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Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Looking ahead to a second year of COVID-19 giving

Entering year two of the COVID-19 pandemic with 115 million cases worldwide (29 million in the United States) and 2.6 million deaths (nearly 525,000 in the US), it is still difficult to understand the toll this pandemic has taken on all our lives.

The pandemic continues to overwhelm health care, societal and economic infrastructures. In the US, even with a renewed focus on providing support for pandemic recovery, there is still confusion about how best to address viral spread and its downstream effects  such as mental health, economic and social unrest. Finally, there is concern on a global scale about how to ensure equitable vaccine distribution. 

What does this mean for donors who will continue to play a vital role in pandemic response worldwide?

What has philanthropy done?

In 2020, we saw philanthropy react quickly to the extensive needs created by this global catastrophe. According to “Philanthropy and Covid-19: Measuring One Year of Giving,” Candid and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP), where I work, tracked more than $20 billion worth of donations from institutional and high net worth donors.

The pandemic has given rise to long-overdue discussions among grantmakers around how and what we fund – discussions that CDP has been having with funders since its inception. Philanthropists are beginning to understand the need to trust funded organizations to do the work, to direct funding as close to local communities in need as possible, and to fund groups led by and focused on populations that are systematically marginalized, even in normal times and who are, tragically, always disproportionately affected by disasters.

With the CDP COVID-19 Response Fund, we mobilized resources quickly to get funds in the hands of grantee partners to support their capacity.  Our first five grant rounds focused on “rapid response” to ensure that basic needs of the organizations, their employees and volunteers and those they serve were being met. For subsequent rounds of funding, we continued to address those basic needs and capacity, but also – by listening to our grantee partners – we were able to identify areas of need that would require a longer-term focus to address. 

What should philanthropy do now?

Philanthropy will continue to play an important role in helping communities recover from the pandemic. When supporting nonprofits, we encourage donors and grantmakers to:

  • Increase giving and award unrestricted, flexible grants.
  • Provide operational and administrative support to build organizational capacity to succeed
  • Target communities that are systematically marginalized and disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic 
  • Step outside your comfort zone by looking at new issues and organizations to support.

The CDP COVID-19 Response Fund will do its part by focusing on specific issue areas:

  • Equitable access to vaccines - supporting fair distribution of vaccines and treatments to ensure that even hard-to-reach locations and populations will have access to these lifesaving opportunities.
  • Mental Health and Physical Health - providing  care for mental and physical health is critical to improve the overall health of our global community.  
  • Economic impact - providing for basic needs and helping communities and small businesses thrive as economic uncertainty continues.
  • Health care systems and infrastructure - supporting overwhelmed health care systems around the world so they can provide prevention and treatment for the virus and other illnesses. 
  • Amplifying voices and issues - funding efforts that mobilize and amplify the voices of communities and populations most devastated by the pandemic to improve their access to resources and education.

As we finally see light at the end of this dark pandemic tunnel, let’s practice the lessons learned from this experience and build strong relationships between funders and grantees. It is these very relationships that will make us all stronger in a post-pandemic world.

About the authors: Sally Ray is director of strategic initiatives at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. She leads the management of the CDP COVID-19 Response Fund. Suri Clark is program manager of the CDP COVID-19 Response Fund

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