Pandemic has pushed philanthropic giving to new high

Research reveals that wealthy donors have given more during the COVID-19 crisis than in previous disasters

Pandemic has pushed philanthropic giving to new high
Steve Randall

When the going gets tough, the rich get giving – and that’s certainly the case for the current global crisis.

New research shows that the world’s largest grantmakers and donors responded swiftly to the pandemic, although there are some gaps in where the help has been targeted.

According to the report from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) and Candid, a non-profit that connects those that want to give with resources to help them focus their philanthropy, more than U$11.9 billion in philanthropic funding was awarded for COVID-19-related causes.

That far exceeds grants awarded for other recent disasters and is more than 16 times funding for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Dorian and the Australian bushfires—combined.

"The data confirms that philanthropy mobilized quickly and responded generously as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe," said Grace Sato, director of research at Candid. "Although not a complete picture of the global philanthropic response, this report offers some insight into funding thus far and can help inform foundations and private donors in their future pandemic-related giving."

Top funders included The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Open Society Foundations, while high-net worth individuals also contributed significant amounts, including a $1 billion commitment by Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey.

Inequality in giving
While the huge amount donated by wealthy individuals and organizations is welcomed, the report shows that not all causes are being supported equally:

  • Only 5% of grant dollars that specified recipients identified Black, Indigenous or other communities of colour as beneficiaries despite these populations being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
  • Public health organizations received 80% of the $476.4 billion in health funding whereas less than 2% went to mental health organizations.

"We have seen incredible generosity since the outbreak of the pandemic," said Regine A. Webster, vice president of CDP. "Yet, we in the philanthropic community must push ourselves to give more and give smarter. The economic, social and health impacts of the pandemic will outpace every donated dollar unless we support the most vulnerable among us."

How clients can maximize philanthropy
With the pandemic continuing to impact communities worldwide, the CDP has six ways that clients can make a difference with their philanthropy:

  • Support local groups with a focus on communities of colour, older adults, disabled persons and other vulnerable populations.
  • Provide unrestricted support to give current grantees flexibility to use funding where it is needed most.
  • Allow current grantees to shift restricted grants to general operating support.
  • Give to existing funds that can quickly distribute grants to local organizations.
  • Partner with other funders.
  • Fund land trusts to help maintain affordable housing.