Our Community's COVID-19 Not-for-profit Research Hub

Researchhub person

A pandemic studies register

A guide to the effect on NFP organisations and their communities

As we consider our future in a post-COVID-19 world, our not-for-profit leaders have begun the difficult task of understanding and responding to the massive impact on the sector.

The decisions they take in response to these rapid social changes will be critical, both immediately and in the years to come.

There are many studies underway– some, such as our own, have already given us early glimpses of the effect on the sector – while larger and longitudinal studies will track the impact over time.

Universities, sector advocates, philanthropic funds and foundations, social enterprises, businesses and data-based companies are among those to have released studies and to have launched investigations. Many smaller organisations have released quick snapshots of the hardest-hit parts of the sector.

But in this crowded field of information, Our Community’s COVID-19 Not-for-profit Research Hub aims to reduce some of the confusion.

As part of the Save Our Sector campaign, we have curated this home for the best of the studies that relate to the community sector, and continue to scan the horizon for more resources that will guide your understanding of the pandemic’s effect.

If you notice an important study that relates to the not-for-profit sector that should be listed here, please email: [email protected]

NFP sector-wide studies you can read now

COVID-19 Community Sector Impact Survey

Seventy percent of Australia's sporting clubs, arts and cultural organisations, community groups, welfare services and youth services have described themselves as “threatened” by COVID-19 according to the results of the Our Community survey released in May 2020.

The study shows the $146 billion dollar sector is fighting for cash, volunteers, and in many cases, survival. The study’s 23-page report draws on 366 responses – comprising data and commentary – from community and not-for-profit organisations, ranging from the volunteer-run to those with turnover in the millions. The study was inspired by the goals of #GivingTuesdayNow, a global campaign encouraging generosity.

COVID-19 Community Service Snapshot

The Australian Alliance for Social Enterprise (TAASE), based at the University of South Australia’s Social Enterprise Hub, has been working to identify the evolving pressures on the community services sector as a result of the pandemic. TAASE has conducted a series of fortnightly “snapshot surveys” that are intended to build evidence for advocating for the sector. Early findings can be seen on the project blog.

COVID-19 impact on small to medium enterprises

Business market research firm ACA Research, in partnership with TEG Insights, hosts this national weekly tracking study to examine the impact of COVID-19 on 300 SMEs (small to medium enterprises).

COVID-19 and Beyond

Not-for-profit expert, Belinda Moore, has published a report focusing on the current and future implications of COVID-19 on Australian Associations, finding that not all impacts are negative.

Pulse of the For-Purpose Sector

The Centre for Social Impact is conducted a “national rapid-response research program” May 2020 to understand and support the short-term needs of the for-purpose sector, including charities, not-for-profits, philanthropy, social enterprises and businesses.

Through Pulse of the For-Purpose sector surveys, the research aims to generate longitudinal data for analysis with plans for close analysis of homelessness, aged care, disadvantage, disability, philanthropy, and social enterprise.

The aim to for evidence needed for the longer term, especially as the sector moves to “re-tool for a more inclusive and sustainable future”. The research is backed by a sector alliance, which includes Our Community.

Mapping Social Cohesion

Australians remain optimistic, with their trust in government at an all-time high, according to research into the impact of COVID-19 on community connection. The Scanlon Foundation Research Institute’s Mapping Social Cohesion Report - released on 4 February 2021 – which drew on a 140-question survey of thousands of people in July and November 2020 also revealed:

  • 28% of Australians’ jobs were affected by the pandemic, yet 73% were still satisfied with their financial situation
  • 54% trusted the Federal Government
  • 84% said multiculturalism had been good for Australia
  • 35% admitted to being negative toward Muslims
  • 54% said they were negative towards those of Sudanese descent

National Impact + Need research study

The Xfactor Collective, supported by Equity Trustees and other sector partners is generating insights for the sector through its National Impact + Need Research Study, with early findings showing half of all social purpose organisations had lost revenue from the pandemic. The study will be repeated quarterly over the 2020-21 year with results used to inform online support and advice.

COVID-19 Recovery Impact response and studies

Good 360 matches new goods donated by businesses to Australians who need them most. They are conducting surveys to help connect those goods to groups that need them – including not-for-profits and disadvantaged schools, and to assess the impact on operations. In the three months to May, Good360 distributed nearly 500,000 items worth nearly $6 million, including clothing, furniture and school supplies.


The experience of volunteers during COVID-19

Volunteering Australia commissioned the Australian National University (ANU) Centre for Social Research and Methods to analyse the experience of volunteers during COVID-19. Drawing on the regular ANUpoll of 3000 Australians for representative results, the study found a two-thirds drop in volunteering in the three months to April 2020, equivalent to the loss of 12.2 million hours.

Research brief | Full report + download

Covid-19 Impact on Volunteering Sector Survey

The Centre for Volunteering, in NSW, in partnership with the state’s Department of Communities and Justice continues to seek responses for a survey into NSW volunteering.

Fundraising and funding

Where to from here? The outlook for philanthropy during COVID-19

This April 2020 report examines the impact on philanthropy and volunteering in Australia of the global health crisis combined with an unprecedented economic downturn. JBWere researchers compared past responses by individuals, foundations and corporations to estimate a downturn in donations of 7.1 % in 2020 and 11.9 % in 2021.

Grantmaker survey

Australia's philanthropic peak body ran a snap survey - released in May 2020 - of 101 grantmakers which showed 88% had adjusted their community support through increased flexibility (72%), untying restricted funding (48%), increasing financial grant support (42%) and establishing dedicated COVID-19 grant programs (32%). The study also showed that 40% of trusts and foundations have opened up new grants to those needing immediate relief and recovery funding.

Community impact

COVID-19 Social Impact Report

Impact measurement company Socialsuite – based in Melbourne but with a global footprint – has crunched the data on the impact of COVID-19 on the community. Using information from hundreds of organisations, their April and May 2020 summaries found high levels of stress and anxiety, concerns about finances and reliable information, and the need for greater emotional and employer support. Their free assessment tool allows organisations to benchmark themselves.

NFPs face tech struggle

A study of nearly 500 not-for-profits in Australia and New Zealand reveals 70% of groups have not had sufficient technology to allow staff to work from home during the pandemic. The annual Digital Technology in the Not-for-Profit Sector report, released in October 2020 by sector technology specialists Infoxchange, notes that groups have been forced to quickly adopt new tools and boost their digital capabilities.

COVID-19 triggers help app spike

Infoxchange is also the “technology for social justice” behind search app Ask Izzy, used by vulnerable people to seek housing, food, health, and other support. Their analysis of search data showed a massive spike during the pandemic’s early phase.

Themes emerging from an economic analysis

A COVID-19 economic analysis drawing on demographic, economics, housing and population research using local area profiles. The analysis looks at some common themes particularly the disproportionate impact on women and younger workers, the need for an extension to the federal government’s support packages. It also shows how to see which industries and residents have been impacted in specific local areas.

Arts and Culture

COVID-19 Impact on Cultural Industries

Culture Counts is investigating the impact of COVID-19 on the cultural industries. An initial snapshot in April 2020 revealed – among other alarming facts – that 96% of organisations had cancelled events or programs and that 88% had lost revenue. Ongoing studies examine audience perceptions and recovery plans, cross-examining Australian and overseas experiences. The results will inform advocacy and to push for sufficient funding and support.

Lost Work for Creative Sector Workers and Creatives of Colour

Diversity Arts Australia is surveying the impact of COVID-19 on culturally-diverse artists. Preliminary results show 91% will lose incomes, and raised concerns about artists’ mental health and connections with their communities. The organisation is using the study to urge for additional support for this sub-sector.


COVID-19 and Youth

These snapshot reports by the Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) follow two surveys into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people and the youth sector in Victoria. The studies outline the increased demand for services and social isolation amid a high rate of job losses among younger Australians.


COVID-19 impact on disability support workers

A report commissioned by three unions and conducted by the UNSW Sydney, outlines the experiences of the disability workforce in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. The study, The disability workforce and COVID-19: initial experiences of the outbreak, saw 2341 workers respond to a study that uncovered major concerns about PPE, planning, worker risks, disruption and industry turmoil. The survey comprises part of a larger study Working in New Disability Markets.

Coronavirus and the social impacts on disabled people in Great Britain

This study from the UK’s Office for National Statistics examined the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on people with disabilities, and is part of a series of reports.

Wellbeing and mental health studies you can read now

Impact of COVID-19 on the sector

Suicide Prevention Australia released this April 2020 study to inform the National Suicide Prevention Adviser about the impact COVID-19 on program and service delivery in the suicide prevention sub-sector. More than 50 organisations responded.

Wellbeing and mental health studies to watch for

Survey of Health and Wellbeing

Swinburne University of Technology is conducting a global study to investigate the impact of social restrictions on health and wellbeing, with a focus on social isolation and loneliness. The study is expected to examine the pandemic’s effect on healthy, psychological wellbeing and relationships. The study involves a collaboration from the Brigham Young University (USA), the University of Manchester (UK) and the University of Western Australia. Read more

Multidisciplinary research priorities for the COVID-19 pandemic: a call for action for mental health science

This April 2020 position paper published in The Lancet outlines research priorities suggested by 24 world-leading experts in mental health science under the auspices of the UK Academy of Medical Science and the mental health charity MQ: Transforming Mental Health. The paper sets out strategies for research to assist in: strategies to support vulnerable groups, interventions under pandemic conditions, mitigation of the negative effects of media consumption, and, better adherence to safety advice while minimising distress.

Living with COVID-19 restrictions in Australia

The team at Monash University’s Global and Women’s Health, headed by Professor Jane Fisher, is researching the effects on wellbeing and mental health of the COVID-19 restrictions on adults in Australia. The investigation will examine living circumstances, mental health, access to healthcare, alcohol consumption, fear, and the good that has come from the pandemic. An initial survey in early May will be followed by another in July 2020.

COVID-19 Pandemic Adjustment Survey (CPAS)

Deakin University’s CPAS team, comprising 21 investigators led by Dr Elizabeth Westrupp of the School of Psychology, is examining the effect of the pandemic on families. The study, launched in April 2020, is a longitudinal survey focusing on family adjustment and emotional and mental health, examining “week-by-week” impacts of social distancing and other measures. The team hopes to use the study to generate tools for “clinical and public health interventions”.

Families in Australia Survey: Life during COVID-19

The Australian Government’s key research body into family wellbeing, the Institute of Family Studies, has deployed a seven-member team to survey how families are coping with the pandemic. The study will examine family adjustment, how family members are feeling the social and economic impact, and how they have been able to support one another.

Significant international not-for-profit studies

Charities & the COVID-19 Pandemic survey

Image Canada’s assessment summarises responses from 1458 charity leaders during April 2020 about how they are adapting to their new circumstances, while recording the fragility of a sector suffering an average 31% slump in revenues.

Survey of US nonprofit leaders

US Community development financial institution, the Nonprofit Finance Fund, surveyed nonprofit leaders to inform funders and investors wanting to respond to the pandemic. The survey in mid-March drew 465 respondents and examined service demands, revenue, workforces, instability, needs and the future impact.

Coronavirus Readiness Pulse Survey

In March, US firm Nonprofit HR, based in Washington and Chicago, examined the social impact sector’s ability to continue providing help to the vulnerable, revealing about half (53%) were able to continue to maintain services.

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