Volunteer outfits feeling pinch of COVID

The homeless are among those losing support from volunteer groups during the virus, a study shows.
The homeless are among those losing support from volunteer groups during the virus, a study shows.

Australia's volunteer-organisations and not-for-profit sector are struggling to provide crucial social services due to the strain of COVID-19.

Minority groups including the homeless, aged, indigenous, remote populations and those with a disability are among the demographics at risk of losing vital support, according to a survey report released on Monday.

"Volunteers run the opportunity shops, community halls, market stalls and fundraising events, and lockdown restrictions and social distancing prevent these activities from operating," it said.

"This not only affects revenue, it also impacts service delivery."

A range of 380 groups from every state and territory, some operating for more than a century, took part in the research conducted by The Xfactor Collective, a group promoting itself as "social changemakers".

"(These are) tens of thousands of small organisations who are normally juggling budgets, boards and beneficiaries in tight environments, let alone a financial downturn, let alone a pandemic," collective founding CEO Julia Keady said.

Among the groups represented in the survey are those advocating for animal welfare, disaster emergency relief, migrants and refugees, women and girls, mental health, the environment, the arts and rural and regional communities.

Forty-five per cent of them reported having operating financial reserves of six months or less.

Eighteen per cent said the impact to their revenue has been so great they are already struggling to provide their usual services and need immediate support to continue.

Among the survey respondents willing to be identified were the Cherished Pets Foundation, Brave Foundation, Crohn's and Colitis Australia, and the Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship.

Funding was top of the solution-list for most but there was also a desire for advocacy and public relations support and even technical assistance so volunteers can work from home and support programs can be delivered virtually.

Australian Associated Press