Coronavirus: voluntary sector and volunteering

Published 27/04/2020   |   Last Updated 27/05/2021   |   Reading Time minutes

The coronavirus pandemic presents a range of challenges for the voluntary sector.

The income of many charities will have dropped because of constraints on their fundraising activities. As with businesses, they may need help to pay their staff, and to ensure that they are able to continue to operate during and after the coronavirus emergency.

They might need to find additional sources of funding to support them through this challenging time, and there may have been changes to their existing funding.

The Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) estimates that 45% of Welsh charity income comes from charitable activities (as opposed to contracts and grants). The sector employs nearly 100,000 people in Wales.

These funding challenges are happening in the face of an expected increase in demand for services , alongside potential capacity issues due to staff illness, self-isolation and caring responsibilities.

There has also been a surge in people wanting to volunteer. This ranges from forming or participating in local Facebook groups to help vulnerable people in the community, to more formal volunteering for the NHS.

Data from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations shows that volunteers are more likely to be older people. These groups are more likely to be self-isolating or affected by the virus – creating a need for further volunteers to be recruited.

This blog post outlines the current situation with regards to the voluntary sector and volunteering, the main support schemes and policies announced, and further sources of information and funding.

Support for the voluntary sector

Data from a recent UK wide coronavirus impact survey by the Institute of Fundraising, Charity Finance Group and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations in England (NCVO) found that:

  • Charities are reporting a projected loss of 48% to their voluntary income, and a third wiped off from their total income;
  • 52% of charities have reduced existing or previous levels of service, with a further 12% intending to in the future;
  • 83% say that the most important thing for their organisation’s sustainability over the coming 3 to 6 months is access to emergency grant funding
  • 84% of charities think their organisation could play a role in responding to the coronavirus outbreak, with the majority saying that government funding was needed to help them to do so; and
  • 91% of charities surveyed have already or expect to have their cash flow disrupted, with 62% indicating that these would result in reduced charitable activity.

Welsh Government support for the sector

There are two main funds available to support the voluntary sector in Wales during the coronavirus emergency – the Third Sector Resilience Fund, and the Voluntary Services Emergency Fund.

Both of these are part of the Welsh Government’s £24 million Third Sector Covid-19 Response Fund, which has announced on 6 April. The Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt AM, said the Fund would support three areas of activity:

  • Helping charities and Third Sector organisations financially during the coronavirus crisis by providing direct financial support for Third Sector organisations that need help, by paying their bills and easing cash flow (Third Sector Resilience Fund);
  • Helping more people volunteer and volunteering services by supporting Third Sector organisations in the community that are co-ordinating the volunteer response across Wales. This includes helping them to pay out-of-pocket expenses of their volunteers (Voluntary Services Emergency Fund); and
  • Strengthening the essential Third Sector infrastructure by enabling the Welsh Government’s funding of Third Sector Support Wales to temporarily increase its capacity to support the sector, including the development of the Volunteering Wales platform (Third Sector Infrastructure Enabling Fund).

Further detail about the three funds is outlined below.

Third Sector Resilience Fund

The fund will involve a blend of 75% grant and (initially interest free) 25% loan to be available to incorporated voluntary sector organisations towards the costs of ongoing revenue expenditure, including salaries.

Organisations can apply for up to £75,000. The fund also offers a bridging loan option of up to £25,000 to tide organisations over while waiting for furlough reimbursements from the UK Government (which are beginning to be paid at the end of April).

This fund is designed to support organisations that need financial support to survive the current crisis primarily because of an unprecedented fall in their fundraising and donation income.

For organisations whose finances have been predominantly affected by a loss of trading income, the WCVA recommends their first port of call should be the business support made available by Welsh Government rather than this funding.

Further information on the fund, including eligibility criteria, how to apply, and details on how funds will be administered, can be found on the WCVA website. The WCVA is administering the fund on behalf of the Welsh Government.

Voluntary Services Emergency Fund

The WCVA is administering the Voluntary Services Emergency Fund, which is a new grant scheme to enable voluntary organisations providing vital support during the coronavirus pandemic to continue and expand their work.

Grants will support not-for-profit organisations working at a community scale up to a national level in Wales and can be between £10,000 and £100,000. Funding can be used for smaller capital or revenue expenditure, including consumables (for example Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)). The request must fit in with the grant aims of maintaining or increasing voluntary services for vulnerable individuals and communities affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Initial funding will be for up to six months.

Additionally, the WCVA’s Social Investment Cymru arm (which financially supports social enterprises in Wales with a range of grants and loans) is offering emergency fast-track loans to voluntary sector organisations in Wales.

Funding Wales

Third Sector Support Wales consists of the 19 local County Voluntary Councils (CVCs) and the WCVA. Through Third Sector Support Wales the Welsh Government established the Funding Wales platform to provide a funding search portal to help charities, community groups or social enterprises to find grants and local finance opportunities from local, national and international sources.

Funding Wales now includes a coronavirus funding category to bring together funds that are directly supporting the sector. At the time of writing there are 10 different funds focused on coronavirus support listed on Funding Wales. These include:

  • £40000 funding support for community sport clubs in Wales (Sport Wales);
  • A rapid response fund to help smaller charitable organisations affected by the impact of Covid-19, providing grants of up to £10000 (Charities Aid Foundation);
  • The Wales Coronavirus Resilience Fund to assist groups and organisations providing services and support to individuals and families, whether singly or collectively, affected by the coronavirus emergency (Community Foundation Wales);
  • Grants of up to £5,000 for small and medium sized charities working to improve the life chances for some of the most disadvantaged children in England and Wales (Sylvia Adams Charitable Trust); and
  • Pen y Cymoedd Wind Farm Community Fund is making emergency, fast-track funding available for organisations under two strands: a survival fund to provide emergency cashflow funding for organisations at risk of closure and a project fund: to support additional services that meet immediate community needs.

Additional sources of information and support for the voluntary sector

The WCVA provides volunteering information on its website, which is regularly updated. It has collated a range of coronavirus information, resources and guidance for the voluntary sector, covering volunteering, funding, trustees and governance, and health and wellbeing. It has also published funder responses in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

On 30 March the First Minister Mark Drakeford announced a new £500 million fund to provide extra support to the Welsh economy, businesses and charities experiencing a sharp drop in trading as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Some charities may be eligible support for the scheme – more information is available here. Full details on the eligibility criteria can be found on the COVID-19 Business Support Eligibility Checker on Business Wales.

Other sources of information and support include:


The Volunteering Wales website lists opportunities for volunteers and a shop window for those seeking to recruit volunteers. It allows people to register as a volunteer and search for volunteering opportunities in their local area, including COVID-19 specific opportunities.

On 6 April the Welsh Government said that there are over 21,000 people registered on Volunteering Wales, with around 10,000 registrations in March.

Tasks undertaken by volunteers may include things like delivering medicines from pharmacies, driving patients to appointments; food shopping; and making regular phone calls to check on people isolating at home.

The process for volunteering to support the NHS differs in England and Wales. In Wales, the Welsh Government is asking volunteers to sign up via the existing Volunteering Wales website. In England, members of the public are being asked to sign up as NHS Volunteer Responders via the Good Samaritan website.

At the time of writing over the English scheme had received 750000 applications, and recruitment had been temporarily paused.

Safe Help

The Welsh Government’s Safe Help website provides guidance on how to support vulnerable people during the coronavirus pandemic. It makes a number of support and volunteering suggestions including:

  • Help with food shopping for those unable to go out;
  • Collecting medication on someone else’s behalf;
  • Staying in touch over the phone or via social media;
  • Joining local online communities;
  • Encouraging people to stay mentally and physically active; and
  • Sharing trusted sources of information.

Article by Chloe Corbyn, Senedd Research, National Assembly for Wales

We’ve published a range of material on the coronavirus pandemic, including a post setting out the help and guidance available for people in Wales and a timeline of Welsh and UK governments’ response.

You can see all our coronavirus-related publications by clicking here. All are updated regularly.