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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

6 Ways to Expand the Impact of Your COVID-19 Giving

We have seen incredible generosity since the outbreak of the pandemic. A new report on philanthropy and COVID-19 giving by Candid and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) offers a jaw-dropping figure: Institutional grantmakers and major donors gave more than $11.9 billion in response to the global pandemic during the first half of 2020 alone. 

This amount is nothing short of inspiring. For comparison, it is 16 times more than funding for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria – combined. But now, more than any other time in recent history, philanthropy in all forms must continue to strive toward generosity that is as unprecedented as this pandemic is. 

At the same time, grantmakers and donors need to give strategically to help ensure that human, financial and technical resources are reaching those organizations and individuals who need these most.

Opportunities for greater impact

Data from Philanthropy and COVID-19 report show how institutional grantmakers and donors have so far responded:

  • Corporations accounted for nearly two-thirds of funding.

  • Community foundations awarded more grants than any other grantmaker type (47% of total awards).

  • Gifts by high-net-worth individuals accounted for at least $1.6 billion.

  • Donors donated a combined $452.9 million through the donor-advised funds of Fidelity Charitable, Schwab Charitable and Vanguard Charitable.

  • Proportionately little institutional funding was explicitly designated for specific populations, including communities of color and other vulnerable populations.

The dollar figures are staggering, but not nearly enough to change the course of the COVID-19 pandemic response and to prepare communities here and abroad for adequate and equitable recovery. The pandemic compounded social and political inequities that make some populations more vulnerable than others. We cannot overlook the human toll of COVID-19 alongside social injustices, especially on Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities. 

The reality is that where the money went is just as important as how much was given. For example, few awards in the data set were specifically identified as general support. Only 5% of grant dollars that specified recipients identified BIPOC communities as beneficiaries despite these populations being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

The good news is that donors can use this information to make smart, strategic decisions on how to give, for what, and to whom.

The pandemic continues, and we – especially those most affected by COVID-19 – will be facing evolving challenges. CDP recommends six ways to support BIPOC communities and other vulnerable populations and address immediate and long-term needs:

  1. Explicitly support local groups with a focus on communities of color, older adults, disabled persons, and other vulnerable populations. Seek out local organizations that are led by or directly serve communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Local knowledge is critical in addressing the pandemic.

  2. Provide unrestricted support. Flexible grants and donations give organizations the ability to navigate the unexpected challenges and opportunities.

  3. Expand on existing giving. Consider making additional grants or donations to organizations you have already supported. 

  4. Give to existing funds that can consolidate gifts and quickly distribute grants to local organizations. These include pooled funds, community foundations and specialized intermediaries that focus on specific issues such as race, gender and undocumented populations.

  5. Partner with other funders. By combining funding with other donors, nonprofits will only need to complete one application, which saves time and resources.

  6. Fund land trusts to help maintain affordable housing. Communities affected by other disasters such as Hurricane Laura and the California Wildfires will face expensive long-term housing recovery needs.

We in the philanthropic community must push ourselves to give more and give smarter. The generosity of donors and grantmakers will play a critical role in ensuring that our communities emerge stronger from COVID-19. 


Written by Regine A. Webster

Regine A. Webster is vice president at Center for Disaster Philanthropy. A frequent blogger, presenter and webinar panelist, Regine leads CDP’s grantmaking and consulting teams. Follow CDP on Twitter @funds4disaster or learn more at disasterphilanthropy.org.

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