Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation hosted its second webinar in the COVID-19 Response and Recovery series last week with over 120 participants.

The Foundation welcomed three speakers, all leaders of not-for-profits that the Foundation has funded as part of the COVID-19 response: David Spriggs, CEO of Infoxchange, Rebecca Scott, CEO of STREAT, and Luke Terry, CEO of White Box Enterprises.
This is an extract from the Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Catherine Brown OAM, opening remarks which focuses on the need to support the resilience of the charitable sector as Australia begins the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

When we think about organisational and sector resilience, two elements are particularly important: Leadership capability and Adaptive capacity – the ability to creatively respond to external changes, in this case a pandemic.
David, Rebecca and Luke have all demonstrated outstanding leadership and innovative thinking as their organisations have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the community and on their organisations. Today we will hear about building resilience through digital innovation, service innovation and collaboration, and social financing innovation. 
A community foundation like the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, which has been built by many donors over many years pooling donations and bequests, is here to respond to big community challenges and to disasters such as the Black Summer bushfires and now COVID-19 pandemic. To date, we have made more than $2 million grants to charitable organisations responding to the COVID pandemic. These have addressed four streams:

  1. Responding to the health impacts of COVID -19
  2. Scaling up community services to meet demand
  3. Supporting organisational and charitable sector resilience
  4. Building back better as part of our COVID-19 recovery

To set the scene briefly, I want to emphasise the importance of the charitable sector to Australia especially in tough economic times.  I see the charitable sector as Australia’s social and environmental safety net.

Recent research by Centre for Social Impact UNSW with SVA titled: Taken for granted? Charities’ role in our economic recovery, shows that the demand for services provided by many charities is expected to increase, especially as unemployment grows. The report also highlights the major role of the charitable sector as an employer. Charities employ 1.31 million people. 1 in 10 people in Australia!

The report finds that charities employ more people than the mining and manufacturing sectors combined, are key players in Australia’s economy contributing the equivalent of 8.5 per cent of direct and indirect value to GDP and should be an important source of job growth.

Modelling from the report reveals that under the revised JobKeeper payments, 110,000 people employed by charities are still at high risk of becoming unemployed by September 2020, with a further 70,000 by September 2021.

The report also found that JobKeeper will keep many charities viable in the short term but won’t be enough to preserve all charities, with 14 per cent at risk of becoming unviable and 44 per cent making an operating loss by September 2021.

Other recent research RESET 2020 by The Xfactor Collective funded by Equity Trustees includes further insights about the charitable sector:

“Those with lower revenues are left vulnerable to the economic shock brought on by the pandemic. While most charities balance their books every year, more often than not they carry little reserves, largely due to rising costs and the regulatory environment they operate in. Forty five percent (45%) of respondents are carrying operating reserves of six months or less. Many are trying to retain staff, and still have ongoing costs for insurance, rent and other outgoings. As a result, nearly two in 10 respondents are already struggling to deliver services due to revenue loss or need immediate assistance to continue their operations.”

In order to build the resilience of the charitable sector, we recognise that support will be needed in these areas:

  • Digital transformation and capability building

  • Business transformation (new or refreshed business models, service redesign, sharing services, mergers, or partnerships)

  • Leadership support and development

  • Financial management and financial modelling capability.

There is a lot to do to ensure we have a strong charitable sector as we respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people facing economic hardship depend on this as do staff and volunteers.

I encourage you to listen to the three presentations and Q&A.

More COVID-19 response grants were approved at our September Board meeting and this will continue to be updated.

Dr Catherine Brown OAM
Chief Executive Officer



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