Since the beginning of 2020 the coronavirus pandemic has had a drastic impact on most sectors of Chinese society, and the fallout is also affecting nonprofits and civil society organisations. In order to provide a full picture of how the pandemic has affected China’s nonprofit sector, as well the strategies the sector will employ to respond in the foreseeable future, a number of organisations have come together to produce a study on the topic, entitled “A brief mid-year assessment on the level of negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on civil society organisations and how they are responding – an analysis based on a random sample of service-providing social organisations in Beijing”.
The organisations involved in producing the report include the College of Humanities and Development Studies and the College of International Development and Global Agricultural Studies of China Agricultural University, Gongyi Cishan Weekly (Philanthropy Weekly), China Development Brief, the Beijing NPI Philanthropy Consulting Group (NCG) and the Beijing Civil Society Development and Service Centre. The assessment is based on a sample of 374 non-governmental organisations based in Beijing, all of which are included in the NGO Directory on China Development Brief’s Chinese-language website. An online questionnaire was distributed to each of these NGOs in late June, and 151 of them responded. The questionnaire recovery rate was thus 40.37%.
The report contains three parts. The first part tackles the areas in which COVID-19 has affected social organisations in Beijing, especially in terms of the cost of running the organisations, the size of the teams, the scale of the projects and services, the total income of the organisations and the income of each department within them. There are four points in this part that deserve particular attention. First of all, 92.72% of the social organisations surveyed reported that they had been affected by the pandemic, and 13.91% stated that they are going to close down. Secondly, 78.15% of them reckon that they could last for less than six months based on the funds currently in their bank accounts, whereas 13.91% of them believe that they would only last for one month. Thirdly, when compared to the same period in 2019, social organisations in Beijing have been scaling down during the first half of 2020: 76.35% of the organisations say that they have had less programs and services compared to last year, 39.19% of them report that the size of their teams has shrunk and 29.13% of them say that their running costs have decreased. Last but not least, compared to the same period in 2019, in the first half of 2020 there has been a reduction of total revenues for 75% of social organisations in Beijing, and 56.08% of those saw a significant decrease – more than 20%.
The second part of the report illustrates that social organisations in Beijing have mainly applied buffering strategies in response to the long-term impacts that COVID-19 has brought them. Data shows that 63.08% of social organisations in Beijing have adopted buffering strategies against the negative impacts of the coronavirus and 49.23% of civil society organisations in Beijing have adopted bridging strategies.
The final part of the report gives four suggestions for Chinese social organisations to protect themselves against the impact of the pandemic. First of all they should adopt buffering or bridging strategies against COVID-19 based on their own advantages. Secondly, foundations and other funders need to focus on providing sufficient funds for service organisations to run smoothly, while at the same time supporting them to fundraise and build new networks. Thirdly, civil society and philanthropy platforms should offer services to promote collaboration and cooperation between social organisations. And finally, the government at all levels and ministries within it have to accelerate the process of purchasing services from social organisations and increase the number of services that the government plans to purchase. It is also advised that the government provide accurate and appropriate guidance and work together with social organisations in the face of the challenges brought about by the pandemic.