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Social Enterprises & COVID-19

The novel Coronavirus disease, COVID-19, is creating a rapidly evolving situation with varied impacts across Australia and around the world. Social enterprises, like every other form of business, are facing major challenges. We will be updating this page regularly with the latest information and resources that social enterprises can use to prepare and respond.

What does this mean for social enterprises?

It depends on the social enterprise. Social enterprises that exist to provide employment to marginalised groups and those that provide services to populations who are most at risk of acquiring the virus are facing unique challenges in serving their communities. Social enterprises that hold conferences, conduct in-person events, or provide training workshops will need to assess alternative options. We can expect many social enterprises will face new challenges in the weeks ahead. 

The social enterprise community understands the importance of reducing the spread of COVID-19, but the government must recognise the value of sustaining a thriving social enterprise community. To catalogue the impact COVID-19 has had on social enterprises across Australia and support a national effort to advocate for targeted assistance for social enterprises, please head to to fill out a 3-minute survey. Is COVID-19 forcing your social enterprise to cancel its biggest fundraising event of the year? Is it increasing demand for your services? How many staff have you had to let go? Together we need to ensure that the government hears from you because social enterprises often fall in the gap between support for small business and charities.

What steps should social enterprises take?

Review Your Business Plan 

In most circumstances in order to get access to loans, grants or other forms of support – providers will ask to see whether your social enterprise has a viable business model for during/after the COVID-19 health emergency. You can save time by preparing in advance your renewed business plan and Social Change Central will be working with experts to provide support to the sector through blogs, webinars and other forms of information. 

Begin Contacting Support Providers ASAP 

You may be in a position where you do not need access to finance immediately but even if that is the case, it is best to begin contacting banks and funders early so you are across the potential support that you may need in a month or two months’ time. There are over 20,000 social enterprises in Australia and over 56,000 registered charities. There are likely to be significant pressures on business support services over the coming months, so prepare as far in advance of any financial difficulty as you can. 

Regularly Check Government Websites & Updates

COVID-19 is a rapidly developing health emergency and government will be regularly adding to and changing the package of support on offer. In the past few days alone, it has already announced a second set of economic responses which, combined with the initial actions, total now $189 billion (9.7 per cent of annual GDP). Do not assume that the situation is static, keep checking the government’s website and news for further announcements on support measures. Social Change Central will disseminate information regularly as well. 

Look for Opportunities to Support Your Local Community 

All social enterprises are driven by their values, but it is even more important at this time that we do whatever we can to help our local communities. This is also good business sense as the more social enterprises are actively doing to support local areas, the better case we can make for further support for the sector. This is an opportunity to further differentiate your business from the traditional private sector.

Talk and Share with Your Fellow Social Entrepreneurs 

We are all in this together. Please talk, share and work with your peers across the sector. One of the best places to do this is the Social Enterprise Australia Facebook group. Together we can get through this! 

What resources are available for social enterprises?

News and stress about the coronavirus from around the world is creating significant uncertainty among leaders, employees and customers. Beyond the common sense measures, we wanted to provide a list of resources to help you as you develop your own internal and external response and policies. While there is never a playbook to weather global challenges like this, we’re hoping the information below will help you take care of your employees and support your enterprise’s ability to adapt to change, cause the least disruption in the long run and even seize opportunities.

Financial Support

COVID-19 Government Stimulus Measures – our pals at SEFA Partnerships have summarised the State and Federal Government stimulus measures in response to COVID-19. They will be updating this regularly as new information is released.

Business & Government Concessions – SBO.Financial is also tracking of all the grants, tax breaks and assistance packages available to Australian Small Business.

JobKeeper Payment – The JobKeeper payment is open to eligible employers, sole traders and other entities to enable them to pay their eligible employee’s salary or wages of at least $1,500 (before tax) per fortnight. Hosted by Westpac’s Davidson Institute, this webinar covers how the payment works for social enterprises.

Instant Asset Write-Off Increase – The instant asset write-off threshold has been increased from $30,000 to $150,000 and expanded access to include businesses with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million (up from $50 million) until 30 June 2020.

Backing Business Investment (BBI) – A time limited 15 month investment incentive to support business investment and economic growth over the short term, by accelerating depreciation deductions. This applies to eligible assets acquired from 12 March 2020 and first used or installed by 30 June 2021.

Increased and Accelerated Income Support – Support for individuals to assist them during the next six months.

Early Access to Superannuation – Individuals affected by the coronavirus can access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21.

Supporting the Flow of Credit – The Government, Reserve Bank of Australia and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority have taken coordinated action to support the flow of credit in the Australian economy, in particular for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Boosting Cash Flow for Employers – Provides up to $100,000 back to small and medium-sized businesses, with a minimum payment of $20,000 for eligible businesses. The payments will provide cash flow support to businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million and not-for-profit entities that employ staff. 

Supporting Apprentices and Trainees – If you employ an apprentice or trainee you may be eligible for a wage subsidy of 50 per cent of their wage paid from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020. You can register for the subsidy from early April 2020.

Temporary Relief for Financially Distressed Businesses – temporary relief options are available for companies and directors.

Assistance for Affected Regions, Communities and Industries – $1 billion has been set aside to support regions and communities most significantly affected by the Coronavirus. These funds will be available to assist during the next few months and over the year ahead to ensure these communities are well placed to recover.

State and Territory Grants and Assistance – Each state and territory is responsible for restrictions and essential services. Keep up-to-date with the latest information and advice in your state or territory.

Support for Existing Government Program Participants and Applicants – If you’re an existing government program grantee and have been impacted by the coronavirus, you may be eligible to seek additional time to meet your reporting obligations or to complete your project.

Support If You Are Experiencing Difficulties Meeting Your Tax and Super Obligations – If you are having difficulties meeting your tax and super obligations because of COVID-19, you can phone the ATO Emergency Support Infoline on 1800 806 218 for help tailored to your circumstances.

ATO Support Available – To assist businesses (including sole traders) experiencing financial difficulty as a result of COVID-19, the ATO are implementing relief options. 

COVID-19 Support for Charities and NFPs – This guide reflects policy announcements as at 22 April 2020 and will be updated as frequently as required to capture the most material announcements. It has been prepared by Social Ventures Australia with support from the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

COVID-19 Youth Response Fund – COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges for young Australians. FYA has developed a COVID-19 Youth Response Fund, designed to back new and existing initiatives that are responding to the urgent needs of young people at this time; and to those that are using this period of uncertainty to influence the systems that cause injustice and inequality.

National Assistance Program for the Arts – A group of arts and culture philanthropists have come together to provide a $1.5 million support program for the COVID-19 affected arts sector.

IMPACT100 Sydney North COVID-19 Grants – Impact North are funding $50,000 grants (plus as many smaller grants as possible) in order to support more non-profits, introducing greater flexibility around what the funds can be spent on and shortening their timelines to bring our granting date forward to August.

Networks, Community & Peer Support

Social Enterprise Australia – A place for social entrepreneurs, intermediaries and those interested in the sector to share ideas, collaborate, ask questions and start conversations. By listening and supporting one another, Social Enterprise Australia enables a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by social entrepreneurs and intermediaries, and is a national channel for identifying solutions that propel our collective work forward. 

Social Enterprise Council of NSW & ACT (SECNA) – A member-led peak body to represent the interests of social entrepreneurs and social enterprises across New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory.

Queensland Social Enterprise Council (QSEC) – Run by members, for members. Queensland Social Enterprise Council is the peak body democratically representing Social Enterprise in Queensland.

Victorian Social Enterprise Network (SENVIC) – Established in early 2018 to build a connected community of social enterprises, facilitate access to learning and development opportunities, and increase the voice and influence of social enterprise across Victoria.

Western Australia Social Enterprise Council (WASEC) – Established in late 2019, WASEC will create a link between funding sources and the sector, with the vision for the Social Enterprise Council being to promote and grow the social enterprise sector in Western Australia.

Adelaide Social Enterprise – A place where social entrepreneurs and supporters of social enterprise can meet, network, do business, and share stories in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.

Sector Advocacy & Initiatives

SVA Upscaler – Thanks to the generous financial support of Gandel Philanthropy, SVA Upscaler is offering free business continuity and restructuring support in response to COVID19 to 6-10 selected social enterprises and/or Indigenous businesses. Email Nathan Sowell at to apply. Make sure you include your business name, website and overview of your situation.

Pro Bono Business Support – Social Impact, along with Westpac and Social Traders Australia, are collaborating with leading corporates to offer pro bono business support to social enterprises to help them through the COVID-19 crisis.

#thegoodnessgap – A campaign recording the collective impact of COVID-19 on social enterprises and building public awareness of the good created by the sector. Share your experience to ensure social enterprises don’t miss out on vital government support and fall into the gap between COVID-19 programs aimed at for-profit small business and the charity sector.

Buy It Forward – An initiative to help local small businesses get through these tough times, so we can keep enjoying the value they bring to our lives. Encourages people to buy vouchers and thereby get cash in the hands of businesses now.

10 Ways to Support Small Business and Social Enterprise – Our friends at The Yunus Centre, Griffith University have put together this helpful illustration with 10 ways to support social enterprises during COVID-19.

Power of 3 – Gifting it Forward – Give a loved one an early birthday present or Mother’s Day gift by purchasing from a social enterprise. Your support now keeps social enterprises functioning so they can continue their work supporting vulnerable Australians and the environment.

Moving Feast – Victoria’s food social enterprises are joining forces to grow, cook and deliver mealsto the most vulnerable Victorians as a part of the widespread food relief system.

Covid-19 National Funding Platform – Australian Communities Foundation and Philanthropy Australia have partnered to provide a national funding platform to coordinate the philanthropic response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fund Aboriginal responses to COVID-19 – More than 150 civil society organisations have now signed an urgent open letter backing First Nations-led calls for emergency funding in response to COVID-19.

Social Enterprise Clinics – The Studio Startup Studio will be offering free ‘Social Enterprise Clinics’ where they’ll work one on one with social enterprises that need help to understand the financial and operational impact of the Covid 19 crisis. Enterprises can express interest here (and by selectin the “Join the Studio Clinic” checkbox).

Impact2020 – Presented by the Centre for Social Impact (CSI), offers free daily webinars with educators, researchers and thought leaders who will share their research, expert insights, innovative thinking, case studies, tools and resources for Australia’s for-purpose community.

TDi COVID-19 Support – The Difference Incubator also offering support through continuity coaching and new idea prototyping workshops.

Indigenous Business Support – If you’re an Indigenous Business that has been impacted by Covid-19 and need some support, arrange for someone to give you a call by following the link.

Lock Down Local – promoting sustainable, local businesses, B Corps and social enterprises.

Shout Your Local – a ‘pay it forward’ social enterprise project aiming to help small local venues through the Covid-19 crisis. The platform, co-founded by software designer Mark Murphy allows local businesses to start selling vouchers that can be redeemed at a later date. Venues are paid the voucher revenue now to help with cashflow.

COVID-19 Design Taskforce – Good Design Australia invites Australian businesses and/or government agencies to share their most immediate challenges (overseas applications will also be considered). Taskforce members will be assigned to these challenges to ensure the most relevant design expertise can be applied with a focus on response and recovery.

Future of Impact: A Collaborative – This is an open source resource bank specially curated for organisations driving social change to build capacity and adapt with the changing work climate. This archive will be updated every week with new information.

Coronavirus Print & Social Media Resources to #StopTheSpread – The impact of the new coronavirus disease, COVID-19, is being felt around the world. We believe we are better when we work together. It’s important for us all to take the necessary steps to keep ourselves, our loved ones, and our local and global communities safe and supported. Feel free to use Canva’s new collection of templates to help #StopTheSpread.

Practical Responses

Justice Connect COVID-19 Response Briefing Note – With the assistance of law firm firm Clayton Utz,  Justice Connect has prepared a briefing paper which aims to provide guidance to community organisations on some of the most pressing issues raised by COVID-19, including employment, contracts and insurance. 

The Essential Social Enterprise Crisis Communication Checklist – A quick-start guide for social enterprise leaders and marketers who want to mitigate crises that come from a misalignment of messaging, mission and management.

Communicating through the Coronavirus Crisis – A step-by-step guide through crisis communications. 

How to Develop a Business Continuity Plan – For enterprises that want to respond appropriately to protect both employees and customers from risk of infection, a large component of that planning should involve a continuity plan that empowers workers to use technology and remain productive when working away from the office. This article provides a few key items to consider as you establish your business continuity plan.

Contingency Planning: Developing a Good “Plan B” – Mind Tools have created a 10 minute read covering the key elements of contingency planning. It includes a simple step by step guide on how to deal with both minor and significant disruptions and some useful frameworks. 

How to Run a Digital Event: Reach a Global Audience Without Needing a Venue – Tips from Humanitix for broadcasting your event online during unprecedented times – and reach more people than ever.

Best Tips for Working from Home Effectively – Every job is different and the amount you’re able to achieve will vary between career types, employers, and internal policies, but there are some key strategies to working from home when it comes to getting your tasks done efficiently.

A Guide to Managing Your (Newly) Remote Workers – Although it is always preferable to establish clear remote-work policies and training in advance, in times of crisis or other rapidly changing circumstances, this level of preparation may not be feasible. Fortunately, there are specific, research-based steps that managers can take without great effort to improve the engagement and productivity of remote employees, even when there is little time to prepare.

5 (Practical) Cs for Leading in a Crisis/Downturn – Panic is contagious, but so is leadership. This one-pager from Verne Harnish details the 5 Cs of leadership in a crisis/downturn. Tip one: communicate daily, maybe even twice per day.

Coronavirus: How to Protect Your Mental Health – BBC News article containing guidance on looking after your mental health during the outbreak.

3 Ways to Keep Your Workplace Clean During Coronavirus Scare – Keeping the workplace clean can inhibit the spread of communicable diseases. In addition to limiting exposure, taking the following steps can help prevent the spread of the flu and other viruses like COVID-19.

COVID-19 Funding Guide for Community and NFPs – Is your business struggling in the current environment with no customers and mounting expenses? You may be eligible for support funding either by grant, tax relief, PAYG refunds and more. Find all the support info in our easy to understand guide.

ygap Resiliency Toolkit – Resiliency is an important skill-set that you and your team can build and this toolkit is designed to help you do just that. ygap have outlined 12 ways you can prepare your business for success in uncertain times here.

NCOSS Community Sector Resource – The latest latest health advice, how to plan for isolation, work health and safety, service continuity during a pandemic, impact on people with disability and disability services, legal advice and important considerations for your organisation.

COVID-19: Helping Your Business Respond and Adapt – Westpac’s Davidson Institute has just published a practical guide to adapting to the COVID scenario

Coronavirus Business Impact: Data Driven Insights for Brands: Know the impact of COVID-19 on active users in different regions and industry verticals, evaluate your own app by comparing your metrics with the industry leaders, get inspired by the measures top brands are taking for their customers in these times.

Think Pieces

Social Enterprise Now and in a Post-COVID World – Jo Barraket reflects on why social enterprises are desperately needed right now and, even more so, when the pandemic subsides.

Social Enterprises Fear They Won’t Survive Pandemic – There are over 3,500 social enterprises in Victoria, employing 60,000 people and helping thousands more, but many of these enterprises are concerned about not being covered by government support.

COVID-19 Not All Doom and Gloom for Social Enterprise Sector – Advocates in the social enterprise sector reflect on the optimism and generosity still present in communities, despite the challenges.

Why We Need Social Intrapreneurs More Than Ever During COVID-19 – While many struggle with the immediate logistical and medical impact of the COVID-19 crisis, there is a wider question about the purpose of business and the role that intrapreneurs can play.

Coronavirus, Economic Meltdown and the World of Impact: Insights from Allie Burns of Village Capital – Burns explores the ups and downs of social enterprises during this crisis and demonstrates why now is not the time to hit ‘pause’.

Social Enterprise Has a Unique Role in the COVID-19 Challenge – Social enterprise has a unique and proven capacity to create employment pathways for some of the most disadvantaged Australians, along with delivering a range of associated community and social benefits.

We Should All Be Social Enterprises Now – The crisis has fully exposed the certainty that investing in the welfare and talents of workers is inextricably linked to the success of our economy and its constituent businesses.

For the Crisis Today, and the Australia of Tomorrow – SVA Chief Executive Officer Suzie Riddell shares some thoughts on the issues and approaches that deserve some attention in the current climate.

Could Experiences from the 1990s Recession Provide Insights for Australian Social Enterprises Now? –  With talk of there being a recession due to Covid-19, Dr Sharon Zivkovic reflects on her experiences addressing unemployment after the 1990s recession.

Foundations and Nonprofits See Crisis as Opportunity to Advance Equality- As the coronavirus started to spread, a group of grant makers led by the Ford Foundation circulated a pledge that read like a wish list for grantees focused on equity and social justice. The foundations declared they temporarily would provide general operating support, waive certain paperwork requirements, and throw support behind community organizations in areas that were hardest hit. Within two weeks, more than 500 other foundations from every corner of philanthropy responded.

General Information

Coronavirus Australia Latest: At a Glance – A summary of the major developments in the coronavirus outbreak across Australia.

COVID-19: Implications for Business – These briefing notes provide business leaders with a perspective on the evolving situation and implications for their companies.

Coronavirus Impact on Industries & Sectors around the World – This link from IBISWorld provides a collection of fast facts about how the spread of COVID-19 is affecting sectors in Australia and beyond.

Know about something we missed? Come across something that would benefit others? We’re here to help. What resources would be most helpful right now? Please let us know if you come across other resources we could add to this page, or if anything seems inaccurate or out of date:

Jay Boolkin
Jay Boolkin

I'm passionate about positive social change and the power of social entrepreneurship to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems. I believe that for-purpose business models can become part of the mainstream and I am enthusiastic about advocating for business models that are genuinely built around a social or environmental mission.

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