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‘Innovate Now And Your Charity Could Survive COVID-19,’ Says Australian CEO

A ‘day of reckoning’ has arrived for aid charities, thanks to COVID-19, says author and CEO of Save the Children Australia, Paul Ronalds.

“COVID-19 will be a true test of whether you can make the necessary changes to fit the new strategic environment.”

Paul Ronalds was giving a keynote presentation to New Zealand and Australia’s charities today, hosted by the Council for International Development in New Zealand.

“Those INGOs prepared and able to undertake significant change will survive.”

The virus has accelerated existing trends that were already putting pressure on aid charities.

“The business model was already broken…In most countries, there is simply too many NGOs, chasing too few dollars, all generally using the same business models in a sector experiencing declining fundraising at a time of escalating costs and demand.”

There has been very little change to the business model of charities in the last twenty years. At the same time, public donations are predicted to decline due to COVID-19, at least 7% this year and 12% next year. Some charities won’t make it.

His advice to aid charities:

  • Focus on getting evidence of your impact. If you can’t provide the evidence, stop doing it.
  • Use new technologies (online education and health interventions for example). These provide new opportunities to deliver at much lower cost.
  • Embrace direct funding of local community organisations (in the Pacific for example.)
  • Make sure you have the right talent and leadership in your organisation.
  • Improve your storytelling to the public, especially on digital platforms.
  • Increase collaboration across the sector, and with businesses and other sectors
  • Consider mergers and shared services between charities.
  • Innovate. Consider setting up Impact Investment funds across organisations.

Post COVID-19, the need in poorer countries will be greater than ever. As food security increases and remittances fall, instability is likely to increase. Remittances are usually about US$46 billion globally, far more than aid which is about US$32 billion.

According to the World Food Programme, more than thirty countries in the developing world could experience famine. There are already 1 million people on the brink of starvation.

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