Newsletter Article

Philanthropy in COVID-19

April 29, 2020

Last week, Candid reported that philanthropic giving in response to COVID-19 has surpassed $6 billon globally.

Jenna Schornack

That number is staggering and continues to grow, but what’s also interesting are the underlying trends in the approaches to the COVID-19 response. Many are thinking about how to best respond in the near-term, about how philanthropic institutions and donors can better support current and future grantees, and about how to rebuild systems so we’re better prepared for the next pandemic. Lever for Change is eager to engage in the important -- and often difficult -- conversations about philanthropy moving forward. We expect to be answering these questions for years to come, but we are seeing some early trends:

  1. Increased Giving and Fresh Platforms: Despite the bleak economic outlook, institutions and individuals have stepped up their giving. Silicon Valley Foundation is asking donors to contribute 5% of their Donor Advised Funds immediately. Individuals are also taking action in big and small ways, often socializing their support with movements like #pledgemystimulus, organizing direct giving to strangers impacted by COVID, facilitated through platforms like Twitter and Google Docs.
  2. Collaborative Funding and Relief Funds: Relief funds are emerging across the United States. Here in Chicago, the MacArthur Foundation has joined others to support the Chicago COVID-19 Community Response Fund to support local nonprofits providing basic needs to the Chicago community.
  3. Flexibility and Responsiveness to Grantees: Funders are pledging to support to grantees by enacting best practices, including more flexibility and un-restricting funds, lower reporting requirements, and listening to partners about what’s needed and offering non-monetary support like webinars, support groups, and trainings.
  4. Maintaining commitments: Not all funders are set up to provide rapid relief nor work in global health, but instead are tackling other challenges and supporting long-term change. We are inspired by our partners and others who are proceeding with prior commitments, with supportive adaptations to meet the new context and rough climate. This pandemic has magnified all inequities, highlighting the importance of tackling issues such as climate change, gender inequality, and supporting refugees, increasing economic opportunity, and more.

What now? As we enter the third month of the pandemic, we’ve seen more unpacking of how we got here, and what comes next. Why did it take a pandemic to dispel outdated philanthropic practices? We aren’t going back to “normal,” so let’s find ways to work together to rebuild sustainable, resilient systems that take care of everyone.

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