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2020 has been a year of significant economic, health and societal shocks in Australia as a result of both the 2019-2020 bushfire season and the effects of COVID-19. These shocks have significantly and rapidly increased demand on the services of many for-purpose sector organisations, while radically challenging their organisational and service models in many cases. In 2020, the Centre for Social Impact (CSI) launched the Pulse of the For-Purpose Sector & Building Back Better national research program to generate timely and longitudinal data in support of the sector and the communities it serves.

This report presents findings from 524 people who responded to Wave One of the Pulse of the For-Purpose survey. Of these people, 411 were Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) registered charities (78.6%) and 470 identified their organisation type: 53% represented community and social service organisations; 24% industry and social enterprise (training, social enterprise, business or sector supplier); 11% philanthropy and grant making (philanthropic/grants, intermediary); and 11% other.

Key findings:

  • Demand for services and supports increased during the pandemic, with 8 in 10 organisations reporting an increase in demand;
  • The sector is providing vital services and has expanded and reoriented both content and delivery in response to the social and economic conditions presented by 2020;
  • There has been substantial digital uplift by the sector as part of the reorientation of service responses and delivery channels (81% of respondents had moved to at least partial online service delivery and 60% to fully online). However, sector effectiveness in these changing conditions has been challenged by the digital exclusion of people the sector serves and organisational-level digital exclusion within the sector itself;
  • JobKeeper and other forms of stimulus have provided some protective conditions for for-purpose organisations during the height of the pandemic (with 76% of responding organisations claiming JobKeeper), as has flexibility from philanthropy;

The results presented in the report are not reflective of a ‘new normal’, but a state of flux in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and some uncertainty associated with multiple and ongoing social and economic shocks. This report provides an important ‘mid-pandemic baseline’ from which to track and make sense of changes within the for-purpose sector and its operating conditions over time.


Related Information

Pulse of the for-purpose sector - final report: wave 2

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