Society Challenges 2021

In this post we have drawn out the considerations that will help volunteering managers prioritise their social efforts for the year ahead. Thank you to our partners at the NCVO for their research into the factors affecting charities in 2021. #NeverMoreNeeded

Politically it has been a difficult year for charity leaders to influence Government with attention focussed heavily on Covid and Brexit; Scottish independence is likely to attract attention and effort during 2021 with local elections scheduled for May. Whilst the role of charities and volunteers has been prevalent during the pandemic the third sector will have to work hard to maintain political influence and engagement.

The economic and social impact of Covid has dramatically increased the demand for charity services, particularly in food and essentials, support for mental health, debt and homelessness. Repaying the Covid spend will see tax rises and public service cuts which will impact significantly on charity income. Covid has decimated charity trading and community fund raising, job losses and closures are set to continue. Emergency Covid funding is due to finish at the end of March and will put charities under tremendous financial strain.

Social movements such as the Black Lives Matter campaign highlight systematic inequalities that disproportionately affect BAME communities and other marginalised groups. Considerable effort is needed to turn the tide to help build a fairer society and span the privilege divide.

The Covid impact on volunteering is complex with a reduction in organised volunteering activities but an increase in those coming forward to offer their help. The sector has struggled to accommodate the volume of individual volunteers and further work will help charities learn how to capitalise from this resource. A backlog of legal cases and support for people seeking housing and battling debt or addiction will be significant and charities supporting these areas will need support. Increasing unemployment, especially for young people and those in low paid jobs, will need to be addressed. Helping young people who have fallen behind in their education will need more than reading support, with volunteering help needed in all core subjects, including maths and science.

Technological trends accelerated by Covid are here to stay affording charities greater reach, accessibility and efficiency. The pandemic has highlighted digital skills and infrastructure gaps, particularly for smaller charities and bridging this gap may be one of the greatest opportunities for companies in 2021. The digital gap also disadvantages the poorest who have little or no access to the internet and are at risk of social exclusion. Whilst Covid will be overcome it could leave a greater digital divide than before, something society must tackle.

President Biden re-joining the Paris climate accord as his first executive order helps ensure the environment and climate emergency will remain a high priority for years to come. The drop in carbon emissions during the pandemic provides evidence that new ways of working should stay. Adverse weather across the world will drive campaigning and action to turn the tide on climate damage. Big companies will announce big action at the global climate conference to be held in the UK in November and volunteers may need to help them deliver their commitments.

Legal and regulatory changes heralded by the pandemic and Brexit will impact on people and communities; the framework that we retain post the pandemic will be very different to that of a year ago. Volunteering help for charities to review their governance and compliance in 2021 will make a big difference.

At Employee Volunteering we make it easy for individuals or teams to get involved in remote or practical volunteering, making sure they have access to volunteering action. Importantly, at this challenging time for our charity and third sector partners we also make it easy for them to benefit from the provision of volunteering. #NeverMoreNeeded

Download the full report here