Philanthropy and the Pandemic Part I: A Big Push
September 12, 2020
As a lifelong entrepreneur and investor, I’ve always tried to approach philanthropy with the same set of philosophies and strategies that have guided my twenty-year career as a venture capitalist. As an investor, I’ve always sought out ventures that develop innovative new technologies and improve peoples’ lives. This ethos deeply informs by philanthropic giving, which I’ve sought to use as a tool to catalyze lasting social change by giving to organizations employing new models to advance racial justice and education reform.
Much like business, philanthropy is driven by trends. I was able to find success as a venture capitalist by closely observing emerging market trends and the preferences of changing audiences, working to find new spaces within these verticals that could deliver returns and improve peoples’ lives. Half-a-year into this public health emergency, it has become apparent that philanthropy has changed. Donors are increasingly giving more, and it’s changing the charitable paradigm for good.
As millions of Americans navigate the recession and pandemic, philanthropists have stepped up to the plate, provisioning critical social services and filling in the cracks where government action has been unable to yield change. Americans are suffering, and while the future of this pandemic remains uncertain, philanthropic organizations have played an outsize role in communities across the country.
In many ways, COVID-19 has ushered in a new wave of energized and well-intentioned philanthropists. Organizations long lauded for the philanthropic tendencies have now stepped up their charitable giving. Here are just a few the changemakers working to improve lives amid this moment of uncertainty.
Schwab Charitable , one of the most recognizable voices in philanthropy, found that between January and June of this year, charitable contributions and recommendations were up 46 and 44 percent respectively over the first six months of 2019. This represents the fastest pace of growth in the second half of a fiscal year since Schwab Charitable’s first full fiscal year. The Charities Aid Foundation of America largely corroborated Schwab’s report, finding that seven in 10 corporate funders have increased the size of their grants this year.
The Community Foundation Public Awareness Initiative reported similar findings, holding that at donor-advised fund grants at 32 community foundations in 21 states, donors who had funds at these foundations made $203.1 million in grants from March-May, up 80 percent over the same period in 2019, when donors from those same foundations granted $112.8 million.
In terms of individual donors, Fidelity Charitable donors have given more than $3 billion since the start of this year. The Ford Foundation joined a number of other prestigious charitable organizations in pledging to issue debt—a rare move typically reserved for governments and for-profit organizations that will allow it to donate even more money as the fight against COVID intensifies.
Much of the growth across this sector has been driven by the CARES Act, the record-breaking fiscal stimulus package signed by Congress in April that expanded the maximum amount of charitable giving that donors can claim as write-offs.
Despite this precipitous growth in the philanthropic sector, expansion has not been equally distributed. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy founds that while nearly $12 billion in philanthropic funding has been awarded to COVID-19-related causes, only 5% of funding was explicitly designated for populations of color, older adults and other vulnerable populations most affected by the pandemic.
In the month of September, it’s become eminently clear that COVID is not going away. As we continue to confront the challenges posed by this difficult moment, it’s incumbent upon us to stick up for those most in need. We must develop ways to ensure communities of color and the elderly have equal access to the resources they need to thrive.