While every sector is facing unique challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, from steep drop-offs in revenue (travel, entertainment) to sharp increases in demand (grocery retail, finance) no sector is experiencing quite the same level of increased demand paired with a drastic lack of funding as the non-profit sector.

Headlines have called coronavirus a “perfect storm” for charities and non-profits as they face a huge and seemingly insurmountable hole in their finances: the same revenue instability that is affecting businesses of all sizes across the world has been compounded by a practical inability to collect donations in public places like shops, stations and streets; and many members of the public will also have less money available to give due to their own economic hardships.

A recent survey of 544 global and local charitable organisations conducted by Charities Aid Foundation of America found that 97% have been negatively impacted by coronavirus, experiencing everything from broken supply chains and staffing and operational inefficiencies to government and travel restrictions.

At the same time, the coronavirus crisis means that charitable organisations have never been needed more, as non-profits and social enterprises are called upon to provide aid, housing, financial support and advice, mental health assistance, healthcare support and much, much more.

So, how are charities and non-profits responding to the unique challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis? Here are six stand-out examples of charities innovating and using all of the resources at their disposal to raise funds, raise awareness and support those who need it most.

The National Emergencies Trust: Coronavirus Appeal

During times of crisis, charitable organisations typically respond by launching emergency fundraising appeals, and the coronavirus crisis is no exception. However, in place of appeals on billboards and collection tins in public areas, charities are launching and promoting their emergency appeals through digital channels.

In the UK, one major fundraising appeal has been launched by the National Emergencies Trust (NET), the organisation formed to receive donations and organise aid for survivors of the Grenfell fire, in partnership with the Red Cross. The NET’s Coronavirus Appeal was launched by Prince William in mid-March with a minute-long video message about the challenges posed by the crisis – making him the first royal to speak publicly about the coronavirus outbreak. The video was also shared on Twitter by Kensington Palace.

The NET’s Coronavirus Appeal has since raised more than £20 million to be distributed among accredited Community Foundations, which in turn distribute the funds to local charities, with the first allocation of £2.5 million made available on the 23rd March.

The scale and prominence of the NET’s appeal has attracted support from a number of brands, including flower company Bloom and Wild; supermarket Iceland, which is carrying out its own funding appeal on Virgin’s MoneyGiving platform; and retail bank NatWest, which has pledged to match customer donations made to the Coronavirus Appeal up to a total of £5 million.

The Big Give, a non-profit website that allows donors to find and support charity projects in their area of interest, has pledged to double all donations made to the NET’s Coronavirus Appeal. Ecommerce vendors have also pledged to ensure that a portion of their sales will be donated to the appeal: fashion retailer Warehouse has launched a partnership with Pennies, a micro-donations platform, to support the appeal, while eBay for Charity UK boosted the NET’s appeal and urged shoppers to donate to the charity at checkout.

NHS Charities Together & Bonhams Auctioneers: The Blue Auction

Online and digital auctions have taken on a new popularity as a means of raising money amidst the coronavirus pandemic, with many a celebrity auctioning off valuable items online in aid of a good cause.

One such auction, The Blue Auction, is being run by Bonhams Auctioneers in partnership with NHS Charities Together, an umbrella group that represents more than 140 different NHS official charities. Live until the 29th April, The Blue Auction is auctioning off a wide range of items and experiences donated by prominent actors, musicians and artists, including art by Anish Kapoor, a special guest experience at a live show by Jools Holland, and the ‘ultimate lockdown takeaway’ for up to 10 people, prepared by Gizzi Erskine.

The Big Issue: moving inside and online

Supporting the hundreds of thousands of homeless individuals in the UK has never been more urgent – which is why The Big Issue took the unprecedented step to move sales of its street newspaper indoors in order to protect its homeless and vulnerably housed sellers. For the first time, the magazine is now sold in Sainsbury’s and McColl’s Retail Group supermarkets; it can also be read digitally via The Big Issue’s new iOS app, with a Google Play app due to launch in the near future.

The Big Issue has launched an urgent appeal encouraging readers to purchase a one-off issue of the magazine online for delivery or take out a subscription, accompanied by the hashtag #SupportBigIssue. Numerous readers and supporters have taken to social media to post pictures of the magazine in supermarkets or being delivered, and encourage others to purchase or donate to the magazine. The Big Issue also encouraged anyone working from home to donate the cost of their commute to support vulnerable sellers:

The Scouts: celebrating #TheGreatIndoors

When your organisation is one dedicated to wilderness survival skills and being outside among nature, what do you do when a nation-wide lockdown is imposed? The Scouts, the UK’s scouting organisation, has responded by celebrating “The Great Indoors”, encouraging young people across the country to take part in scouting activities from home, using the hashtag #TheGreatIndoors.

While we normally love the great outdoors, we’ve pulled together some inspired indoor activities (if we do say so…

Posted by The Scouts on Friday, 20 March 2020

As part of the initiative, The Scouts has made more than 100 free activities available online that parents can carry out with their children aged 6 years and up, helping them to keep their kids occupied and teach them important skills at the same time. The Scouts uses its social media channels to publish activity suggestions and curate other positive content, such as ‘three things that made us smile this week’, encouraging its followers to submit their own contributions. It also made use of Facebook Live to broadcast an activities demonstration from Scouting Ambassador Ed Stafford.

Save the Children UK: tips to help children through coronavirus

Children’s charity Save the Children is focused on protecting children around the world from the adverse effects of coronavirus as far as possible. Alongside its emergency fundraising appeal to ‘Protect a generation’, Save the Children is using its UK Twitter account to publish regular tips and advice for parents to help keep their children entertained, occupied and stress-free during the country-wide lockdown.

Using friendly cartoons and animations, Save the Children has published activity planners, child-friendly coronavirus prevention tips, advice on managing stress and 60-second videos to help explain coronavirus to young children.

The charity’s UK website also has a coronavirus information hub that contains indoor activity and play suggestions for children.

CALM: The Lock-In & Gaming for CALM

Mental health charity and helpline Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is focused on ways to uplift people and take the mind off their circumstances, as well as let them know that they aren’t alone, during the coronavirus pandemic. To this end, CALM held a live-streamed Friday night entertainment festival, CALM Lock In, on 2nd April featuring more than a dozen musicians and entertainers, hosted on Instagram Live. The charity also put together a virtual ‘drinks menu’ with different levels of suggested donation next to actions like “Buy a pint” and “Buy a round” to support CALM’s life-saving work.

The charity has also launched an initiative called Gaming for CALM in partnership with The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment, which promotes the mental health benefits of playing and socialising through games – even while socially distancing. The initiative also encourages gamers to hold livestreamed fundraising events to raise money for CALM and use gaming for good.

Learn more

For more best practice advice on navigating the coronavirus crisis, tune into The Lowdown: a regular update from thought leaders in marketing and beyond on how to address the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.