recently announced in England, and even with the recent rollout of vaccines, it’s unlikely that offices will be populated again for quite some time and ‘virtual working’ will become part of the ‘new normal’ charities will face post-pandemic. Research has found that 71% of managers have committed to offering remote work for the foreseeable future, highlighting that many of our new working patterns are undoubtedly here to stay. Moreover, in-person fundraising events are not permitted and CharityDigital predicts that more charities will move their fundraising and campaigning online in what they call a ‘digital revolution’. Virtual events offer several benefits for charities: they are cost-effective and increase the pool for participation. Large on-line international or national conferences will be more accessible, and this could attract more prospective donors or supporters to attend. On the campaigning front, charities have had to make do with connecting virtually to APPG meetings as they try and get above the noise of issues such as Brexit and Covid-19 to ensure that their mission continues to be a priority for the UK government. It’s likely that charities will step up digital campaigning as restrictions continue so they can continue to attract support on issues such as international aid, the environment, education and more.
2. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: Since last summer, charities began turning their attention more towards strengthening their policies around EDI and Bond predict that EDI will continue to be a key topic of discussion for charities in 2021. By the end of 2020, a number of organisations signed pledges outlining their commitment to do more to promote EDI within their departments, including their recruitment processes. Bond now hope to see an increase practical fulfillment of promises to EDI within the charity sector in 2021.
3. A Shift in Thinking: The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) predict that there is likely to be a shift in philanthropic thinking and giving in 2021. They believe that this has been brought on by the pandemic and more individuals looking to donate to causes on a more local or national rather than international level. CAF believes that this will be potentially due to personal reasons or ease in donating to national or local causes as opposed to international ones. Legacy fundraising is forecast to reach record highs, increasing by up to 50% on 2020 levels: a sad but realistic consequence of the pandemic. CAF also believe that there will be an expansion of the ‘doing good’ space in 2021, which will hopefully result in more corporates committing to charitable causes, thus increasing charity incomes.
4. Building Back Stronger: The pandemic has pushed charities to adopt new, agile, innovative ways of thinking and working practices. 2021 is expected to be the year in which charities start to think about building back better and stronger post-pandemic. The resilience demonstrated by charities in 2020 has been fantastic to see, and CAF believe its now time to ‘reimagine resilience’ and adapt strategies accordingly in a post-pandemic world. Bond anticipate that 2021 will see an increased number of charity partnerships in order to navigate further obstacles and it’s the right time for charities to start drawing on expertise and resources from outside the sector and be ready to think differently. Skills shortage gaps will also need to be addressed with certain technical skillsets such as technology, analytics, digital and financial management needed to build back better and stronger.
5. Increased Focus on Wellbeing: In the current climate, employee wellbeing strategies have moved even higher up the agenda for businesses. It’s no longer a ‘nice to have’, but an essential element of employee attraction and retention. In what has been one of the most difficult years of many people’s lives, organisations are increasingly coming under the microscope over how they are supporting employees’ mental health, happiness and personal development. Working in lockdown has put the spotlight on work-life balance in a whole new way, as lines have become increasingly blurred when working from home. As such, organisations that manage this well will be significantly more attractive to candidates in the months and years to come.
6. ‘Soft skills’ for the Future: In a challenging environment for many businesses, ‘soft skills’ are needed now more than ever before, and they will be key to dealing with ongoing Covid-19 uncertainty. This is not just about being agile, but also being a creative thinker, an effective communicator, a strong collaborator, a strategic thinker and with strong leadership skills. As organisations continue to comprehend the future of work and how to best manage the recovery with a continued remote workforce for many, candidates who can best leverage their skills in tackling these challenges will be highly attractive and at the very forefront of these changes.
We have no doubt that 2021 will also have its own challenges but believe that the charity sector can a strong force and charities can continue assisting millions in need, both at home in the UK and abroad. Bond, CAF and many other thought-leaders in the sector are painting an optimistic and realistic picture for 2021 and we look forward to seeing the charity sector thrive this year.