The NFP Resilience

From global airlines to local cafés, businesses around the world have been forced to adapt to the new, socially distanced environment COVID-19 has created. The not-for-profit (NFP) sector has not been immune. While the demand for the services that many NFP’s offer has never been higher, access to traditional fundraising initiatives and volunteers has been constrained across the board.

There are 600,000 NFP organisations in Australia, which together employ an estimated 10 per cent of the Australian workforce. With total revenue equating to about $146.1 billion, NFPs not only make an enormous social contribution, but a significant economic one too.

The sector may be struggling right now, but it is resilient, and a driving force to do good has helped these organisations adapt.

We asked WhitelionDementia Australia and RSPCA Vic how they have adjusted to continue providing their essential services.


Whitelion, a community organisation that supports young people at risk, has embraced technology to ensure their services are still deliverable, even with the restrictions imposed by lockdown.

“Our social support programs have been adapted for online delivery,” explains Whitelion CEO, Hang Vo. “Yoga, meditation and cooking classes are delivered via Zoom, and are getting a great audience.”

In fact, Hang says the move online has had some unexpected benefits.

“While young people experiencing social anxiety can be hard to engage, we’ve found they can be more responsive to accessing services delivered remotely. That’s one aspect of our services that has seen an increase in demand since the pandemic hit.”

At Dementia Australia – the national peak body and charity representing the 459,000 Australians living with dementia – keeping people connected has been paramount.

They have digitised many of their courses and held Communities of Practice sessions with representatives from across the aged care sector, where information, resources and expertise have been shared.

“Ensuring our health and aged care workforce is equipped with the skills, knowledge and tools to best support people living with dementia is more critical than ever,” says Maree McCabe, CEO of Dementia Australia.

“We know people with dementia often experience social isolation as a result of stigma,” says Maree. “With the additional social distancing measures resulting from COVID-19 we were acutely aware of the need to communicate with people impacted by dementia, to reassure them they are not alone.”

That meant creating tools for extra support and sharing tips for staying socially connected online through the hashtag #IsolatingNotIsolated.


Now that traditional fundraising methods are largely impossible, NFP organisations have to get creative to ensure they have enough funds to operate.

The RSPCA immediately closed their op-shops when the pandemic hit, and moved to adoptions via appointment. But with fundraising normally accounting for more than two thirds of their total revenue, they have had to think differently.

“How you engage with people digitally is a focus for us, and the world really,” says Liz Walker, RSPCA CEO.

So they launched Million Paws Walk: Walk This May, an adapted version of their hugely popular annual national dog-walking event, which instead saw people walk their dogs in their own areas. The event raised $767,475 and generated a flurry of social media traction.

Facebook campaign Poorly drawn pets invited pet owners to share pictures of their pets along with a donation, in exchange for corresponding portraits designed by RSPCA staff and volunteers. Hundreds of participants received charming amateur artworks of their animals, as well as a few professional ones too.

“It was hilarious! We made about $8,000, but the joy it brought was worth millions. This was our first iteration of the campaign, but we are anticipating more,” says Liz.

Dementia Australia’s major fundraising initiative, the Memory Walk & Jog series, was also digitised.

“We are fortunate to have an incredibly dynamic team, which immediately embraced the challenge and took steps to ensure our community was still presented with engaging opportunities to support us,” says Maree.

The series would have included events in twelve locations around Australia. Only two took place, before restrictions meant the remainder had to be re-imagined.

“We contacted all participants and encouraged them to get involved virtually. We were delighted that so many of our supporters enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to replicate their original distance as a solo effort,” she said.

Combined, the participants completed a cumulative lap of Australia.

Whitelion has also ramped up its online initiatives. The No Home Address campaign will coincide with World Homelessness Day on 10 October.

“It’s designed to draw attention that there are, on average, 36,000 young people sleeping rough in Australia every night,” Hang explained. “Business participants will join in by making available their website’s homepage and featuring a special banner. The banner will invite visitors to learn more about youth homelessness and to donate to Whitelion.”


Despite the upheaval COVID-19 has brought, it has also generated some surprising opportunities for the NFP sector.

With millions of kids attending school remotely, RSPCA created Aware, a program that aligns with the Australian primary curriculum, and imbeds strong animal welfare messages.

“It has the potential to reach 950,000 primary school kids in Victoria, as opposed to the 3,000-5,000 kids we were previously able to engage with at face-to-face events,” says Liz Walker.

For Whitelion, COVID-19 has meant greater collaboration amongst the youth services sector, which has benefited their government advocacy work.

“We are part of a youth coalition that successfully applied for a significant grant through the Working for Victoria Fund, to ensure we can employ additional youth workers during this time.

“Our voice is more impactful if we join forces with others,” says Hang.


The NFP world has long had to think creatively in order to achieve maximum impact with limited resources. COVID-19, in some respects, has been a familiar but amplified journey, according to Barbara Pesel, Managing Director of communications agency Pesel & Carr.

“Making up for often modest budgets, the NFP sector is fuelled by commitment, creativity and resourcefulness,” says Barbara, who has worked on all sides – as a CEO, strategic communications consultant, and board member.

“It’s important to understand what all your stakeholders need – from clients, to government, to investors, to donors, to the general public. You can’t stand still, and you can’t get distracted,” she says.

“Crises come and go, but the organisations that stay afloat are the ones that keep looking forward, are adaptive and keep planning for the future.”

Walking class dog

Being a pet in quarantine is strange.

It seems we’re in higher demand than ever. Stuck at home, people all over the world are realising that a dog will spice things up. Here in Victoria, they even provide a reason to leave the house.

We’re feeling used! A dog is for life, not just for quarantine! So dogs everywhere are taking a stand, or a drop, if you will.

To prevent your dog from striking, you have two options:

  1. Use a toy dog. Deceive people into thinking you’re walking a loving canine friend when you are in fact just walking an inanimate object. Offer sly winks to your neigbours to promote the trick.
  2. Switch up the routine! Lockdown life is monotonous so add some elements of surprise to reignite your pet’s love of exercise.

Finally, for those gradually returning to the workplace, school and regular life, remember that your pet will miss having you all to themselves over lockdown. The shift may be jarring! Offer a slow, gradual shift back to normality to make the change easier for your pooch.

Contact us to learn more about adapting your business to a lockdown inflicted world.