CSOs and COVID-19, what’s next?

Published by: Daniel D'Esposito

By Rodrigo Alvarez – translated from original article on Mobiliza website.   COVID-19 brought an unprecedented crisis to the entire world. Social isolation is generating several impacts for all of us, but mainly for peripheral populations. At this time, the work of CSOs, especially those working on the short-term effects of the pandemic, is essential to bring donations of […]

By Rodrigo Alvarez – translated from original article on Mobiliza website.


COVID-19 brought an unprecedented crisis to the entire world. Social isolation is generating several impacts for all of us, but mainly for peripheral populations. At this time, the work of CSOs, especially those working on the short-term effects of the pandemic, is essential to bring donations of food and essential products to these populations. The ABCR (Brazilian Association of Fund Raisers) created the donor monitor that, until the morning of 06/04, indicated almost R $ 900 million raised in actions related to COVID-19.

In the field of health, the role of philanthropic hospitals will also be essential, even those that will not work directly with coronavirus cases. Hospitals that treat cancer, for example, are going through periods of reviewing protocols and procedures to protect their patients, to prevent the virus from reaching risk groups.

The role of CSOs in the medium and long term , however, is not yet an issue that is being discussed. Our intention here is to provoke an analysis for a longer term, considering that CSOs should have a fundamental role at the moment that the social distancing process is cooled.

The questions we pose for the debate are as follows:

  • What is the real economic impact for CSOs in the coming months? Considering that some of them were already experiencing a crisis of legitimacy and funding, will they be able to remain “alive” at the end of the confinement period?
  • How to deal with the new moment and adapt the actions taken by CSOs to face the effects of the crisis in the medium term?
  • How can CSOs react and take advantage of the moment we are living in?

The economic impact for CSOs

A study by CAF América, carried out with 554 CSOs from around the world, points out that about 95% of the respondents reported that they will be negatively impacted by the Coronavirus and 68% indicate that they expect a reduction in donations as one of the effects. Soon, we intend to collect similar data to assess the situation of CSOs in Brazil, but we have several reports that point to situations similar to what the CAF study points out.

Many organizations hold face-to-face events as a fundraising strategy. A concrete and impactful example is the Hospital de Amor. The Hospital has an annual fundraising revenue of R $ 300-350 million. 25-30% of this revenue comes from auctions carried out by volunteers throughout Brazil. With the restrictions for holding these events, the Hospital is seeking to reinvent its actions, but it will certainly have effects on this modality.

Another form of donation / partnership that you should suffer is from organizations that raise funds from companies and national foundations. Although we do not yet have studies to prove this thesis, if we base ourselves on the history of CENSO GIFE, we realize that impacts on the economy generate impacts on social investment. As a significant impact on the economy is expected in 2020 and 2021, it is expected that the social investments of companies and foundations should decrease in their entirety. In addition, it is also expected that part of the social investors should direct investments to the most immediate effects of the crisis, which may have an effect on CSOs that have partnerships with companies. We still don’t know the impacts that the incentive resources (Rouanet Law, Child and Adolescent Fund, Elderly Fund etc.) may have, but it is expected that they will decrease, either because the companies will have lower profits (decreasing the resources that can be directed to the incentive projects) or because the companies will consider that some projects of direct assistance to children and adolescents, for example, lose their sense with social isolation. Although this may not be a reality (many CSOs are changing their activities to include distance service), the general perception of companies may be affected.

In this moment of insecurity in revenues from companies and individuals, organizations that have part of their revenues from International Foundations or Governments may be less susceptible to financial fluctuations. To check.

The impact on the activities carried out by CSOs

From the point of view of the activities carried out by the CSOs, there is a more immediate look at the entities that, because of the isolation, are unable to carry out their activities. Day care centers, direct service social entities, are examples of organizations that are feeling the change a lot. Some of them, with their headquarters located on the peripheries, discuss whether, at that moment, they should redirect their activities to meet the basic needs of the population served – assistance and health. Three organizations I spoke with this week were considering the possibility of reversing their resources – social capital, physical and personal space – to carry out campaigns to collect and distribute food, for example.

But looking a little further, it is possible that the attention of these organizations should turn to the effects of COVID-19 on the populations that are served.

A study published on 03/04/2020 by the consultancy Mandalah, points out a summary of the main impacts of COVID-19 on the lives of all of us, looking at a more medium / long term perspective. The study points out impacts on the economy, health, culture, relationships, food, vulnerable populations, education and politics . Several of these impacts should be considered by governments, companies and also by CSOs, which can generate changes in priorities and an increase in attention to certain topics.

Some of the examples of impacts suggested by the study and how this can generate new demands for CSOs:

  • In the impacts on intra-family relationships , the study identifies the possibility of increased domestic violence , growth of physical and sexual abuse of minors, growth in the number of divorces and paralysis of hearings in the family court . All of these impacts generate family instability, which can result in harmful effects for the development of children in the school environment, for example. How should CSOs that work with direct education assistance for children and adolescents act preventively to avoid or minimize these impacts on the lives of the children served?
  • In the impacts of peripheral populations , the study points to a drop in the standard of living and access to basic items, high potential for contamination by COVID-19, growth of militias in the peripheries, disappearance of means of livelihood for homeless people, etc. The questions that arise for CSOs that are close to the peripheries are: How to revert their resources to activities that can mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the peripheries? How to go beyond assistance support and monitor the longer term effects?

These are just a few aspects that we have identified. The impacts will be diverse and many of them are still unpredictable. The fact is that we will have huge impacts on life in society and it will be important that we have people and organizations prepared to deal with these effects when the process of social isolation is over.

The great paradox is that, exactly at the moment when the action of CSOs may be most needed, they are at risk of being able to maintain their revenues and, as a consequence, keep their operation stable. So that this does not happen, we suggest some ways for CSOs to face the present challenge:


Be useful for the moment – do not allow yourself to freeze. Many organizations have their teams at home, which does not necessarily prevent them from thinking about how they can be useful for this moment, even if their organization apparently has nothing to do with fighting COVID-19. It is important for everyone to realize that, to a greater or lesser extent, we can all do something to address the problem. Some examples: Pró Saber – SP , an early childhood education entity in Paraisópolis, is mobilizing its teachers to make contact with the families of the children served to assess, week by week, the situation of the families and how they can help solve their problems. immediate. The ISA – Social-Environmental Institute – launched an unprecedented platform to monitor the progress of the pandemic in indigenous lands.



It is very important that your organization does not get carried away by pessimism and apathy and that it can reinvent itself in the current context.

Connect the fundraising narrative to the COVID-19 theme – While many organizations are struggling to raise funds to sustain themselves, others are mobilizing many resources to tackle the effects of COVID-19. At that moment, the speech “we need help because social isolation does not allow us to raise funds the way we did”, although real and sincere, it may not have the desired effects. Right now, all hearts and minds are thinking about COVID-19. Identify the connection between your mission and the direct and indirect effects of COVID and build a narrative that makes sense with the present moment. At this point, requesting resources because your organization needs to honor salaries or for any topic that is detached from the present moment can be seen as alienated or simply ignored. I’m sorry to say.

Get closer to your partners and donors – It’s time to reconnect with your donors, if you don’t do this often (you should). Call your donors, stay in touch, show what your organization is doing to meet the challenge of the moment. Show how important it is for your donors to remain present and keep their donations at that time. For donors who are experiencing delicate financial times, ask them to decrease donations, but not to interrupt them. For donors who have more stable financial situations, ask to consider an additional donation at this time.

Have a financial contingency plan and follow it week by week – This is the time to fasten your seat belts. Make a realistic financial plan. Cut unnecessary expenses. Consider reducing working hours for some employees and negotiating responsibly. Be transparent and supportive of everyone – the public you serve and your employees. Follow the plan week by week. Don’t delay to start making changes.

Avoid taking sudden action – Although this is a moment that calls for a quick reaction, be careful not to take sudden action. Mass layoffs, drastic changes in activities, can lead to regrets going forward. After all, there is a prospect that activities will return to normal soon. It may take 2-3 months, it may last a little longer, but life will certainly return to normal. And when he returns, his organization will need to be alive to face new waves of changes that lie ahead.

Be strong. Resist it. Persist. Don’t be discouraged. This will all pass.

Rodrigo Alvarez is a Managing Partner at Mobiliza.